My Experience With Unlocking my AT&T iPhone

My Experience With Unlocking my AT&T iPhone

Last month I was asked how to unlock a iPhone 4S from AT&T. Off the top of my head I informed my friend to go to their local AT&T store and ask a sales representative to unlock the iPhone. A week later my friend informed me that my answer was wrong. With egg on my face and my professional ego taking a hit, I decided to get to the bottom of how to unlock at AT&T iPhone. I have an iPhone 4 that I use as a spare phone is begging to be unlocked.

 I decided to follow my own advice and drove to my local AT&T store. Andre Simmons who is an AT&T Retail Sales Consultant immediately greeted me. After our introductions, I informed Andre that I would like to unlock my iPhone 4 which I pulled out of my pocket. I was quickly informed by Andre that unlocking a phone is done online and not in an AT&T store. I followed up with his response with the question “Why AT&T staff are not able to unlock a phone?” My response was “It is AT&T policy.”   I can see the conversation with Andre going from pleasant to the feeling I was bothering him. My guess he did not have a sale so I am wasting his time. I followed up with another question “What is the web site to the submit a request to unlock my iPhone 4?” Andre’s answer is go to the AT&T web site and do a search for unlock phone which he wrote on the back of his business card. I was not satisfied with Andre’s answers and argued my point of a lack of customer service to not have the ability to unlock cell phones and tried to push a point of someone at the AT&T store should have the ability to unlock cell phones. Shane who is another AT&T Retail Sales Consultant heard my conversation with Andre and stepped into the conversation. Shane confirmed Andre’s answer of going to the AT&T web site to submit a request to unlock my iPhone 4 and gave me the web site to begin the process of unlocking my iPhone 4. The web site Shane gave me is att.com/deviceunlock. With the information in hand, I thanked Shane and Andre and went back home.

I fired up my computer and typed att.com/deviceunlock within my web browser. I read the information, selected the check box at the bottom of the web site that I have read and agree to the eligibility requirements for unlocking my device, and selected the Agree button. I quickly received a email from AT&T that informed me they received my request and it is under review, gave me a request number, and informed my request can take up to 5 business days. With the four major cell phone carriers agreement with the FCC to the unlocking cell phone policy, I guess AT&T does not want to make it too easy for me to unlock my cell phone. Five business days later, I received an email from AT&T to inform me that my request to unlock my iPhone 4 has been approved and instructions on how to unlock my iPhone 4. Below are the steps to unlock my phone from AT&T.

1. Open iTunes on your Mac or PC and verify that you have Internet connectivity.

2. Ensure the original SIM card that came with this device is inserted in your iPhone.

3. Connect your iPhone using the dock connector to USB cable that came with your iPhone.

4. Backup and restore your iPhone using iTunes. For information on backup and restore, please visit http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1414.

5. After restoring, your iPhone will be unlocked.

After following the above directions, I did not know if my iPhone 4 was unlocked or not. I did an online search and discovered the web site www.imei.info, which will allow me to verify if my iPhone 4 is locked or unlocked. I did have to sign up on their web site for perform the free service. Once I signed on to www.imei.info and entered my IMEI number, I was able to confirm my iPhone 4 was unlocked.

With an unlocked iPhone if I decided to go to T-Mobile, I can take my unlocked iPhone 4 to my local T-Mobile store and setup my iPhone 4 with T-Mobile. I can understand why AT&T did not make too easy for my to unlock my iPhone 4 because I can easily switch to T-Mobile. With my experience of unlocking my iPhone 4, I wonder is the grass greener on the other side of the fence?

This Is Not My iPhone

Back in May 2013, I was due for a smartphone upgrade. Rather than wait for Apple to release the next version of the iPhone, I wanted to see what other smartphones are out there. My choices where either a Windows phone or an Android phone.  I decided to purchase a Samsung S4 32 GB smartphone. I wanted to go with the Nokia Lumia 920 but the smartphone lacked apps.

My first impressions of the Samsung S4 were big. The screen size dwarfs the iPhone 4s. When I had to go back to my iPhone 4s, the small screen sized made it hard for me to focus as my eyes is getting old. The next impression from the Samsung S4 was “This is not my iPhone”. I made the mistake of trying to setup my Samsung S4 to work and look like an iPhone. I ended up having to reset the Samsung S4 three times. Needless to say I became an expert at resetting my new phone, which is not a bad thing but a frustrating thing. I will spare you the details of what happened but will say that I was cussing like a sailor (Note: I was in the Navy for 4 years). More than once, I almost conceded to return the Samsung S4 and get the iPhone 5. What stopped me?  Other than the self-punishment of trying to make my Samsung S4 work and look like an iPhone, the determination of not being beat by a new smartphone. I also really wanted to find out what is all the hype of an Android phone. I have talked to people who use Android phones and the majority of Android users that I talked to love their phones. This left me wondering what is there to love about a smartphone that has a not so attractive interface and make it so easy to mess up your phone with options to customize the smartphone. I needed a working smartphone and fast because that is my only communication to the outside world. I don’t have a home phone just my smart phone. What did I do? I conceded to the Android OS 4.2 and reset the Samsung S4 one final time and used the smartphone as it was intended with the stock apps.

The slow transition of moving from an iPhone to a Samsung S4 began. The next step was to install the apps I use on a daily basis. Over the last 5 months I tried, delete, or used different apps on my phone. Below is the current list of apps that I have installed on my Samsung S4.

LastPass – store and access my passwords

BeyondPod – download and play my podcasts

Register – Square app for credit card transactions

Evernote – Cloud based note system

NewsBlur – RSS reader

CrashPlan – Access my cloud backups

Voice – Google Voice

Team Viewer – Remote to other computers

Voice Recorder – Records my thoughts and ideas

GTasks – Reminds me of what I should be doing

Mint – Finance manager

Keep – Google note app

Facebook – need I say anything?

Google+ – Google’s version of Facebook

Google Hangouts – Google+ Video Conferencing app

Skype – Microsoft’s Video Conferencing app

TweetCaster – View my Twitter feeds

ES File Explorer – File Manager for my phone and Cloud drives

PogoPlug – To view and manage files on my PogoPlug

Flipboard – To keep up with the news

CNBC – Business news

Wikipedia – To access information from Wikipedia

Flixster – To see what new movies are showing and at what theater

Hulu Plus – To watch my TV shows

iHeartRadio – To listen to my radio programs

Netflix – To watch my movies

YouTube – See other people’s videos

Pandora – Listen to my music

Roku – To control my Roku

TV Guide – To see what shows are airing

IMDb – To look up information about movies

Redbox – To rent movies from my local Redbox

Play Music – Listen to my music collection

FuelLog – Keeps a log of how many miles I get per gallon after each fill-up

GasBuddy – Informs me of the nearest locations and prices of gas

Google Maps – My GPS

Waze – My GPS with a social twist

iBolt Dock’n Drive – I use with my iBolt car dock

Yelp – Helps me determine of some good places to eat

Yahoo Weather – Gives me the temperature no matter where I am located

Quickoffice – Allows me to view and edit Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents

WhitePages – Reverse phone number lookup app

Number Guru – Another reverse phone number lookup app

Alarm Clock Plus – Wakes me up in the morning

Brightest Flashlight – Keeps me from bumping into walls in the dark

Prey – Helps me locate my phone if it is missing

Lookout – Scans my phone for viruses

Microsoft RD Client – Allows me to remove to my servers

Fling – Identifies what devices are on the same network as my phone

WiFi Manager – Connects my phone to wireless networks

Speedtest – Measures the upload and download speeds of the network my phone is connected to

With the above apps I use the stock phone app to receive and make calls, AT&T Messages to send and receive text messages, stock email app, and stock calendar app.

During the past 5 months, I have grown use to how my Samsung S4 phone works. I figured out what those small icons in the upper left hand corner of the screen mean, how to make changes to my phone settings, and organize my apps in folders to quickly access them. I have referred to my phone as a Swiss Army knife because I have setup my phone to do many different things. My phone is a communication device, organization device, computer and network troubleshooting device, entertainment device, GPS device, and all around device that keeps me functioning. Yes, I do depend on technology a lot but like the old saying “Technology is great when it works”. For example, I was involved in a car accident the other month and instead of using a pen and paper to copy the other person’s information. I used my Samsung S4 and Evernote to take pictures of the other person’s information. I also took pictures of the accident. Overall, I am pleased that I decided to make the switch to an Android phone and took the time to learn how it works. Will I continue to use an Android phone once my contact is up? Only time will tell and the ever changing winds of the technology world.

Is The Grass Greener On the Other Side?

On May 11, 2013, I was available for a phone upgrade. I have read Andy Ihnatko’s article “Why I switched from iPhone to Android” and it got me thinking of my options. Like Andy, I have been an iPhone user since the original iPhone. I still have the 4GB original working iPhone with the charger and ear buds. I have been reading about the Samsung Galaxy S4 phone , which got me thinking more about trying a Android phone. I have  also looked at a Windows phone 8, which had me curious as well. I did my research on the Nokia Lumia 920  and the Samsung Galaxy S4. I also forgot to mention that my cell phone carrier is AT&T.

 

Nokia Lumia 920 Advantages

 Price: $99

Phone Insurance: $99 for two years and covers 2 accidents, tech support, and a $50 deductible

Note: I discovered this feature at the South Park Mall Microsoft Popup Store.

Durability: The phone is heavy but feels sturdy which I believe can hand how tough I can be with cell phones

Operating System: The cell phone is tied into Windows 8, which will allow me to synchronize my information with my Windows 8 laptop.

Uniqueness: Not may people are using a Windows Phone 8 which can generate some curiosity.

Find Phone Feature: Windows Phone 8 has a built in feature to locate your phone when it is lost.

Screen Size: 4.5 inch screen

Nokia Lumia 920 Disadvantages

Ecosystem: There are not a lot of apps for the Windows Phone 8. Yes there are some of the basic apps for the phone but a lot of the apps I use where not in the app store.  Each time I asked a rep at the Microsoft Popup store about a app I use on my iPhone I would get a response of the apps is not available or here is a alternative.

Storage: The phone has 32GB of internal storage and no option for adding a memory card.

 

 Samsung Galaxy S4 Advantages

Screen Size: The screen is 5 inches and has the same foot print as the Samsung Galaxy S3. I use my phone to watch Netflix and Huluplus and the bigger screen size makes watching movies and show more enjoyable

 Screen Resolution: The 1080P screen at 1,920 x 1,080 resolution is easy on the eyes

 Ecosystem: Most if not all the apps I have been using on my iPhone 4S I can find on the Samsung Galaxy S4. For those apps I am not able to find, there is an alternate

 Hardware: The phone has the latest hardware  for a android phone

 OS: The phone comes with Jelly Bean (4.2.2)

 Storage: The phone comes with either 16GB or 32 GB of internal storage. I can also add up to a 64GB microSD card for more storage.

 Samsung Galaxy S4 Disadvantage

Apps Market Place: The price of the apps resembles an open market. The prices for apps vary from $.99 to $7.99 and up. Also there is less quality control for the apps.

 Learning Curve: I have not used an Android device, which requires me to learn how to use the phone and all of its features.

 No find my phone feature: I have to find a app which Windows Phone 8 and iPhone have that feature built-in.

 Storage: With the Android OS and Samsung’s applications, it does not leave me much room to install apps. I am not able to install apps on a microSD card.

 Phone Insurance: Samsung does not offer phone insurance like Apple or Microsoft. The cell phone carriers do offer phone insurance but not at a flat price of $99 with a $50 deductible

Which cell phone will I choose? There are some hard decisions for me to make. By searching both phones on the Internet and talking to Jim Collison (@jcollison), I was able to make a decision.

Thanks Jim for taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk with me about each phone.

My Cable Experience

On March 30, 2012, I closed on my townhome and began the wonderful world of having a mortgage and all joy and headaches that go along with owning your place. Once of those joys or headaches (depends on your cable company and representative you talk to) is setting up your cable and Internet access. I will spare you the details but decided to cut the cord and only subscribe to Time Warner’s high-speed Internet service (up to 50 down and up to 5 up). With this subscription plan I was bundled with their telephone service at the 1-year promotional price of $103.72 per month. Well my 1-year promotional price is about to expire so I decided to call Time Warner to cancel the telephone service and just subscribe to their high speed Internet service.

My eyes became wide open when I talked to a Time Warner representative that was kind enough to look into other options. Below is what was presented to me.

  1. Internet (50/5) and Basic Cable (channels 2-77) – $196.17 per month (with tax)
  2. Time Warner Digital Package (which consists of Internet (50/5) and Digital Cable for 12 months) – $179.27 per month (with tax)
  3. Time Warner Internet (50/5) – $118.18 per month (with tax)
  4. If I decide to get my own modem the monthly price for Internet (50/5) will be $113.95 per month (with tax). A few months ago I received a note with my cable bill informing me that I will be charged $3.95 per month to lease my cable modem. Hence, I will save $3.95 per month if I use my own cable modem.

I did some research and decided to purchase a Motorola SURFboard SB6141 DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem from BestBuy for $106.99.  Yes, I could of purchased the same modem from Amazon or NewEgg for a few dollars cheaper but I wanted this done today, I had the time, my local BestBuy had the modem, and my local BestBuy had just opened up.

After a quick run to BestBuy and purchasing the Motorola SURFboard SB6141 DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem the next challenge was calling Time Warner to setup my cable modem. I assumed this process would be straightforward but the problem I ran into was earlier that morning I turned in my telephone equipment to Time Warner. Somehow their system would not allow my cable modem to be registered on their network. Over 2 hours later and 4 transfers, the problem was resolved and I was up and running.

Fast-forward a month later. I am very pleased with my decision. I have ran multiple online speed tests from Speedtest.net, BandwidthPlace Speedtest , Broadband SpeedChecker, and Time Warner Speed Test. I ran those tests at different days and times and have a consistent upload and download speed of 50 down and 5 up. I only had to reboot the modem once but it has run rock solid (knock on wood). The only drawback to owning your cable modem is an Internet connection problem. Time Warner can easily blame the cable modem which can leave you without Internet access.

Dad’s First Virus on His New Computer

Yesterday, January 11, 2013 was a day I was dreading but expected. While I was at work, I received a call from my Dad. He never calls me at work so I quickly answered the phone. I learned that my Dad downloaded a virus on his computer. I did not ask how he downloaded the virus on his computer or what is the name of the virus. My brain when instantly into PC Eddie mode (i.e. computer tech mode) and asked him to locate the Acronis True Image 2013 boot CD I created for him. Just to go back in time a few months earlier, when I setup his Gateway computer. I also installed a second hard drive (1TB Western Digital Green hard drive) to store his backups. I purchased and setup Acronis True Image 2013 on his Gateway computer. I created a weekly backup schedule, which was saved to the second hard drive. My dad was able to locate the Acronis boot disk, boot the computer from the CD, and restore his computer from his last backup that was completed 4 days earlier. This scenario could have made me the hero or the zero but just as Acronis has advertised on their web site, this product works. I am glad to say that my Dad’s computer is up and running with no issues. I wanted to post this article as a testament to backing up your computer as you never know when a virus, hard drive failure, or any number of computer catastrophes may plague your computer.

Installing Dad’s Computer

The transportation of my Dad’s new Gateway computer to Florida was painless and trouble free. The installation of the computer at my Dad’s house involved some pain but the outcome was well worth it. Whenever I work on a project or any job, I go by the philosophy “Plan for the worst and hope for the best”. This has severed me well over the years and for this installation as well. Three hurdles that I overcame during the installation were 4 Bright House email accounts, an old printer, and an old scanner. The second and the third hurdles were not bad as Windows 8 Pro was able to find the drivers for the printer and scanner. The first hurdle took some effort to understand and develop a solution. My Dad had 4 BrightHouse emails accounts setup in Outlook 2003 as POP3. He has been using this setup for about 7 years. I wanted to get his email to the cloud and what better way to do that with an Outlook.com account I created for him. Once I was able to access each one of his BrightHouse email accounts, I setup up each BrightHouse email account to forward the emails to his Outlook.com email account. I choose the forwarding option to not leave the email on the Bright House email server. After locating his .pst file from Outlook 2003 and exporting his contacts, I was able to import the information to Outlook 2013. The big challenge was exporting his contacts from the Palm software and importing the contacts to Outlook 2013. I was able to find the export option within the Palm software and imported the contacts with no issues. Transferring the data from the hard drives of his old computer to his new computer went off without a hitch.

After transferring the data to my Dad’s new computer and setting up his printer and scanner, he was able to use the computer. He quickly got use to using the tiles to access his applications but I noticed he ended up going to the desktop and selecting the applications he wanted to use. After coming back from vacation and giving my Dad a few weeks to use the computer, I followed up with him. The overall verdict is he likes the computer and Windows 8 Pro. He is getting use to the tiles and learning how to use all of the Windows 8 Pro features. I have also setup Skype (Place Link Here) so we can videoconferences and he can see the grandchildren at my sister and brother in-laws’ house.

Overall I am glad that I decided to take the challenge to setup a Windows 8 Pro computer for my dad, as he has a more secure operation system, more available features at his fingertips, and opportunities to learn more about computers.

Will Windows 8 Pro Work?

Since I have a subscription to Microsoft TechNet and a spare Western Digital Black 1TB hard drive, I decided to find out how easy or difficult it would be to install Windows 8 Pro on the Gateway computer. The answer to the question is very easy. I had to update some drivers using the Windows 7 drivers from Gateway’s web site. The process to install Windows 8 Pro on the Gateway computer was smooth. The reason that I did not use the original hard drive is that I am using SpinRite to check the hard drive for any defects.

What’s Next?

I will be visiting my dad in early November so I have time to setup the computer. I will use the Gateway recovery disks to restore the computer. I will upgrade the computer to Windows 8. All of these adventures and my dad’s reaction to the new computer and to Windows 8 will be written in future blog posts.