Monday, October 7, 2013

Unlocking My Cellphones

L-R: Samsung SGH-A187, ZTE Avail, Alcatel 871A, Huawei Fusion 2
          Last year prior to my trip to Zamboanga, I purchased an unlocked GSM cellphone from Ebay. The Samsung SGH-A187 was a basic Blackberry style phone - the  with no mp3 and video capture capabilities even though it had a camera. It served its purpose well as a portable communications device during my short 10 day visit. I was using Virgin Mobile in the U.S. running on the CDMA network which is incompatible with GSM networks.
         When I returned from Zamboanga, I migrated my cellphone service to AT&T pay as you go which was $25.00 every three months, compared to $20 for Virgin Mobile. With the new service, I also bought a locked Android phone from AT&T. Upon signing up, I asked customer service if they could unlock my phone. They said that the unlock code wasn't available yet and besides, I had to use their service at least 6 months. Time went by and I forgot to ask them again. In the meantime, I bought 2 other locked phones. One was a Blackberry style Alcatel which was on sale for $29.99, but because I had a $10 coupon and an in-store rebate, my final price was less than $20. Although locked, I liked that it had a built-in FM radio which I like listening to when I'm working out outdoors. The problem with that phone is that it pocket dialed 911 a lot, so I bought a hugely discounted refurbished Huawei Android phone from the AT&T website, which also had an FM radio, and that is what I've been using the last 4 to 5 months.
          I finally revisited the unlocking requirements and saw that I had met all the requirements, provided the cellphone manufacturer has released the unlock code to AT&T. I plugged in the IMEI number to the latest phone I had which was a Huawei Fusion 2 and my phone number. No dice. The website immediately told me that it was not available to be unlocked. I tried the Alcatel with similar results. When I put in the info for the ZTE Avail, I got a message saying it could be unlocked. I received 2 automatically generated emails from AT&T right away. The first one saying thank you for my unlock request and that a code will be provided to me within 2 to 5 business days. The second email basically cancelled the message of the first one and asked me to call technical support for the unlock code. I waited a few days before doing so, hoping the first message was correct. Well, I never got sent the unlock code so I finally called tech support.
          Immediately I detected that I had reached a call center in the Philippines because even though the agent who answered tried his best American accent, there was still a hint of Filipinoness in it. I gave him the IMEI numbers for the ZTE Avail but he didn't find an unlock code for it. He explained that some manufacturers only sell certain models exclusively to AT&T and does not supply unlock codes for those. What surprised me though is that when I asked the agent to plug in the numbers for my more recent Alcatel and Huawei phones, the unlock codes were available contrary to what their website told me! After giving me instructions on how to unlock the phones with the codes, we ended the call.
          It was now time to see if those unlock codes worked. The only other SIM card I had at home was from Smart which I used when I was in Zamboanga, so I tried that one. Open the back, insert the SIM card, replace the cover, turn on the phone, type in the unlock code. First the Alcatel, then the Huawei. Success on both! I now have 2 unlocked GSM quad band phones (3 if you include the one I bought from Ebay). Look out world, I'm now equipped to use those phones in whatever country I want if I ever get there! And thanks, AT&T.

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1 comment:

sanjith said...

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