Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Nokia never again - mobile phone unlocking lessons

I don't love Apple. I don't even love my iPhone, though I admit to occasional flirtations.

On the other hand, I really don't love the rest of the mobile industry.

My latest experience with unlove started with an unused AT&T issued Nokia 6555b. It's been sitting in the phone bin since I bought my iPhone, but recently I decided to use it with a Pay-As-You-Go account. It's to be a child phone -- especially for one son who tends to get lost.

Easy, I thought. It's GSM, so I'll just order the $10 T-Mobile kit and swap cards. I could have gone with AT&T's Pay-Go plans, but, I don't trust 'em and their plan looked typically squirrely.

Yes, for those of you of a certain age, that is the theme music from Jaws that you hear.

To cut to the chase, I've spent time with T-Mobile's automated phone activation system (very much unlove), T-Mobile customer support (surprisingly good) and AT&T's local store (saintly, really. Lousy company, but good staff).

Turns out Nokia has their own special phone locking procedure; they're supposed to make an unlock available for every phone that's been in use for more than 3 months.

Nowadays every Nokia phone is locked with a unique code, and supposedly only Nokia can provide it. The AT&T rep spent 30 minutes (this is the rep, not poor old me) working through the AT&T/Nokia system to get to the point where, in a week or two, they'll send me the unlock code. To a handwritten email address (and what's the chance that will work?).

Then, if I can find the original AT&T SIM card, and I can follow the bizarre series of incantations I was given, then maybe this Nokia phone, which I paid for, will be usable outside of AT&T.

I ain't buying Nokia again.

Apple, I unlove you less than the rest.

Update: Of course this isn't a new problem.

So why is it that today's NYT article on the virtues of unlocked phones overseas glosses over the varying policies of different phone manufacturers? Why doesn't Nokia get more flack for their obscure unlocking procedure -- even when AT&T is asking for the unlock?

And, for extra credit, how is this wee little episode deeply connected to the collapse of the global economic system?

Update 3/27/09: Astonishingly, it worked. The two reps, Nokia and AT&T alike, managed to get the email right and work through the process. Technical directions are on AT&T and Nokia are lousy companies, but they do have some good employees.

Update 7/28/09: I get quite a few comment submissions for this post linking to unlocking sites. Many of these sites are vectors for injecting trojans into visiting computers. I won't allow any of those comments.

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