Last month, AT&T finally said they’d unlock off contract iPhones. I decided to try and get a used iPhone 3G as a spare and to test out the whole unlock process. I found a 3G cheap on ebay with a broken screen. The seller claimed that the screen, and a somewhat unresponsive home button were the only problems, so I thought I’d give it a shot.
I found a kit on Amazon that included the glass, digitizer, and home button pre installed, that had some good reviews and the price was certainly right.
I timed it so the kit arrived almost the same time as the broken iPhone. I first verified the iPhone worked and then proceed to take it apart using the ifixit manual as a guide.
The replacement was fairly easy, but I did have one issue with the new home button still
not being very responsive. I read some of the Amazon reviews and a few other people had this same problem and suggesting putting a little strip of electrical tape under the connectors to help give it better contact. I gave that a try and sure enough it worked, so I now had a fully functional iPhone 3G on the cheap.
The next step now, was to try and get it unlocked. I first double-checked that it still had a stock baseband as some of them have the iPad version to attain a hacked software unlock. Luckily, this phone appeared to have never been jailbroken or software unlocked. The process was fairly simple. I logged into my AT&T account from their website, and went to their online chat support. Before the chat started, I had to fill out a few fields and in the comments, I stated that I bought a used iPhone 3G on ebay that I wanted to see about getting unlocked and included the IMEI number as I knew that they needed that. The chat session began and the service representative verified that I wanted the iPhone unlocked. They checked my account and also made sure that the iPhone was not tied to a on contract customer, asked for my email address, said they’d be contacting me and that was it. The whole process took about 10-15 minutes. They also stated that it would take 7-10 days before the unlock process was finished.
The next day, I decided to try an iTunes restore in the morning to see if by chance it had been unlocked yet, but I did not get the unlock screen. I decided to try one more time in the afternoon and by some chance, it worked. I received the following message in iTunes after that restore.
The last thing I need to try now, is a friends T-Mobile sim card to verify that it is working. I should be doing that later this week. Not only does unlocking increase the base value of the iPhone, but now this iPhone can be used as a world phone. All you’d have to do while visiting another country, is buy a prepaid sim card in that country and avoid paying the high international roaming charges.
I still haven’t received the email from AT&T that the unlock is ready, but I imagine the process goes from AT&T to Apple, Apple inputs the IMEI into their database for unlocked phones, and then notifies AT&T when it is finished. AT&T probably waits a couple more days on top of that just to make sure that when they send out that email, the unlock notification shows up first time, so they don’t get reoccurring support calls from impatient customers.