Good Morning, Vietnam – 3G Unlock

Those who have longed to unlock their iPhone 3G have so far been out of luck. There is the Proxy SIM card method, but it seems to be an imperfect solution (possible physical damage to your iPhone, dropped called etc). The Dev Team’s software unlock is supposed to be close to completion, but who knows when exactly. Well, if you are willing to fly to Asia for this very purpose, look no further. A great article has been written by Dong Ngo of CNET, describing a shop located in Vietnam that will hardware unlock your 3G.

Here is a summary of how the masterminds in Hanoi do it:

  1. A technician opens up and strips the iPhone down to the motherboard.
  2. The tech then extracts the baseband chip – it controls the connection between the phone and mobile network. A painstaking task since it is glued to the motherboard and any mishaps here can lead to bricking the phone completely.
  3. With the chip out of the motherboard, information is read from it via a chip reader. A Hex editor is then used to remove the specific data that locks the phone to a provider. The chip is reprogrammed with a newly altered file that essentially unlocks the phone.
  4. The baseband chip is placed back into the motherboard.
  5. Finally, the phone is reassembled and looks just like it did pre-unlock.

A tech undresses an iPhone 3G

iPhone motherboard with baseband chip marked with an X

Baseband chip extracted from motherboard

Baseband chip glued back onto motherboard

The cost for all this? 1.2 million dong, or roughly $80US. It is worth noting that if the iPhone with a firmware of 2.1 or earlier has been unlocked at this shop, upgrading to 2.2 via itunes will relock it. The reason for this is that the 2.2 update will also update the baseband chip within the phone. If this does happen, Tuan Anh the shop owner is willing to re-unlock it for a mere $50. Anyone desperate enough to fly down to Hanoi to free your 3G?

[via CNET]
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