Switching my iPhone from AT&T to T-Mobile

AT&T was great and everything, but it was just costing too much. As you can read here, I’ve used AT&T’s services for almost two years.

T-Mobile is $10-$15 cheaper than I was paying on AT&T. AT&T offered me a similar (after tax) price to T-Mobile’s, but that only included 300 minutes, 200 texts, and 2GB of data. Comparatively, T-Mobile is giving me 500 minutes (not that I’ll use anywhere near that much) and unlimited SMS/MMS & data. All that for about US$70/month (much better than the US$85 I was paying AT&T).

NB: I specifically asked T-Mobile if there data is unlimited (not ‘fake unlimited’; capped) and they told me I can “go nuts”. Sweeet!

The Switch

It was painless, but it did take up quite a bit of my time. Here are the steps I took to switch:

  1. I looked on T-Mobile’s website for the plan that best suited me. For me, this happened to be the Even More Plus 500 Talk + Text + Web contract-free plan.
  2. I called T-Mobile, setup an account, told them I had an iPhone, and had them send me a SIM card. (There was no obligation to make a payment until I activated the SIM card.)
  3. I called AT&T told them I wanted to cancel. They immediately put me through to their cancellation department where they asked some expected questions and then offered me a lower-cost plan (which I haven’t seen available online or elsewhere) that included (as I said above) 300 minutes of talk, 200 SMS, and 2GB of data. I said “No thanks.” and proceeded with the cancellation. AT&T asked if I was going to port my number (something I hadn’t thought of) and if so the porting would cancel the account anyway.
  4. When I received my SIM I called T-Mobile to activate it and port the number. Within minutes they had done so and my AT&T account was canceled.
  5. It took almost a week to get data working. Each T-Mobile support representative I spoke to was helpful, but the first few didn’t realise that I wasn’t on the correct data plan. I had to be on a smartphone data plan. Once that was activated my data worked. (T-Mobile forum posts like this were helpful, but didn’t resolve my issue.)
  6. Visual Voicemail is a feature on T-Mobile, but for some reason it doesn’t appear to work on the iPhone. I spoke to a nice T-Mobile girl about it. She told me everything was active on T-Mobile’s end, so it must be some kind of iPhone incompatibility. Perhaps it’s because of [Step 7].
  7. I was originally told that there was great 3G coverage in my area, but according to T-Mobile’s website my area has the slowest data rating. Outside of my apartment I get good EDGE speeds; I’m not complaining here; I usually had 3G turned off when I was on AT&T anyway. You must note that T-Mobile’s 3G isn’t compatible with the 3G radio inside the iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, and iPhone 4. So, even if I had awesome 3G in a certain location my iPhone wouldn’t be able to see it. That doesn’t bother me though.

That’s about it. It was a longer process than I expected, but my bill is less and my iPhone is working fine on T-Mobile’s network. I haven’t used it outside of the Huntsville, Fort Worth, and Houston areas yet, but I’m sure it would be fine in places like New York City and San Francisco.

Oh, just in case you didn’t read my post on using my Australian iPhone 3GS on AT&T, then you need to know that I did not hack-unlock and/or jailbreak my iPhone to work on T-Mobile. My iPhone is carrier unlocked from my Australian carrier.

Using my Australian iPhone 3GS on AT&T

I assume a post like the one you’re about to read has been written before, but I just wanted to document my experience with using an Australian iPhone in the USA.

The Quick and Dirty Answer

Call your Australian carrier and get them to unlock your Australian iPhone from its network. You’ll then be able to use it on any GSM network in the world. This is NOT a hack/jailbreak/unlocking tip. This is legit unlocking.

The Long and Clean Answer

When I traveled to the USA in 2008 I got a first-generation iPhone from a friend and put it on a plan with AT&T. This was not a contract, but a month-to-month plan that worked exactly the same as a regular AT&T iPhone contract plan, but didn’t have the early termination fee. This means I could cancel at any time. Why no contract? Because I had my own phone/hardware. (Note: I did have to pay a deposit because I had no credit score in America, but we’ll get to that in a moment.)

In 2009, Apple released the iPhone 3GS in Australia on the 26th of June. I went to the midnight launch an the Optus Store in Sydney’s CBD. It was a fun event, and I probably only waited in line for about 6 hours. It was a fun time in the dead of winter. 🙂

I went on the $79 Cap which included the following:

  • iPhone 3GS (32GB / white)
  • 1-year contract.
  • AUD$500 worth of calls.
  • Unlimited SMS and MMS. (A first for any mobile phone plan in Australia; previously we only had the option to pay for each text at between $0.05-$0.25 depending on the carrier. We don’t pay to receive text messages (like USA carriers do it) though.)
  • 700MB of mobile data
  • And whatever fancy Optus things it came with, like ‘Yes Time’ etc.

On top of the $80 I had to pay around AUD$48/month just for the phone itself. I did not pay any upfront costs for the iPhone.

48\times12 = 576

iPhone unlocked screen in iTunesThat’s about half the cost (~AUD$1100) to buy that phone outright at the time. Going on a 1-year contract is definitely one of the cheapest ways to obtain an unlocked iPhone. “Unlocked?!”, you squeal? Yes, as soon as you make the first month’s payment you can call Optus (and I assume there’s similar options at other Australian carriers) and ask for the phone to be unlocked from Optus’ network.

When I moved to the USA in February, 2010, I made sure my phone was unlocked and everything was dandy. I didn’t sign up with AT&T until about a month after I got there. I was using my iPhone on Wi-Fi in a lot of places… and I don’t get out much.

I called AT&T and got them to send me a SIM to put in my iPhone. At this point I didn’t tell them I had an iPhone because I figured I could just use the cheaper smartphone data plan and save a bunch of money.

When I received the SIM it didn’t seem to work. After a bunch of calls to AT&T and Apple’s technical department we couldn’t figure out the issue. I even went into an AT&T store to see if they could figure out anything. At that point I had to show them I had an iPhone and they noticed I didn’t have the iPhone data plan. Boo; now I have to pay extra money. That still didn’t fix the issue though.

I ended up calling Optus to see if there was some issue with the unlocking. It turned out that they never unlocked it like I requested. Not to worry though; they unlocked it then and there.

I called back AT&T and everything worked like a charm.

Remember what I said about a deposit? Well, if you don’t have enough of a credit score/rating/whatever (I didn’t the first time because I was traveling and I didn’t the second time (with the iPhone 3GS) because I only just moved to the USA), then you have to pay a deposit of US$500 to AT&T (I assume most companies do this. It seems AT&T might be the only one that does this: Read here.).

Don’t worry, it’s completely refundable after 1 year. I can vouch for AT&T on that because they returned the $500 — which I ended up giving back to them when I moved to the USA; haha.

I would like to note that both Optus and AT&T are great companies. Optus beats AT&T for sure, but they both have great customer service (phone/store), great reception (in the areas I frequent; I don’t live in SF or NYC), and have redeemed themselves numerous times when overcharging me then returning the money when I yell at them.

That’s it! Enjoy your unlocked iPhone goodness.

Driving is Serious Business

Before humans are ever born we experience the sounds of automobiles and are subjected to their dangers.

Once we enter this majestic world we’re handed all sorts of automobile-related toys. This isn’t just a ‘boy thing’. Girls that are interested in Barbies always want the Barbie Minivans, Convertibles, and other things that Barbie can ride in. Of course, boys love cars and trucks a lot more than most girls.

Almost every day a newborn child will see a car or be placed inside one.

Note: I just realised this may not be the case for children living in third world countries, so most of what I’m discussing here is related to people in first/second world places.

Cars, trucks, and the act of driving could almost be considered a fundamental of life — scary.

Once kids mature in to teenagers they eagerly await the day they get their learners license/permit. The average age to receive said license in most countries is 15 and a half. Read more about driver’s licenses. Up until then these teenagers’ only driving experience is via video games and being in the car with Mom or Dad (that is, if they’re paying attention to what their parents are doing while driving).

Depending on where you live, your methods of driver’s license acquisition may vary from mine; I learned to drive in Australia. I had to go through a process of 3 provisional driver’s licenses over the course of 4 years before I received my full license at the age of 21. I’m glad the rules there are more extensive than, say, the United States — where most states allow people of an average age of 17.5 to receive their full license.

I’m not saying Australia’s methods are better — the rules have become even more strict since I got my license — just that it appears their system is more comprehensive.

I also don’t think that I’m a superb driver. I’ve been known speed from time-to-time, accelerate through amber traffic lights, and maybe spin some tires in the wet. That said, I’ve seen far, far worse drivers on the roads in Australia and the United States.

Just to refresh your memory, I’m going to list some universal DOs and DON’Ts below to make sure you are doing things correctly.

DO wear a seatbelt – In the United States, I see far too many people not wearing seat belts. Apparently it’s not mandatory for people over 16 years old. Just because it’s not a law doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done. The law doesn’t force you to breathe, but you do it to survive.

DO use your peripheral vision – You know, the stuff you see out of the corner of your eyes. That’s some good stuff! This includes scanning the road and the sides of the road for possible hazards. Focusing on what’s right in front of you isn’t going to cut it; you need to be able to see that tennis ball bouncing over a fence and heading in to your lane while traveling 70km/h (43.5mph).

DO ride the brake – Reaction times can vary from person to person, but generally it can be rather slow if you just have your foot resting on the accelerator or even flat on the floor (heavenscience forbid!). If you have your foot hovering (not lightly pressing) the brake when you don’t need to accelerate, then your braking reaction time is going to be far quicker; you’ll stop the car far sooner.

DO indicate/signal – Wowzers! In the giant state of Texas I’ve seen more people on the highways that don’t indicate to enter another lane or exit the highway than people that actually do. To me, this is almost like wearing a seatbelt; it’s a habit and it should be done all the time. If you don’t indicate, then how on earth do I know where you’re going? You should always use your indicator even if there’s no one behind you or around you.
Scenario: It’s night time and some kid in a black outfit decides he’s going to cross a road running perpendicular to the one you’re driving on (i.e., running parallel with the direction you’re driving), but you decide to turn on to that perpendicular road without indicating. You can imagine the implications of this.

DO stop, revive, survive – That’s a slogan on Australian roads — Stop. Revive. Survive. It means you should stop driving every 2 hours, stretch, relax, and have something to eat and/or drink. You think two hours isn’t that long, right? Well, when you’re constantly moving your eyes to scan the road, concentrating on maintaining a safe speed, and managing the distance from other cars around you, then you can become fatigued in a short amount of time.

Side note: Rachel and I often drive back and forth from Huntsville to Fort Worth — a 3.5 hour drive (with a stop or two). Recently I decided that we will take these drives in 1.5 hour shifts. This means: if we don’t have time to make a food/drink stop along the way, then we can just switch positions half way through the drive and be able to make it there as quickly as possible.

DO keep in the curb lane unless overtaking – This is a rule in Australia and the USA, yet lots of people enjoy driving in the centre lane next to other cars, so that no one can overtake in either lane. If someone is going too slow, then overtake them and get back in the curb or “slow” lane. This isn’t too much of an issue on highways with 3 lanes or more, but the rule still applies.

DON’T tailgate – Really? People do this? I’ve been living in Texas for a short while and many oversized pick-up trucks  and 4WDs like to get really close (I’m talking mere inches) behind cars in the “fast lane” while those cars are overtaking someone. Once the car gets back in to the “curb lane” the large vehicle will scream by (probably with their foot to the floor on the accelerator). There’s really no reason for this. Stay three seconds behind the car in front, please!

DON’T txt/talk – Honestly, driving 1+ tonnes of metal is dangerous enough without adding distractions in to the mix. If you have a friend in the car, then get them to txt/call for you. Otherwise, pull over or wait until you’re at your destination. Thanks.

DON’T be lazy with cruise control – This relates back to DO ride the brake. Cruise control is there so that you can maintain a constant speed without having to constantly press and depress the accelerator. The advantage of this is that you can ride the brake so if there is a hazard that requires you to stop, then your reaction time will be much quicker. Some people may not consider this an advantage because you have to keep your foot at an angle (which can get sore/tiring), but it could save multiple lives!

DON’T place anything between you and an airbag – This could be a difficult thing to do in the most modern cars because many cars now come with side and curtain airbags which pretty much covers any space between the occupant and the car.
The main airbags you want to apply this rule is with the driver and front passenger airbags. Nothing should ever be placed between the driver’s airbag and the driver; airbags are released with such force that anything in this space could become lodged within the drivers body in the event of an airbag deployment. Some passengers may choose to do work or watch a movie on a laptop whilst in the passenger seat.
In most cases this is all fine and dandy, but in all seriousness an airbag could deploy at any time, and you wouldn’t want your laptop smashed against your chest and throat, would you?

DON’T get angry – I’m sure many of us get some road rage from time-to-time, but it’s generally not worth your time and/or energy.

DON’T rev like a manic –  Don’t get me wrong, I love to accelerate to the speed limit as quickly as possible or drop it down a gear to overtake someone quickly, but doing this chomps through petrol and in turn the money you pay for it. In short, the lower you keep the RPM on the engine the less fuel you’ll use and the less you’ll have to service your car/engine.

Try not to be scared – This isn’t really a do or don’t, but I just wanted to touch on it. Many of my friends in Sydney are “afraid” to drive across the Sydney Harbour Bridge or in the CBD or anywhere they’re not familiar with. You should be scared to drive in general because it’s a dangerous thing to do (haul a huge hunk of metal at speed), and generally you need to watch out for other drivers’ actions more than your own, but you shouldn’t be afraid to drive in certain areas. A road is a road and having more or less cars around you will give you more experience as a driver.

That’s all the fundamental tips I have for you in relation to driving. If there’s something I missed or something you don’t agree with, then please leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Update: I’ve written a post on how a car is a weapon, and why you should take driving seriously. Read it here.

Be safe out there, friends!

Taking an iPhone from Australia to USA

star-icon-green

This issue has been solved.
See how to resolve at bottom of post.

I first got an iPhone 2G in 2008. It was a magical device that advanced me into the 21st century. I’d like to thank Chris for making that possible.

I used the phone on AT&T (I got a no-contract, month-by-month plan with data and all the bells & whistles) and it worked smoothly. In June 2009 I traveled back to Australia and left the iPhone here (in the USA) with Rachel because I knew the iPhone 3GS was going to be released in Australia at the end of June.

I signed a 12 month contract with Optus (and Australian phone/internet/tv carrier) and got an iPhone 3GS. I made sure the phone could be unlocked (NOT unlocked using ‘hacking’ software like QuickPWN) from the Optus network so that I could bring it to America and use it here.

I flew to America and kept the phone in Airplane mode, and have used it to access the Internet using Wi-Fi connections. That’s worked fine, but I have always planned to get an AT&T SIM card for it so that I can use it as a phone over here.

Last week I put that plan in motion and received a new AT&T SIM card in the mail yesterday. I ended up having to call AT&T to activate the SIM card. They were able to activate it, but were unable to get a connection to it; it only shows one bar of reception on the phone and it can’t make calls or transfer any data. AT&T phone customer service suggested I take it in to an AT&T store.

Today I visited an AT&T store. I explained the entire situation to a cool guy named Dustin and he tried putting in a new SIM card just in case the one I received in the mail was faulty. The new SIM card didn’t work either. He tested the new SIM card in another phone and it worked fine. Thus, it’s an issue with the phone. Dustin tried a hard reset (holding the ON/OFF button and the home button). Doing so resulted in the phone not booting up correctly; it just held the white Apple symbol on a black screen. Also, iTunes on Dustin’s computer would not recognise my iPhone before and after the hard reset. Thus, there was no way to restore the phone

Dustin suggested I call an Apple Store to see what they could do. I walked out of the AT&T store a little frustrated, but I knew there was nothing else they could do.

After about 15 minutes I looked at the iPhone again and realised it was on the home screen (i.e., it did finally boot up). I went back over to the AT&T store and Dustin said he couldn’t do anything because the phone said ‘No Service’ in the top left of the screen.

I called an Apple Store, explained the entire situation (again), and they told me to call Apple Care. I called Apple Care, explained the situation again, and I was passed on to a senior technician. The first technician understood my situation completely, so the senior technician was up to speed by the time I got to speak to him. In short, he told me I’ll have to call Apple Care in Australia — which wasn’t open at the time (0700 hrs), so I have to wait.

As it stands right now, I’m currently waiting for Australia to wake up, so that I can call Apple Care there and see if they can remedy my situation at all.

If anyone reading this knows any solutions to my situation (besides hacking/unlocking/jailbreaking the iPhone), then please leave them in the comments, e-mail me, or @djsteen me on Twitter.

UPDATE: After many phone calls to AT&T, Apple, and Optus, I eventually figured out that Optus has never unlocked my phone. I had to restore my iPhone through iTunes with my Optus SIM inside.

At the end of the restore iTunes showed this screenshot:

itunes-iphone-unlocked450px

I hope that helps anyone else in my situation.

Please Unrestrict the World’s Content!

Tried hacking. No dice. World. World… Yes, I’m talking to every single one of you!

For years I’ve had to live with the fact that Australia is treated like a second-rate citizen. Typically it’s because of the United States of America having a walled country in terms of content. Australia was settled by the British, but in the 21st century we are very much influenced by the USA.

Here’s a few things that have been traditionally hindered on Australian soil:

  • Feature films are released 3-6 months after they’re initially released in the United States. The same goes for DVDs. Films such as Avatar or Transformers are released at the same time as they are in the USA because they’re so popular that they don’t want people to pirate them. People will pirate them anyway.
  • Television shows are broadcast 6 months or more after they’re aired in the USA. Okay, so ever since the final season of The O.C. this has changed. Now, popular US shows such as LOST, Heroes, Flash Forward, etc are shown in Australia a week after they are broadcast in the USA. That still doesn’t cut it for me.
  • Technology doesn’t reach us for years. We’re located so close to Japan, yet America tends to get new technology before we do. Where’s the logic in that? We never had the opportunity to buy the first generation iPod or the first generation iPhone. We still don’t have true unlimited broadband Internet. (We have 25-200GB caps and they’re fairly expensive.) This is being remedied though.

Many of those restrictions aren’t unique to Australia. The United Kingdom is far closer to the USA than Australia is, yet they also get treated similarly. Lots of other countries have similar treatment.

The issue as spread to the Internet. You can find almost anything online, but (depending on the country you’re accessing the Internet from) you might not be able to view it.

Here’s a list of things that are restricted on Australia’s Internet:

  • Hulu. No one can access Hulu outside the USA (most proxy servers are even blocked). They state that they’re trying to become available in other countries, but they’ve been stating that for years.
  • YouTube. You may not be aware, but a plethora of content on YouTube is blocked from Australian consumption. Although some UK-based content is blocked from American viewers.
  • Television stations (NBC, ABC, MTV, CMT, etc). Most American television stations block viewers from other countries. Similarly, you can’t access video content from Australia’s television stations’ web sites if you’re not within Australia. So, America isn’t really the ‘bad guy’ in this whole situation. It’s the idiotic rules based around content in general.
  • Amazon MP3. Sure, anyone can access an Amazon web page. But, in order to download MP3s you need an application. The application can’t be downloaded unless you’re accessing the web site from the USA. Amazon Video On Demand videos are also blocked from view outside the USA.
  • Google Voice. I understand that a service like this might take a little while to role out to Australia because phone numbers and mobile phones are a little different, but Google took over Grand Central a long time ago. You’d think they’d have figured out a way to allow other countries to use the service. Skype does it. I hope that when they do launch it in Australia (and other countries) that we can keep phone numbers from various countries on the same Google account.

As I mentioned above, the USA isn’t the only country that doesn’t allow outsiders to view their content. It’s just the fact that they create a lot of good content that we all want to see as soon as it’s done in the editing room.

Something interesting I discovered today is a British television show called Skins. It’s a teen drama (same genre as Australia’s Home & Away) which appears to push the boundaries of what can be shown on television (e.g. the f-word and sex scenes). I don’t know much about British television, so I’ll tell you what I just learned. Skins is shown on a channel called E4. It’s broadcast in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. E4 is a pay-TV companion to the free-to-air Channel 4.

I am able to access video content on E4’s website. Scenes, behind the scenes videos, video blogs, and photographs from Skins are available on the website. Those residing in the United States can also access all that same content. Though, scenes from the show available on YouTube (uploaded by random users; not E4 or Channel 4) can be seen in Australia, but not the United States. I’m not quite sure why they’re blocked on YouTube and not E4’s official website. Oh, that’s right, because YouTube is a jerk!

It seems that British content is a little more accessible than content from the United States — or even from Australia. Yeah, try accessing the Foxtel web site from outside of Australia (you’d see this).

So what are we to do about this? Well, I’ve submitted my interest to Hulu that I’d like it available in my country. I’m not sure if that even does anything though. I’d say just keep pirating stuff until these various services begin to understand our needs, or until The Zeitgeist Movement is complete.

What do you think about all this? Are you in the USA and could care less? Are you living in Australia and wanting to slash your wrists? Hit up the comments below! 🙂

I’m returning to America in 2010!

Update: I’m flying out of Sydney on the 9th of February, 2010. I arrive in the USA on the same day. If we’re “friends” on TripIt, you can follow the details there.

As many of you know, I traveled all across the USA and up to Vancouver, Canada, from June 2008 to June 2009. It was truly magical! So many online friends became real life friends, and so many more friends were made during the trip.

Well, I’m heading back!

Last time it was all travel and exploration. Although, I didn’t make it to the Grand Canyon — must change that! This time is more of a move-(ish). The reason I say “-ish” is because I’ll always be able to call Australia home (queue Qantas commercial).

No, I’m not bringing my bed. No, I’m not packing lots of boxes. No, I’m not taking my iMac. Gosh, I’m even leaving my Drobo (which I just had sent over from America) in Australia!

Yes, I miss Rachel. Yes, I’m going back to live with her in Texas. Yes, I’m only planning on bringing one suitcase.

Did you know? During my 2008-2009 year in the USA/Canada I lived out of one suitcase and a duffel bag for 90% of the trip! (I added a second suitcase in the last month; my original suitcase was 9 years old and had been beaten around a lot!)

Side note: I’m listening to “Empire State of Mind” by Jay-Z | Alicia Keys on repeat. I first heard it a few days ago. Darn you, inspirational beats. 😉

The reason for this post is because I’m excited, and I realised not many people knew. I just assumed most of my online friends knew, but how could they know if I hadn’t directly told them? Ha, silly Derek.

I’m trying to catch up with as many of my Australian friends as I can while I’m still here. I’m flying out at the beginning of February, so there’s only about a month left. That’s four weeks, folks!

I’m eager to go out on adventures in and around Sydney. Whether it’s just ‘hanging out’, eating some tasty food, taking photographs, recording video, or anything else you’d like to include me in. I’m in.

I have big plans to explore more of Australia and the rest of the world in a few years time. Read more about that here.

You can buy “Empire State of Mind” by Jay-Z featuring Alicia Keys on iTunes and Amazon1. More information about the song can be found on Wikipedia.

Disclaimer: I use affiliate links for iTunes and Amazon, so if you buy something I recommend, then I get a tiny percentage. Yo, I’ll buy you lunch some time. 😉

Where to go in 2009?

[I’ll insert a video here later today…]

So… it’s the 2nd of January, I’m in Fort Worth, Texas, and I head to San Francisco on Monday.

I’m trying to figure out where to go after MacWorld (January 5-9, 2009) in San Francisco. I really want to go skiing somewhere — I’m probably going to Lake Tahoe for that, but I’m just waiting to hear back from Victor.

I’d like to stay on/near the west coast for most of January if possible; I’m going to be in and around New York for most of February, and then in Texas for most of March (yes, I’ll probably be at SXSW).

My current options for after MacWorld/SF:
– Skiing somewhere for a week or so.
– Los Angeles (where to stay and what to do?).
– Visit Joely in Seattle and then head up to my uncle’s place in Vancouver, Canada. The only problem with Canada is: I’m not sure how much it will cost to operate my iPhone there (I have unlimited txt/data in the USA), and I’m not sure if my uncle has broadband internet there (I need the fast internet for my job at Viddler).

Do you have other ideas of where I should go?

For those of you going to MacWorld, I’ll see ya there! 🙂