[sf-lug] Now is the Time to hate Apple?

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Tue Apr 13 14:43:03 PDT 2010

Just an afterthought:

Quoting Christian Einfeldt (einfeldt at gmail.com):

> How long will it be until Android, and then Ubuntu, is regularly
> offered by North American telecoms?

I'll note in passing that Android doesn't lead to Ubuntu, because
Android is (as noted) nothing like a Linux distro.  However, the real
point I wanted to make is that there's a long tradition of the telcos
expecting to control their customers, and thus devices and contracts
they offer strongly tend to include various types of lock-in, such as
the SIM-locking and CID-locking typically built into smartphones offered
by telcos to their customers.  To explain:

The telephone's bootloader typically includes "SIM lock" code that makes
the telephone refuse to boot unless the SIM = Subscriber Identity Module
chip you insert (that provides the 'phone's telephone number and basic
network identity, the 15-digit International Mobile Subscriber Identity
= IMSI) is from the sponsoring telco carrier.  E.g., the Samsung's
bootloader would refuse to boot with a non-AT&T SIM chip present.

The a second level of telco control that's often present on smartphones
is called CID = Carrier ID locking at the ROM level, where the
bootloader will refuse to boot if you have reflashed the firmware,
replacing the carrier-approved junk with something better, because,
e.g., maybe you don't like or want to improve on or replace the cruddy
applets they provided.

The telco-issued firmware always includes a routine that can be invoked
to SIM-unlock the phone if fed the correct string of data, and the
telcos generally (referring to at least T-Mobile and AT&T) have policies
that they will give you this string upon request, if the phone had
paid-up contractual service for at least 90 days.  You call their
customer service for this purpose, and cite the IMEI = International
Mobile Equipment Identity string, which is basically the phone chassis's
globally unique string, encoding the manufacturer identity, model, and
serial number.   The customer service rep enters that IMEI into an
application in front of him/her, and cites back to you the SIM-unlock
code.  Usually, the rep is able to tell you where in the 'phone's menus
to enter the code, but sometimes you need to Web-search that detail.

You'll see on the Internet widespread claims that US law _requires_
telcos to provide this service.  That turns out to be completely
incorrect, and, e.g., AT&T have stated that they'll be unwilling to
unlock iPhones under any circumstances, even when the contracts have

Useful pages:

If you want a cellphone that _doesn't_ include SIM-locking, generally
you have to acquire it from someone other than a telco.  E.g. one can
buy unlocked Motorola phones directly from Motorola.

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