Life With an iPhone in Canada: 6 Months Later

Here is the story that started my life into the world of the Apple iPhone in Canada

Shopping in Seattle–Let’s Go!

It all started on a sunny weekend trip to Seattle, Washington. The task at hand was bargain shopping at the Seattle Premium Outlets, plus venturing further down south to Alderwood Mall. Wait a minute, Alderwood Mall is home to an Apple Store…and the iPhone has been released for some time now.

This had actually been our second trip to Alderwood Mall. The first time around when I played around with the eight iPhones on demo I was just blown away. How the heck can this be a cellphone? At the time I was still using my ancient, yet trusty Nokia 6230i. Surfing full fledged internet at WiFi speeds on an iPhone was pure bliss, let alone the amazing touchscreen interface–I was in love!

My mission that day was to buy an iPod Touch for $299. When the employee told me they had tonnes of iPhones in stock, I thought to myself “what’s a $100 more for an iPod plus a phone?”. I was looking to upgrade my cellphone anyways and my 4th generation 20GB iPod that had bit the dust earlier in the year. After hanging around in the store and deciding, it was going to come down to whether or not an unlock would be released.

Finding out what I needed to know USING the iPhone

The iPhones were at firmware 1.1.1 at the time, which had not been jailbreaked or unlocked yet. So I used a demo iPhone and went to Digg, only to notice one of the top 10 stories was about the unlocking and jailbreaking of 1.1.1 iPhones! How ironic, discovering how new iPhones were going to be hacked while using a locked iPhone inside the Apple Store. The decision was made–I’m buying a Jesus phone!

So I asked the Apple employee for an iPhone and within minutes he appeared out of the back with a fresh iPhone and met me at the till. Now, this was a time when Canadians buying iPhones down south had no problems at all purchasing phones (it still is easy today). There was signage plastered all over the store that read “Installing 3rd Party Software on your iPhone will void your Apple warranty”–I would assume this was referring to jailbreaking and unlocking. Nevertheless, I paid with my Canadian credit card and when I was asked for a ZIP code, my Vancouver postal code was fine. I even had my receipt emailed to me!

Heading back to the Great White North with my iPhone

Since we had also bought clothes and other miscellaneous items on our weekend trip, I was not going to be stupid like others and not declare my iPhone at the border. If you get caught by Customs or just happen to fall into a random search, not declaring all items would result in getting flagged (which would mean automatic searches in the future). Since I do like to go through the border without any hassles, I think I’ll declare thank you very much. I declared my iPhone to the Customs Officer and paid GST/PST–about $50. So in total my iPhone cost me $490 roughly after it was all said and done. Read more on buying an iPhone (unboxing pics) and also my iPhone FAQ for more.

Waiting for a decent 1.1.1 unlocking guide

At the time, during 1.0.2 and 1.1.1 unlocking days there was no ZiPhone, iLiberty, or Pwnage unlocking tools. You guys and girls that bought 1.1.2, 1.1.3 or 1.1.4 and unlocked using these 1-click GUI tools have been SPOILED! With my 1.1.1 unlock, had not even been released yet–yeah, it was that long ago!

My case was a little different–I had to constantly research on the Hackint0sh forums to find out what was the easiest and simplest way to unlock my 1.1.1 iPhone. I purposely waited a few extra days to let the smoke clear and sure enough, a decent guide appeared!

I must admit that I am pretty competent with computers and the internet, but when it comes to entering in lines of commands and tinkering in the bowels of the iPhone system to unlock it, it was definitely nerve-wracking business. So there I was on a late Saturday night/morning, entering commands into putty to change the bootloader manually and all sorts of stuff that still scares me when I think about it.

In the end, (at about 4:30am to be exact) after popping in my Fido SIM (I’m using a Rogers plan now) and seeing that Fido logo appear in the top left corner I had did it! I finally jailbreaked, activated, and unlocked my iPhone! I was on top of the world. 🙂 Here are the features that work. I also had to fix my voicemail notification too.

Using an iPhone in Canada surprises many people

So now that I was using my unlocked iPhone in Canada, at the time I was part of a small minority. Compared to now, I see tonnes of iPhones throughout the Lower Mainland. People would be like “is that an iPHONE?!” and get all giddy, asking me never ending questions and such. This was a time when the media made it seem like unlocking was only for hardcore hackers and that normal folk would never be able to unlock one. The most popular question was “who unlocked it for you?” and when I proudly answered “I did it myself!” they were shocked. I did tell them it was a risky experience–but new easier unlocking methods were popping up as the days went on.

Updating from firmware 1.0.2 to 1.1.1

The battery life on 1.0.2 was not the greatest and I was experiencing the odd crash and slow down. It was clear that this firmware was far from perfect. So now that the solution was in full effect, I decided to update my iPhone firmware from 1.0.2 to 1.1.1. Easy as pie! The introduction of 1.1.1 brought the iTunes store and a few other fixes as well. Life was good.

Updating iPhone firmware to 1.1.1 to 1.1.4

I remained on trusty firmware 1.1.1 for the longest time (I had resisted upgrading to 1.1.2 because everything was supported on 1.1.1) until 1.1.4 was released along with ZiPhone. Man, the one click “do it all” unlocking/jailbreaking/activating tool we had all been dreaming of was finally released. So after following other guides I decided to make my own 1.1.1 to 1.1.4 guide (plus many others too)! Thanks to everyone for helping with submitting tips and such.

Daily Life with an iPhone…my routine

My daily job requires that I travel to different areas throughout the city. So my iPhone is a blessing with integrated Google Maps, allowing me to plot my directions easily. Checking email with WiFi is awesome as I know where there are hotspots along my driving routes. Downloading Gmail from a red light–not a problem!

Using an iPhone gives you freedom away from the computer. You can check your email or surf the web in your home (as long as you have WiFi) which is great. Checking email in bed has become an addiction for me (and a bad habit). Using Twinkle on the iPhone is super fun plus my InvisibleShield has protected my phone from scratches, scuffs and even minor drops! Maybe I should be carrying my iPhone around in an Otterbox Armor case from now on.

The amound of 3rd party applications for the iPhone can be overwhelming (gotta love the NES ROMS!). The community is fantastic and the possibilites for customization is endless. That is what makes the iPhone so great–you can change it to make it your own. Feel like a new look one day? Change summerboard themes and your phone feels like new!

What does the future hold for the iPhone in Canada?

We’ve been hearing the rumors since the iPhone was released–when the heck is this thing coming to Canada? Well, the buzz we are reading about now is becoming louder and more intense than it was before. The iPhone I feel will be launched this summer in Canada. Steve Jobs will most likely make the annoucement at the WWDC or a couple weeks after. I don’t see how other countries throughout the world are getting the iPhone, yet the USA’s largest trading partner and neighbour gets the almighty shaft. The demand for the iPhone exists in this country and the moment it will be released I can guarantee a feeding frenzy by the public at large. Let’s hope for some decent data plans from Rogers at least (that’s definitely wishful thinking).

The idea behind creating

So there I was, Googl’ing for information and living on the Hackint0sh and HowardForums forums. It was hard to find information on unlocking for Canadians and how to find fixes for Canadian users (think of the voicemail dot etc. Why not start a Canadian iPhone blog dedicated to the iPhone? So here we are, 5 months later and this blog has grown to something much larger than I could have imagined! From only 9000 visitors December to surpassing 100,000 in April, the growth has been phenomenal. There are now official iPhone in Canada forums and a weekly podcast (which gave away an InvisibleShield yesterday!) to boot.

Thanks to all my readers for visiting daily, interacting with me in the comments and participating in the forums. You guys have been a lot of help and it’s been fun. Look forward to more giveaways of the iPhone accessories I’ve received for review. Hope you’ve enjoyed this post about my life with an iPhone–maybe a 3G hardware upgrade will be coming soon in the future!

How has your life with an iPhone been? Any regrets? Stories to share?

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