Live south of Lake Washington in the Seattle-Tacoma area? Have a broken iPhone or iPad? Broke the screen on your Samsung phone recently? You’re now able to get those problems fixed much more easily at our new Southcenter store. This will be our 4th location in the Seattle area and is a continuation of our efforts to make sure we have a store conveniently located for as many people as possible.
I obviously have a vested interest in people not trying to repair their own phones but rather having a professional do it for them. But that doesn’t make what I’m about to tell you any less true:
Fixing your own phone is harder than the online videos make it look. Continue reading Repairing Your Own Cell Phone – Harder Than it Looks
We’ve been fixing hand held devices since 2007 and while that’s not a long time in comparison to “ever” it has given us a lot of knowledge about which devices are durable and which ones are fragile. In those 4 years we have repaired well over 10,000 cell phones and iPod Touch devices. So I have some expertise in this area and you can believe me when I say that the 4th generation iPod Touch is the most fragile device I’ve ever seen. Continue reading iPod Touch 4: Most Fragile Device Ever?
Starting in 2007, Apple changed the cell phone industry forever by releasing the iPhone. While it’s big, beautiful glass screen allowed users to do a lot more than just talk and text, it had one major enemy: Gravity. This new glass screen did not survive well when dropped. SquareTrade did a study in 2009 showing that 1 in 5 iPhones were broken by users through an accident. Continue reading Cell Phone Screen Repair: Do-It-Yourself or Hire a 3rd Party?
In recent years, with economy taking a nose dive, it’s become increasingly difficult for people to be environmentally conscious. Let’s face it, going green often means shelling out more of your own green. At the same time, it’s also become more difficult for people to afford charitable donations. In the case of old cell phones, however, it’s possible to be both green and charitable at the same time by recycling your old phone. Or, in the case of a broken cell phone, you can save yourself a lot of money while being earth-friendly by getting your phone repaired.
Let’s start with recycling. According to an article from the EPA, “Recycling cell phones helps the environment by saving energy and keeping…valuable materials out of landfills…” (http://www.epa.gov/epawaste/partnerships/plugin/cellphone/cell-fs.htm)
These “valuable materials” include such precious metals as gold, silver, and copper. Cell phones also contain a host of other metals as well as plastic. All of these materials require mining to obtain the raw materials and a significant amount of energy for extraction and refining. According to the EPA, if the estimated 100 million cell phones ready for disposal in the U.S. were salvaged, we’d save enough energy to power 18,500 U.S. homes for a year.
In addition to the mining and energy savings, people should also be aware of the hazardous materials contained in cell phones. This includes such substances as arsenic and lead. Putting these items into our landfills and incinerators has the potential to harm both our water and air supplies.
National Geographic has written an article on one particular element of cell phones: Coltan. This metal is found in the Congo of central Africa and it’s mining has significantly reduced habitat for a number of species. Most notably the African Gorilla. (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/01/0120_060120_cellphones.html)
So what can you do about this? First and foremost, don’t just throw your cell away. If you have upgraded phones and want to get rid of your existing one, there are a number of non-profits that would love to have your phone.
One such organization is Eco-Cell. They offer a number of recycling centers throughout the country as well as free shipping if you don’t live near a recycling center. Working phones or phones that can be refurbished are donated to people in need (such as recently released hospital patients for emergency 911 calls). Phones that can’t be refurbished are recycled for their materials.
Another organization is Cell Phone for Soldiers which allows you to donate your old cell phone to a soldier serving oversees. They’ve partnered with AT&T who then provides pre-paid calling cards for these soldiers so they can call home from anywhere, any time.
What if you need a new phone because you broke your existing one? Your cell phone provider will most likely tell you it’s garbage and that you need to buy a new phone. There is another option: Repair the phone yourself or find a professional service, like Jet City Device Repair to do it for you.
At Jet City Device Repair, we frequently talk to customers that have bought 2 or 3 new phones before discovering our service. This is a shame for two reasons. First, people have just thrown those broken phones away. Secondly, they paid as much as $600 or more for each new phone when they could have simply repaired the phones for much less. In other words, they threw away their phones and a lot of their own money.
The next time you upgrade phones or break your existing phone, don’t throw the old phone away. Contact Eco-Cell (http://www.eco-cell.org) to find out how to recycle your phone, give it to a worthy cause like Cell Phones for Soldiers (http://www.cellphonesforsoldiers.com), or contact us at Jet City Device Repair to fix your phone for you.
We frequently get asked by customers what exactly it means to unlock an iPhone. So I thought I would take this opportunity to impart some of my wisdom to our vast reading audience. Note that it normally doesn’t take long to impart my wisdom but in this case it may take a few paragraphs.
To understand what unlocking is all about, you need a little bit of background knowledge on cell phone technology. Here’s an article on the two different types of cell phone schemes used in the US. The basic thing you need to take away from that article is that any phone on the AT&T network can, theoretically, be used on the T-Mobile network and vice-versa (both use the GSM technology – think SIM card). This is in contrast to Sprint & Verizon where phones on one network cannot be used on the other (these are on the CDMA network – no SIM card).
So if you have a phone on Verizon, you can stop reading now – you can’t unlock your phone. It is forever bound to Verizon and if you want to switch carriers, you’ll have to get a new phone.
Now let’s say you’re on the AT&T network and you’ve got an iPhone (or a Blackberry, Samsung Galaxy, etc.). The phone’s hardware is perfectly capable of running not only on AT&T, but T-Mobile or just about any carrier in Europe (most of Europe is on the GSM standard). However, AT&T doesn’t want you to run their phone on anyone else’s network. They want all of your money for themselves. So what AT&T does, with Apple’s help, is install software on the phone that doesn’t allow the phone to run on any network except AT&T’s.
Does that make sense? Think of the iPhone as an ex-con on parole. He’d like to travel the world but he’s got this ankle bracelet on that prevents him from traveling. It’s not that he can’t travel – he’s perfectly able – it’s just that when he goes to get on an airplane, they’ll see his ankle bracelet and prevent him from boarding the plane. However, if he can get someone to come and take the bracelet off of him, well, then he’s free to travel as he’d like.
Okay, that’s not a perfect analogy, but I always like to work an ex-con into my posts if I can.
The point is, the iPhone being “locked” to AT&T’s network is a function of software, not hardware. If you can remove that software restriction – “unlock” the phone – you can then put a working SIM card from T-Mobile in the phone and it will work great. You’ll even get to keep your phone number. That’s right, if you have a phone number with T-Mobile, you unlock your iPhone, and then put your T-Mobile SIM card in the iPhone, your unlocked iPhone will ring whenever someone calls your number.
So that’s what unlocking is. Now the next questions are: Why would I want to do that? Why wouldn’t I want to do that? and How do I do that?
Why would I want to do that?
There are two main reasons to unlock an iPhone and run it on a different network. First, you might be able to save a lot of money. T-Mobile has significantly cheaper plans than AT&T so your monthly bill will be much less. Another reason is that some people don’t like AT&T’s coverage. If you’re on T-Mobile, you don’t have to worry about AT&T’s service.
Why wouldn’t I want to do that?
Unlocking your phone for another network is not all fun and games. There are five big drawbacks
- T-Mobile does not support 3G service on an iPhone. You can still get your emails and surf the web, you’ll just have to do it over the Edge network.
- No more visual voicemail. You’ll have to use the old method of calling your voicemail and then using the number pad to fast forward, skip, delete, etc. If you’ve never experienced visual voicemail, this isn’t a big deal. If you have, this is a huge minus.
- Apple will not give you any support if they know your phone has been unlocked. They really hate it when people do this because it costs them money (they get a part of AT&T’s iPhone revenues), so they will tell you to get lost if you come in with an unlocked phone.
- No more iPhone updates. Since Apple hates it when you unlock your iPhone, they remove the unlocking every time you update your phone. In addition, it usually takes a few weeks to months for hackers to figure out how to unlock the newest updates. This means your wonderful T-Mobile enabled iPhone just became useless. There are ways to downgrade to old versions of the iPhone software so not all is lost, but it’s a big hassle and something to be aware of.
- Security problems. If you don’t take a few simple precautions after unlocking your phone, your iPhone can easily get hacked into. There’s an amusing story about a Dutch hacker that extorted people with unlocked iPhones and CNet has an article about how malicious software can be introduced to unlocked iPhones. These security problems can be prevented with some very simple precautions, but they are something to be aware of.
How do I do that?
The web is full of advice on how to unlock your iPhone but before I do that, let me state two things very clearly:
- Jet City Devices does not do unlocking for customers and we are not at all suggesting that you unlock your phone. I’m writing this blog post because I get asked about it quite a bit and thought people would like to know more about it.
- Unlocking your phone can cause all sorts of strange side-effects besides those listed above so be careful if you are going to proceed.
Alright, one more thing: Before you can unlock your iPhone, you have to first jailbreak it. Jailbreaking is a whole other topic of it’s own but it basically allows you to install your own software on the phone. So you jailbreak your phone and then install the unlocking software. That’s the gist of it.
I’m not going to detail for you how to unlock your phone because it really depends on what phone you have and what version of software you’re running. Also, tons of other people have already written about this. My suggestion if you want to do your own iPhone unlocking, start here:
That is the main site for all things iPhone hacking related. A good place to look for the latest news. And for unlocking itself, I suggest this site:
Just do a search on their site for: iPhone [3g, 3gs, or 4] unlocking. You’ll find step-by-step instructions.
Lastly, if you don’t want to deal with all the hassle, just do a search on Craigslist for “iphone unlocking” in your city. You will definitely find someone that does it for about $25-$30. Just be careful – there’s a lot of scammers on Craigslist and you could end up with a stolen phone if you’re not careful.
We had a very, very exciting customer visit the Seattle office yesterday. It was someone quite famous in the nerd circles that Tom and I travel in. Out of respect for our customer’s privacy, I’m not going to mention his name. However, to get an idea of his celebrity status, imagine Bill Gates, Alex Trebek, and John von Neumann all rolled into one unbelievable person. You now have an idea of the kind of mega star we’re dealing with here. And as big a fan as I am, Tom is twice the celebrity hound. What happened to Tom yesterday would undoubtedly happen to me if Chana Joffe-Walt walked into my office.
As anyone that has had a phone repaired by us in Seattle knows, we require an appointment. Like so many famous people before him, this Amazingly Wonderful and Energetic Selebrity Of Meaningful Exposure did not follow the rules. (For the record, I know that “selebrity” is spelled with a ‘C’ but using an ‘S’ allows for a much better acronym going forward.) AWESOME simply showed up at our office. In Tom’s own words:
If he had just called ahead, I could have prepared. I’d have done a little personal research, arranged topics of conversation, and had it all put down on neatly organized note cards.
But alas, Tom was not prepared. When AWESOME arrived, Tom immediately recognized him and about 3 seconds later began shaking uncontrollably with excitement and nervousness. I think letting Tom proceed in his own words at this point might be a good idea:
I was seriously concerned I was going to wreck his phone. I couldn’t keep my hands from shaking and I couldn’t focus. All I kept thinking was, “Oh my God, AWESOME is in my house. I can’t screw this up!” To make matters worse, I couldn’t even form complete sentences and I just kept stammering on about iPhones and how cool they are.
On the bright side, I’m sure he’ll be sending us all kinds of business. I can hear him talking to his friends now: “You have to get your iPhone fixed by Jet City Devices. It’s so great of them to hire special needs people to fix phones.
I’m such an unbelievable moron. Matt, on the other hand, is suave and smooth and almost as cool as AWESOME.
Okay, I might have taken some liberties with Tom’s statements on that last line, but you get the idea. Tom was totally star struck, but I’m proud of him for successfully fixing our first celebrity iPhone!