Monday, March 16, 2009

Phone Unlocking and MagicJack

Hey there!
I'm back on both jobs which means that I'm doing two or three things at once. So I know I still have to continue describing the money stuff of my trip to Phoenix which has turned to my trip to Springfield,MO.
However, from what I recently wrote I had someone post a comment that I thought it was best to be shared with all of you and responded that way so all could benefit from my personal experience.
Thank you ALL for all your comments. Here it is :

Question? How do u unlock the phone? If you want to share that is. I enjoy your adventures. Also, previously you mentioned the magicjack, are they safe? After i read your entry I went to look for them. There were articles that claimed how unsecure they are. Can u please go over. Thanks in advance

Ok, so how do I unlock the phone. First of all to make things clear, unlocking a cellphone means touching deep configuration in a cellphone that is used on one cellular company so that it can be used on any other cellular company. That is given that the other company uses the same technology. For example Verizon phones can be unlocked but since they use CDMA tecnology they can't be used with other operators that don't use that tecnology (like all the operators in Honduras).
When I purchased my ATT phone I knew I had to buy a GSM phone if my future plan was to unlock it for use with a Honduran carrier (haven't unlocked it yet). So I had a phone that uses the same technology, but then there's also the matter of what frequency they use.
I don't remember the exact frequencies but I know that there are four frequencies that are commonly used for cellphone service. Most phones now can operate on all four frequencies or bands as they are also called. That's why those phones have the labeling "quad-band" somewhere in their documentation. A quad-band phone eliminates the guesswork of wondering if the phone will operate on this or that operator's frequency.
I am not sure but I think the phone I bought is quad-band. If it's not and I can't make it work, well too bad for me but it already served it's purpose. Unlocking it here is an option i'm considering only because it will be disconnected from ATT before I get to go back to Phoenix.  Actually even after unlocking I could still using it on ATT but I know that next year if I take it, the sim will have been disconnected and buying just a sim card is not an option with ATT as far as as I know.
SO, the main question "How do you unlock the phone?". Well in Honduras you take the locked phone to one on many many cellphone repair shops and for usually $5 to $10 they do their voodo magic and unlock it for you. Once unlocked you buy a sim card from the cellular operator you want to use and put on the phone and off you go to talk. Now this can be done in Honduras because cellular companies here do sell just the sim card for just a couple of dollars, in other countries they don't do that so you have to buy a whole phone to get a sim so it doesn't make sense to go thru the whole unlocking thing if you have to BUY another phone anyway.
When I came home I tried putting a Honduran sim card on the ATT phone and when it powered on it had a message on the screen that read "incorrect or invalid sim". I put the ATT sim back into the phone and it works well. Actually it just powers up without errors because obviously there is no ATT signal here.
Since that phone was only $15, with the unlocking here and a new sim it's almost reaching a point that it would be better to get a new phone here. I actually don't need more phones, but it might be nice to have a spare phone device in case any phone in the house goes dead and the sim is still working.
One more thing, there's a couple of US cellular operators that use very specially branded software on the phones they use , like Net10 and Tracphone. Those phones are totally useless in Honduras, well except for spare parts. Their original factory software is not there and so they can't be unlocked because there is no lock, there is no door..etc. it's a totally different beast.
On to the next question. "Previously you mentioned the MagicJack, are they safe?". Safe means a lot of things. I won't go on to mention the tons of ways that safe can be interpreted. I will just say that the operation of the MagicJack was safe in that I was able to make calls all the time I had a proper internet connection. I even changed my number to a Phoenix area code number to help my relationship with the company I work for there.
So far no weird software has been downloaded on the computers (plural) in which i've used the MagicJack. It hasn't stopped working. I haven't had to use techie powers to get it to work. At the most i've had to reboot my computer one time to get it to work. TO ME it's been worth the purchase. I know people that bought it and don't have the appropiate bandwith and can't use it , but that's not the MJ's fault.
Could someone have been listening to my calls, theoretically yes because MJ probably doesn't encrypt the voice, but what would they do with me saying "Hi, how are you?, where are you? i'm here at such and such. How are the kids? ,etc etc" ? I wouldn't like for someone to listen in on my calls, but I feel that it's such a far fetched posibility that is as equally far fetched as someone tapping in on a regular phone line, that I don't worry about that.
HOWEVER, when I was doing research to buy the MagicJack I did read that some not technical issues with the Company itself are not as good. Their 30 day free trial offer is kind of strange if you use a debit card because they take the money out on day one. Same deal when I used the credit card. I didn't return the thing so I don't know personally how hard it would be to get a refund, but honestly I guess it's the Honduran in me or my time would just not be worth it to go on hours and hours with them to get back my $50 or so. Probably less if they don't refund shipping and handling. I guess if I had bought it at Best Buy the refund might be easier but there would be no 30 day free trial there.
Also i've read that customer support is crappy. That they take a long time to answer. They go thru scripts, making you do things over and over again, and they give you the run around, until you complain enough days or weeks that they pass you on to guys that apparently do know how to fix stuff. Personally I haven't had to use their customer support because the thing has been working very well. I've read their FAQ and that was all I needed. I think after getting the Magicjack they upgraded my software once and had better features on it, included a "fix" option that I haven't had to use.
So on the operational side of things the MJ is safe, on the purchase side it's kinda safe unless you want to return it, and on the customer support is about as bad as some other companies out there but worst than most of the more famous ones. Then again as low priced as it is, it's kinda hard to complain if they take more time to take your call than say, your local phone service provider.
That was a long non money post. The advice on it is free, as so is this blog.


deena said...

Thank you very much for taking the time to explain. Really appreciated, hope you have a nice trip.

AJ said...

Thanks Deena. I hope I answered the part about MJ being safe or not.

shawn said...

it was nice,
my friend has nokia 6300 model, but it was locked last month then we found a company where we gotunlockguidance to unlock the instrument

Anonymous said...


I have found a lot of reviews about magic jack here.

Also this Magic jack video is funny...

Take care.

AJ said...

Yeah the reviews say that cust service sucks. I've had mine for almost a year now and it works very well. It does demand a lot of bandwith since it uses the G711 codec with no compression. However they recently sent an update to the software that allows you to select a setting to make calls when using wireless internet service or from foreign countries. I think it means that it uses SOME compression. I have test it and the voice quality is the same as the normal setting. Im not really sure what it does, yet.

I am renewing my MJ subscription in October. I'm thinking of going for more than one year.

milf said...

1。那混合物是更缓慢的 ... 但是 Lexus 的即将到来混合版本 ' 将是比气体气体更快的唯一的版本如好地有多马力。不要自夸速度,但是我被吸引轮流开送行为 90,是警察给我一次休息。
... 只是通过在城市乘公交车往返我储蓄过来 $ 5000/yr 与我的以前的汽车,吉普车切诺基相比。超过 5 年,会是 $ 更不用说会进一步增强我的储蓄的最近的比率远足的 20K。这样除非你是在你的父母的地产上吸的一个浪费的儿子,你的声明是一束公牛。

milf said...

3. 45 (90 r/t)
45mpg 天是 2 我的车上> 8 加>>比。那每天是 6 >仑的一笔>蓄, 120 月, 1440 每年者 5040 (根 3.5 元/) ... 加上它发表 1/10th CO2。多愚蠢是它不要骑一个,去算进今天和年龄。
4.缺少了解 ... 是真的,实际上我个人这样那样喜欢它我可能享受所有鼓励;税,合伙用车,免费停车米, prius 业主之间的秘密的信号,等等;这样自私地说那我真地在那里在享受在所有气体汽车业主上的所有权那没有一个想法多少我这辆汽车有的嬉戏。我 junked 我的 SL,郊区对我的 Prius ... 你应该也。

C+K Wells said...

So just to make clear, NET10 phones will not work in Honduras? I have a GSM phone that I used with Amp'd Mobile, a US prepaid company that went under a few years back. I still have this nice phone however and want to use it if I can (SIM card and GSM). Should I just unlock this phone and buy a SIM rather than going with NET10? I am relocating to Honduras. NET10 offers international calling, but if it doesn't work at all in Honduras then I don't want it.

Thanks for all this info.

AJ said...

You are correct, NET10 phones will not work in Honduras because they have special software loaded to them, not the one that the factory ships them with to any other operator. That software works only with NET10.

With the phone prices here in Honduras you should just buy a phone one here. They start at $10 with about twice as much in airtime balance.

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