Browse Tag: at&t

Customizing Your Smart Phone – Part 2

We’re back to our Customizing your smartphone series, this is part 2. This chapter will talk about step 1 in customizing your pda phone – the unlocking of your smart phone device.

Basically, there are two kinds of unlocking. One, called hard unlock (also known as HardSPL or Hard Second Program Loader), will give you total control over your phone, you will be able to replace anything and everything in regards to software. The drawback is that it will get obsolete with time, so newer software may not work or give you trouble if you have an outdated unlock. Additionally, your cell phone company will most likely give you a hard time if you bring the device for repair.

What this method does could be compared to updating your computer BIOS or upgrading the transmission in your car. It would still be the same hood and engine, but the driving experience will be different. You will most likely see a different flavor of programs that perform hard unlock depending on your phone’s model. However, the nature of each should be the same – they replace a firmware that is flashed into your phone’s memory to start on phone’s boot (thus the BIOS analogy). Once you replace that part – you’re good to go with updating other parts of you smart phone software.

Another one, called soft unlock (SoftSPL or Software Second Program Loader), is a temporary solution of sort. It is essentially a stand-alone .exe program that will go away once you reset your phone, but it still allows you to update certain parts of your smart phone software. Though not as good as previous and more cumbersome to perform, the soft unlock doesn’t leave its footprint embedded in phone’s persistent memory so you will see less red tape from cell phone provider. Additionally, if you ever need to replace your old HardSPL with an updated one, you can only do it with SoftSPL. So both are needed and both have their uses and disadvantages.

So far, most of the upgrades worth noting required installation of HardSPL, but you might be able to get away with SoftSPL if you try hard enough (and read a lot!). Getting your smart phone device a SIM-unlocked is a part of the deal and just a minor benefit. One of the major issues with SPL provided by your cell phone company is preventing you, the user, from flashing (i.e. writing to the persistent memory of your smart phone) the software you want and preserve the stuff your cell phone company wants you to have. Another – binding you to that specific provider, also known as SIM lock. Both HardSPL and SoftSPL take care of each part of it – either permanently or temporarily.

Customizing Your Smart Phone – Part 1

Customizing your smart phone, when it comes to HTC hardware, requires three major steps. I’ll go over all three briefly, then elaborate more for those who’d like to get on board. Something like a disclaimer – I will deliberately simplify things and try NOT to use special lingo – exactly for the purpose of explaining things as simple as possible. Maybe even simpler.

Now, when talking about customizing your phone, I don’t mean installing some new shiny app or changing couple of colors and fonts here and there. I am talking about installing an improved OS, upgrading software that powers your cell phone radio and GPS, drastically changing the way you use that phone.

In case you already scared – well, to a certain point you should be. It’s a bit convoluted procedure, requiring you if not reading through dozens and dozens of pages of nerd talk at least being able to follow instructions. Outlined in nerd talk. But we’ll get there later.

Since most of the world employs various derivatives of GSM networks (read: phones with SIM cards), that’s what we will be looking at. After all, you would enjoy being able to take your smart phone on your next trip to Europe, wouldn’t you?

Step 1: Unlocking your smart phone. Smart phones are smart, they are a miniature computers with their operating systems and all. So in order for you to be able to install that new operating system you will need to unlock your phone. SIM unlock (as in – being able to use other company’s SIM card in your phone) is a minor benefit of the first step. By unlocking your phone you become the only real owner of your hardware. Unlike the following two steps, this step is required and will only need to be performed once.

Step 2: Upgrading software for the radio in your cell phone. While optional, this is the step that would give you the most benefit. All else aside, this is the real reason anyone would really NEED to upgrade their phone. As an example – my AT&T Tilt, bought just a little over a year ago, shipped with radio software four generations behind current! Of course AT&T, being busy with those iPhones and all, forgot to issue a single update to that software. However, after upgrading a software to the latest available, I was able to almost eliminate dropped calls in quite a few spots and improved overall quality of calls. Less frustration and happier clients are extra.

Step 3: Upgrading OS and software on your phone. As does any computer from any big-name manufacturer, cell phones arrive with loads of bloatware. Stuff you don’t really need or use. However, unlike computers, cell phones are a bit different in nature, and this software is put into permanent memory of the cell phone, so you just can’t uninstall it! So instead of being occupied with something useful, like a modern browser, nice organizer or an elaborate mind-mapping software, the cell phone memory is occupied with useless junk that slows everything down.

That being said, here’s a real tangible business benefit for any business owner – upgrade your smart phone, keep more money in your business, instead of investing them into yet another piece of hardware that “almost does it right, but not really“. Protect the nature. Reuse. Rethink. After all, it’s a smart phone, why not being smart about how to use it?

Pandora, Windows Mobile and AT&T

Last week wrapped up with Pandora announcing the release of Windows Mobile client. Everybody cheered – but for less than a day. As it turned out, there’s always a fly in the ointment. The cost of fun is $8.99 per month in addition to any data plan you already have. Even if it’s an unlimited one, like mine.

Outraged just like anyone else, I immediately shot off an e-mail to Pandora’s support.

Hello,
I am a very dedicated Pandora listener. Aside from enjoying Pandora from my desktop I had encouraged a number of people to try Pandora for iPhone – every time with huge success.

Now, I myself is not an iPhone user – for number of reasons I cannot use iPhone for everyday tasks. It doesn’t mean I have extra money in my pocket, it just means that I use devices that benefit me the most.

When I have heard about the discriminatory policy that Windows mobile users must she’ll out extra money for same service everyone else enjoys for free I felt somewhat betrayed. Definitely upset. Outraged.

However, before jumping to any decisions, I’d like to hear from you the reasons behind such discrimination and, if there are any plans to rectify the situation.

Surprisingly, just a few hours later (that is – 3AM Friday night) I got a response.

Thanks for writing us, and thanks for recommending Pandora on the iPhone to your friends! We were very happy Apple allowed us to offer Pandora for free.

Getting a mobile device to support Pandora is, to a very large degree, up to our potential cellular and platform partners.

Currently there are four WinMo devices which, just like the iPhone, support Pandora for free (advertising-supported). Two on Sprint, and two on Verizon.

We’re very happy we were able to work with these partners to reach this agreement.

It’s up to other carriers how to set the pricing and availability of our service on their network and associated devices.

Best wishes,
–Ian
Pandora Listener Support

If all the above is true it means that AT&T effectively taxing everyone who’s not an iPhone user for using data plan they already paying for. Why this is happening – because AT&T thinks they’ve got it all and can get away with anything they want or because of some other reason – I don’t know. There’s a thread on AT&T’s forums, but no official response has been issued yet.

Pandora’s blog has it this way (in response to comments of disappointed users):

…we share your desire to see Pandora be made available for free on our AT&T implementations. In the mobile world, the carrier has all of the pricing power. If you try to go around their wishes they can, and will, block traffic to your application. Our strong preference is for Pandora to be available ad-supported free everywhere and we’ll continue to work with AT&T in the hopes that they’ll come around to the same view for the Windows Mobile phones on their network.

On the other hand, the Pandora application is available from PPCGeeks forum. I swapped SIM card from AT&T Tilt into Samsung Blackjack and testing the app right now. So far the quality is decent (close to FM radio) (as I am sitting home within stable 3G zone) and delay between songs (while the buffering occurs) is acceptable.

In any case, there remains less and less competition in mobile markets and providers are pulling all sorts of unfair deals knowing that customers will either eat it or not, but there’s really no serious alternative between AT&T and Verizon (Sprint and T-Mobile are really not in the same field).