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iPhone 3GS – Unlocked – no longer Jail Broken 16 January 2013

Posted by David Wilson in General.

The family and I visited some friends between Christmas 2012 and the New Year – we had a great swim in their pool and enjoyed a very nice dinner with the plan being to take the one hour journey home after. While there the 16 year old daughter discussed a relatively small issue about her iPhone 3GS where despite names and phone numbers being in the Contacts application, every text message was from a number – not a name. You could add the number to the Contacts yet it would not translate the number to the name.

I noticed that there was an over-the-air iOS update outstanding… actually the phone was on iOS 5.0. Reportedly the update had been attempted previously and failed – this is weird – never heard of this before. I also noticed an expired profile on the device – something else you don’t usually see.

The upgrade issue is easily fixed – plug the iPhone into a desktop computer – sync with iTunes and let iTunes perform the iOS upgrade. And that’s where it all went wrong….

* I don’t believe the backup worked too well

* the latest iOS (6.0.1) downloaded and was installed on the device where upon this failed and left the device in a hung state

* so put the iPhone into DFU mode and attempted a re-install of iOS 6.0.1 which also failed – brilliant – any ideas I want to go home!

* inspecting the logs I found that one of the partitions on the iPhone had a security error of some sort…

Now what?

– No working iPhone 3GS

– A 16 year old girl without her critical lifeline!

Cleverly she had her contact numbers stored on the SIM – so with the SIM removed and installed in another phone she was able to establish earthly contact. Meanwhile I was able to take the phone home for further investigation.

Well I had my suspicions by this stage that the iPhone 3GS was either faulty or Jail-Broken. If it was Jail-broken that certainly would not have been done by the 16 year old. So where did the phone come from?

At home I was able to get the phone into DFU mode and perform a successful iOS 6.0.1 restore – why this didn’t work originally I have no idea.

With the phone restored I began the process of first use and activation… which failed. And it always kept on failing even after multiple successful restores. This is wrong – all New Zealand iPhones are unlocked and activate. At this point I didn’t have any spare SIMs to put into the phone and perhaps the activation was failing because of this. The next day it was off to the petrol station to get a 2Degrees SIM to test. Activation still failed.

Where to next? … Google!

I found many web sites that would get the phone working again in a couple of “easy” steps for a “modest” fee. Despite the advertising and perhaps ease of implementation there’s no fun in that when you can do it yourself in 30 steps. At the end of the day all of these mean the phone is jail broken to work – this isn’t a good solution and will lead to trouble again!

During the course of this investigation I found out from the owner that the phone had been purchased through TradeMe (New Zealand equivalent to eBay) and I was able to view the auction where it said “Jail-Broken to run applications”. Noting here that it didn’t say New Zealand new, or Jail-broken to work with New Zealand cellular carriers.

It was about now that I discovered http://www.officialiphoneunlock.co.uk who offers to properly unlock iPhones in the Apple database so that iTunes can activate phones – that’s a neat trick. For 10 British pounds (NZ$23.88) I paid to discover that the phone was indeed carrier locked to AT&T in the USA (it didn’t say that in the TradeMe auction details) – this took about 3 days. I then paid 25 British pounds (NZ$49.34) to get the phone unlocked. The price can vary depending on the carrier the phone is locked to. The unlock took about 6-12 hours.

Great – the phone is unlocked – simply plug it into iTunes and activate…. No not quite that simple – the activate still failed. http://www.officialiphoneunlock.co.uk were prepared for this issue and their e-mail advises to disconnect and reconnect the iPhone and try again, and if that fails try an iOS restore. Needless to say both of these steps failed too. So I contacted http://www.officialiphoneunlock.co.uk, as they suggested, for further help.

They pointed me at this web site http://www.redmondpie.com/how-to-downgrade-iphone-3gs-3g-06.15.00-to-05.13.04-baseband-for-unlock-and-working-gps/ to fix the problem. This involved using the hacking tools to force a downgrade of the BaseBand firmware on the phone from 06.15.00 to 05.13.04 and then performing a iTunes restore of iOS 6.0.1. It’s possible that the person who performed the original jail-break had upgraded the iPad base band to 06.15.00 which prevented the activation or in other reading on the we perhaps there was some other form of corruption with the Base Band. I followed the instructions and completed the downgrade with the Redsn0w tool as per the instructions.

I’m very pleased to report that this process was successful and that the iPhone was successfully unlocked by iTunes.

The lessons learnt here are many, especially from the purchasing side.

The sale words don’t speak the whole truth – they were nothing like the truth – buyer beware:

My iPhone 3GS 32Gb is for sale. It’s in very good condition, no cracks, scratches etc. Always had mirror screen protector fitted so screen is like new, always been in leather case so back is like new too except some very, very faint wear marks from being inside the case, very hard to see them though.

It’s on IOS5.0.1 and has been jail-broken for downloading apps. Can be used on anyone’s network, currently on Vodafone pre-pay sim. Comes in original box with USB charging/connection cable, no headphones sorry for health reasons. ”

What’s missing? – This phone was originally purchased in the USA and is carrier locked to AT&T – it has been Jail Broken to work in New Zealand – you must not perform iOS upgrades.

When you do purchase second hand – do look for words like “Factory unlocked”, or warning words like “do not perform software upgrades”.

On the hacking side – playing with Redsn0w – be very careful and very deliberate – read all the words and if you have step by step instructions read, read, read. It’s fun but a miss step can leave you with a bricked phone.

– David