7 Things You Love to Ask About iPhone Unlocking

Pwnage Tool logoOver the past year and a half I had assisted many people with the unlocking of their iPhones. Many more people ask me about unlocking.

So instead of answering each of these people over and over again, I thought I post an article in my blog, which I can refer them to for more details.

  1. What Does iPhone Unlock mean?
    Many carriers around the world will “carrier lock” a cell phone that they had subsidized for their customers. To ensure the purchaser of the cell phone stays as a customer of the carrier after the purchase, the carrier will normally do two things:

    • Make the purchaser commit to a contract that bounds them to the carrier for a number of years (2 years is common). Of course the purchaser can break the contract, but there is usually a penalty to compensate the carrier for the subsidizing the cell phone.
    • Carrier Lock the cell phone to the carrier’s network, meaning the cell phone cannot be used on any other cellular network in the world.
    • Continue reading “7 Things You Love to Ask About iPhone Unlocking”

Is Smartone-Vodafone’s IOM Value Pack Right for iPhone?

Smartone-Vodafone logoOver a month ago I decided to switch to the Smartone-Vodafone “IOM Value Pack“. You can read why I make this move in my previous post, New Tariff Plan from Smartone-Vodafone for iPhone.

I had shared my experience here on my blog with my experience of using the iPhone in Hong Kong since June 2007. You can follow all of these posts by using the iPhone category.

Today is the last day of my bill cycle at Smartone-Vodafone, so I am now able to report if this “IOM Value Pack” is suitable for iPhone users in Hong Kong.

First I will provide some statistics on my iPhone voice and data usage in the past 30 days.

Internet Browsing as they called it = 27.378MB
Data Usage = 4.373MB
RSS Usage = 13.579MB
POP Usage = 0.340MB

As the IOM Value Pack at HKD136/month includes 600MB/month (20MB/day) Internet Browsing, I am within the limit. The Data Usage, which is most likely the result of IMAP email and other application usage. The POP usage is from one of my email account that I grab mail from, and the RSS reader, these all total 18.292MB, Since the IOM Value Pack charges HKD15/15MB, the extra usage resulted in an additional charge of HKD30.00, giving me a final total of:

HKD30.00 (extra data usage)
HKD12.00 (MTR fees)

Total = HKD178.00

This is still cheaper than what I was paying prior to switching to the IOM Value Pack.

New Tariff Plan from Smartone-Vodafone for iPhone

Smartone-Vodafone logoAs I still found my Smartone-Vodafone charges too high, I decided to look for alternatives, including those from competitors, like: PCCW, Three and People.

For those of you who’ve been following my ideal iPhone tariff plan search in Hong Kong, you will know that I had been using Smartone-Vodafone’s 3G voice plan (HKD128/month) + Internet Browsing (HKD38/month)+ Data plan (HKD118/month), giving me a total monthly bill of HKD296/month (including the MTR and administrative fees).

What did these combinations of plans gave me? I will only focus on the features that matters for an iPhone user.

Continue reading “New Tariff Plan from Smartone-Vodafone for iPhone”

Another Chinese Decision

China’s going to launch their own mobile TV technology in time for the Olympic games’ opening ceremony on August 8, 2008.

Mobile TV standards have been largely incompatible, with systems in the North America, South America, South Korea, Italy and Japan. Now we see yet another incompatible system to be introduced in one of the largest potential user based. Shall we keep starting these standards wars? We saw the battle of BetaMAX and VHS. We recently saw the HD disk format war between HD-DVD and Blu-ray.

China had always wanted to come up with their own standards. They attempted to do so with WiFi, but failed drastically when the Chinese businesses complain that the China WiFi system would not be compatible with 802.11, hence forcing all Chinese businesses to equip their staff; who travels outside of China, with connected devices compatible with dual WiFi system.

Then China choose a HD TV standard that is incompatible with the rest of the world’s HD TV standard, but this time there are no Chinese businesses available to fight the decision for the consumer. So due to business survival, TV manufactures are making converter boxes that will sit between their HD TV sets and the signal coming at Chinese cities. For what have to be a patriotic decision, Hong Kong choose to go with the China standard rather than the standard that is use in majority of the countries outside of China.

Standards wars are never good for the ultimate consumers. I call for the technology decision makers and government officials, to consider the ultimate consumers in their decisions.

Smartone-Vodafone Really Doesn’t Know

Over the past 3 months in preparation of my eventual iPhone usage on the Smartone-Vodafone network, I began testing to see which is the best combination Smartone-Vodafone data plan to subscribe to.

Prior to August of this year I subscribed to Smartone-Vodafone’s “HKD118.00/month Data Plan”, which gave me 10MB of usage per month and a HKD15.00/MB thereafter. While using my Nokia E61i at the time I frequently exceeds my 10MB allocation for the plan. I also did not use the GPRS access freely due to the limit imposed by the plan. Continue reading “Smartone-Vodafone Really Doesn’t Know”

VoIP from Your Mobile

Repost from: Vinko’s Satellite Blog

EQO LogoAs many of you may have heard of VoIP (Voice over IP). There are some very popular service like: Skype and Gizmo Project.

Last year EQO Communications launched the EQO service, which extends these VoIP service back to the mobile phone, and in addition to offering free IM (instant messaging) service to popular services like: ICQ, MSN Messenger, Google Talk and Jabber.

You may ask, why do you want to have VoIP on a mobile phone? Why does one just use the mobile phone itself to make the call required. The answer is cost. In most cases, there is a discount of about 95%. Like other VoIP providers, EQO offer free calls to other registered EQO users.

Although it offers this service to 29 countries it does not yet offer its service to Asia and more specifically Hong Kong. I am calling everyone in Asia to help convince EQO to begin offering their service in Hong Kong and rest of Asia. Please go to EQO’s country suggestion page to add your respective countries to their list of desired countries.

Blue Sky squeezes GPS onto a SIM

Blue Sky has developed a technology to allow one to add GPS capability to a mobile phone without buying a new phone. I had always believe in location based application. I even lead a team while employed by Arthur Andersen to come up with location based solutions for a client way back in 2000.I think if Blue Sky’s technology takes off we will have a whole new set of applications for the mobile phone in the coming years. I for one wish Blue Sky great success.

read more | digg story

Choosing a Technology

I still hear people say, “It’s about time I learn how to use xxxx”. You can replace the “xxxx” with almost any technologies now a days. From SMS (text messaging) to Instant Messaging (IM), doing word processing on a computer to downloading HD (High Definition) movies from the Internet, video chatting to voice over IP (V0IP).

In many cases these people would clarify their statements with something like, “I really don’t know how xxxx works”. That is usually their reasons for not using the technology in question.

I believe a technology is ready for “prime time”; general consumption, when it is easy enough to use, such that people do not need to know how it works, but understand what it can do for them.

The latter is what I believe technologist or versatilist like myself is specialized in. Especially in terms of aspiring technologies that has yet to reach the pervasiveness I described above.

Technology should always be thought of as serving a business objective or solution. In very rare cases does technology dictates the business model or objectives.

Apple Inc. for one has captured this essence of technology perfectly through its products; may it be hardware or software. Their computer operating system (Mac OS) and personal computer (“Apple” and then “Macintosh”) are my computing tools of choice for the past 25+ years.

Technology companies out there should stop pushing technologies, which are not ready for prime time, down consumers’ throats.

In recent years, many such technologies existed:

  • 3G (third generation) mobile telephone. This technology and mobile phones were at least 3 years ahead of its time when mobile phone carriers were pushing the 3G phones onto consumers. Of course, now 3 years later much of European Union (EU) countries and Asia are 3G capable.
  • HD (High Definition) TV was another technology waiting for content when it was shown at CES 10 years ago, and then made widely available 3 – 4 years ago. In this case the United States, source of majority of the English TV content, took the lead in generating HD content for the massive adoption in the past 2 years. Now there are almost just as many HD channels as SD (Standard Definition) channels in the United States. Unfortunately, the rest of the world are still playing catch up with China only recently finalized their national HD standards.
  • Windows OS (operating system), until Windows Vista, was really a technical tool designed more for geeks and technophiles. Especially when we speak of the software Microsoft produced for these operating systems and the Mac OS. Microsoft Office is a very power suite of software, but for the untrained user, they are only able to use the tip of the iceberg of these tools’ capabilities.
  • Another Microsoft OS, the Microsoft “Windows Mobile”, is a bloated operating system that majority of the devices and software manufacture would not be able to take advantage of, hence, the consumers who purchase these devices are under utilizing. Majority of the consumers who purchase a Windows Mobile device; PDA (Personal Digital Assistant), has three simple requirements:
    1. Make telephone calls.
    2. Keep their business and personal contact details organized.
    3. Keep track of their business and personal appointments.

    From this set of consumers a small percentage also have the following requirements:

    1. Take photos for sending to friends via email (307,200 pixels or less). Because of the size of the average photo size requirements, a camera with less than 1M pixel resolution is sufficient.
    2. Read emails from their personal account (normally POP type), and if the device is subsidized by their employer also read corporate emails (either Microsoft Exchange, POP, IMAP or Blackberry type).

    From this smaller set of consumers a small percentage may find the following requirements necessary:

    1. They want to listen to music in MP3 format (with an average quality of 128kbps sampling rate). This quality means that the average 3 minutes song is about 2.8MB (Mega Bytes) in size.
    2. They may want to keep track of where they are via GPS and GPS software.

    Finally a very very few people wants to edit MS Office documents and/or presentations on these devices.

    As most of my readers can agree, they fall into the first set of consumers, and may be less than half of that falls into the 2nd set.

    Therefore, I believe using the Microsoft Windows Mobile OS for a PDA is like using an aircraft carrier to cross a river when a simple row boat is sufficient.

Doing the above in many cases will cause the technology in question to have a very slow up take and in some cases risk of being discontinued before their time.

Over the past decades many great and arguably superior technologies had seen such demise:

Now in the past 6 months and the next 12 months to come we may see Blu-ray and HD DVD having the same fate.

Apple Store Japan (Mobile)

Image courtesy of IT Media

Apple launched a new Apple Store Japan for mobile phones users in Japan from their AU and NTT handsets. To be able to use this new Apple Store, you will need to be within service coverage of the NTT and AU handsets, since Apple had programatically blocked access to this new store from users other then the ones with the correct browser.

According to reports (IT Media), Apple had made the full line of iPod devices and the Mac Mini available for purchase on this new site. Whether there is a discount or special offer compares to the regular Apple Store Japan I do not know. May be some of the Japanese readers can comment on this article and share this with my readers.

So, if you are one of the lucky users of the following handsets you can go check it out:

  • AU:
    • Wシリーズ(W01K除く)
    • INFOBARシリーズ
    • A5000シリーズ
    • C5000シリーズ
    • A3000シリーズ
    • C3000シリーズ
    • A1400シリーズ
    • A1300シリーズ
    • A1100シリーズ
  • NTT:
    • 210i以降
    • 503is以降
    • FOMA

I realized that Japan has one of the largest, if not “the largest”, mobile content consumers in the world, but the rest of Asia also have a very big intake of mobile technology. For example:

  • Hong Kong citizens changes their mobile phone the most frequent in the world.
  • South Korean citizens is the most wired [to the Internet] in the world.
  • Philipine citizens sends the most SMS in the world.
  • China citizens now make up the largest population within a country of installed cellular phone.
  • India citizens has the highest density (based on spending power) of potential cellular phone user base.

Are we (the rest of Asia, Hong Kong in particular) always going to be playing “second fiddle” to the Japanese consumers? Are we really that phobic towards mobile content? I am sure Apple’s Marketing and Product Development teams had done their homework before launching the site in Japan, but please don’t leave the rest of Asia out.

SImilarly, the news of iTunes Music Store for Japan had been in the air for over a year now; ever since the rumors of a EU specific Store 2 years ago. Recent news place the launch date of the iTunes Music Store – Japan for end of 2005.

Throughout these rumors and announcements, no one seem to want to comment about the rest of Asia. Yes, during the recent rumors there is also news of a iTunes Music Store for Australia by end of April 2005, but what about the other large non-English speaking music consumers: Cantonese/Mandarin (Chinese), Hindu (Indian), Korean, Barhasa and Thai.

Apple’s iTunes Music Store for US already have some foreign languages music listed, but speaking to local [Hong Kong] record companies (Avex, EMI, etc.) individuals, it seems that over the past 2.5 years they have grown to accept the inevitable of music download and online distribution for Hong Kong and rest of Asia. Of course like many other things that Apple does they do not comment on unannounced products or service offerings, but I hope they are already well on its way discussing with these regional record companies (Apple, if you’re reading, please send me a personal note and I will forward some of these “record companies individuals” to you… :P).


More on Convergence

In an blog entry back in January, “Digital Convergence I pointed out some of the trends of converging the functionalities of different technologies into the same digital device.

Well today Samsung has done it also. The maker of various digital devices from LCD TV to mobile phone, cameras to rice cookers, has launched their “SCH-V770” CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) mobile phone with technical specs jealous by most digital camera manufactures at this physical size and (expected) price point.

When I start listing the features you will wonder whether I am describing a digital still camera or a mobile phone, but in this case the answer is both.

The new “SCH-V770” comes with:

  • 1/1.8 inch CCD image sensor
  • digital still camera resolution of 7 megapixels
  • 3x optical / 5x digital zoom
  • auto focus
  • flash
  • focal length off 7.8 to 23.4 mm
  • manual focus
  • shutter speed from 15 seconds to 1/2000th of a second
  • record video at 15 – 30 frames a second
  • 2″ QVGA TFD LCD display that is capable of 16 millions of colours
  • internal memory of 32MB
  • MMC micro media card slot
  • direct connection to a TV for playback of digital images and videos

My readers may notice some obvious omissions for a mobile phone specifications above, these are the number of bands and the typical CDMA functions. All the articles about this phones had been focused on the digital camera features and not the mobile phone part of this device. The only information I have is that it does not support any of the GMS bands in the world.

As most people find that 4 – 5 megapixels is enough for a digital phone, one begs the question if Samsung, LG and the alike have their focus on the appropriate features of their mobile phones.

I guess the consumer will be the final judge when this and other phones become available later this year.