How to Ditch Your iPhone for Android (by Unlocking a G1)

February 6, 2009

SIM network unlock PIN Last October I was lucky enough to get my paws on the first-ever Android smartphone, the HTC G1, and review it for Lifehacker the day it was released to the public. I'd had the phone for only a week to do my review, but in the process I fell in love with Android and its available applications, even at that early stage.

Still, with 14 months left on my iPhone's two-year contract with AT&T, I didn't want to pay a termination fee to switch to a new phone on a different carrier. But my Android lust grew deeper, so I took the plunge and tried unlocking a G1 to work with my iPhone's AT&T SIM card. I got a G1 from a friend for a decent price, paid 25 bucks for an unlock code, and it worked! No need to leave AT&T, but I still get Android goodness. If you're interested in doing the same, here's how I did it.

What You'll Need

  • An HTC G1 (aka HTC Dream) phone running Android
  • $25 and a PayPal account
  • A working iPhone (mine was first-gen, 3G's should work too Update: A reader says "I am pretty sure that T-mobile’s 3G network is on different frequencies than AT&T, so it is not possible to access AT&T 3G network with the G1, only edge." I haven't verified this firsthand.)
  • A paper clip

How to Unlock the G1

  1. Head over to the Unlock T-Mobile G1 web site and click Order Now.
  2. Determine your G1's IMEI number. Find it in one of three places:
    • On the G1 box's serial number sticker
    • Behind the G1's battery (turn the phone off, snap the back cover off, and remove the battery and you'll see it)
    • By dialing *#06# on the phone
  3. Enter the IMEI into your order at the Unlock T-Mobile G1 site. Don't screw it up. Pay for your unlock code at the site (they take PayPal), and wait about 10 minutes to get your code via email.
  4. While you wait for your unlock code, take out a paper clip and bend it. Insert it into the little hole at the top of your iPhone and pull out the iPhone's SIM card, as pictured.
    iPhone SIM removal
    iPhone SIM removal
  5. Pop the SIM out of the iPhone's little holding tray. Snap the back off the G1 phone, pull out the battery, and insert your iPhone SIM into the slot, as shown.
    AT&T SIM into G1
    Replace the battery and back cover, and turn on the G1.
  6. This is the moment of truth. The G1 will prompt you for the "SIM network unlock PIN." Very carefully enter the unlock code that arrives via email. Double-check it three times to make sure you entered in correctly, and tap the "Unlock" button. If all goes well, you'll get a "Network unlock successful" message.
    SIM network unlock PIN
  7. Now, if you've got a never-before-used G1 like I did, it will prompt you to enter your Google account credentials, and you'll see bars but no "E" icon indicating that you're on the AT&T Edge network. That's because you're not, and signing into Google will not work. First you've got to configure the AT&T APN (Access Point Network) settings. To do so, press the menu button, and tap the APN Settings button. Then hit menu again, and tap "New APN," as shown.
    G1 -- Set up new APN
  8. Enter AT&T's network details. They are:
    Name: AT&T
    APN: wap.cingular
    Proxy: leave blank
    Port: leave blank
    Username: WAP@CINGULARGPRS.COM
    Password: CINGULAR1
    Server: leave blank
    MMSC: http://mmsc.cingular.com
    MMS Proxy: wireless.cingular.com
    MMS Port: 80
    MCC: 310
    MNC: 410
    APN Type: leave blank
    When you're done, press the menu button, then tap "Save APN."

At this point, with the iPhone SIM in the G1, you'll connect to the AT&T network and you're good to go!

G1 on AT&T

Once you've got Android up and running, go ahead and start installing cool apps from the Android Market and customizing the phone to your liking.

Pretty Cool!

Facebook User
Feb 9 09 at 9:41 am

Nice.

Facebook User
Feb 9 09 at 9:46 am

Congrats on the new blog Gina! Love the design too btw…

One question though, how the heck do i comment if i don’t want to use my facebook account?

Facebook User
Feb 9 09 at 9:49 am

Hey there–you can register for an account here (takes less than a minute!) if you don’t want to use Facebook. :)

Gina Trapani [+195]
Feb 9 09 at 9:54 am

Nice. Do you have any data network issues? Are you able to hit the 3G network as well as Edge?

Facebook User
Feb 9 09 at 10:14 am

Are you able to hit the 3G network as well as Edge?

I had a first-gen iPhone, so I was never 3G. I guess I don’t know what I’m missing, because Android works just fine without it. (Obviously it’s slower.)

Gina Trapani [+195]
Feb 9 09 at 10:27 am

Glad you like it :)

Let me know when the RC33 update comes down to you. It’s supposed to be the one with the google latitude updates in it and some other goodies

Dan Tentler [+1]
Feb 9 09 at 11:18 am

Glad to see you’re back Gina! Quick question, does it have to be an iphone sim? I have a Moto Q on ATT and would like to try this :-) Thanks!

does it have to be an iphone sim?

No, it doesn’t. Check out this video (first one), where Loic gets it working with an Orange SIM.

Gina Trapani [+195]
Feb 9 09 at 11:45 am

Awesome. Making… me… jealous!

adampash [+5]
Feb 9 09 at 2:05 pm

I am pretty sure that T-mobile’s 3G network is on different frequencies than AT&T, so it is not possible to access AT&T 3G network with the G1, only edge.

I am pretty sure that T-mobile’s 3G network is on different frequencies than AT&T, so it is not possible to access AT&T 3G network with the G1, only edge.

That may be true, I haven’t tested firsthand, but thanks–updated the post.

Gina Trapani [+195]
Feb 9 09 at 2:49 pm

Yay! Now I know where to get my Gina Trapani fix. =)

Nice post. I love my first-gen iPhone but Android’s tighter Gmail integration makes me want to at least take it out for a spin.

presterjohn [+1]
Feb 9 09 at 3:48 pm

I can confirm that an unlocked Android phone won’t be able to access AT&T’s 3G network due to the different bands (which is hardware, it seems, but I’m not 100% sure if it is).

RE Step 7 “Now, if you’ve got a never-before-used G1″
Is a never-before-used G1 a requirement? or will a used one work?

Facebook User
Feb 9 09 at 4:23 pm

Is a never-before-used G1 a requirement? or will a used one work?

No, it’s not a requirement that the G1 has never been used, but if it’s already been set up, Android will boot as usual, you’ll just have no connectivity. At that point you can head into the Settings in the menu to set up the AT&T APN, so the flow will be a little different from my instructions.

Gina Trapani [+195]
Feb 9 09 at 4:26 pm

Don’t quote me on the numbers, I believe T-MO 3G works on 1700MHZ band for downloads. AT&T uses 850/1900MHZ. Therefore 3g doesn’t work in the above scenario. Edge should and honestly it’s OK for standard phone browsing.

Facebook User
Feb 9 09 at 4:51 pm

Hello.I know there is at least one way to buy a T-Mobile G1 without a contract, but I haven’t been able to locate one online. Could you please help me out?

BFKelleher [+5]
Feb 9 09 at 6:11 pm

I received RC33 a couple days ago. New mail indicator now works, IM is more stable. Overall less crashing that Ive noticed. I love my G1. I run only Edge since theres no 3G coverage where Im at and overall the experience isnt dreadful.

Lazarus [+4]
Feb 9 09 at 6:14 pm

Oh, and good to see you again Gina! Looks like your new home is right up your alley.

Lazarus [+4]
Feb 9 09 at 6:15 pm

Does this mess with my iPhone at all? If I decide I don’t like the G1 can I pop my SIM card back into my iPhone without consequence? Relatedly, does this mess with my voice/data plan? Love the new site, Gina!

lbodrozic
Feb 9 09 at 6:16 pm

Any word on when or if Android is going to be ported to a phone on Verizon’s network? I’m dying to get my hands on it, but I can’t leave Verizon…

Gina. Big fan, love your work, yada yada yada.

I’m curious if you have to keep the AT&T iPhone data plan or if you can switch to another, similar plan that would be cheaper?

Also, I assume since no changes have been made to the SIM card, that you can switch back and forth between the G1 and iPhone if necessary.

dlogic
Feb 9 09 at 7:08 pm

Does this allow you to switch back and forth between your iPhone and the G1 at will, or does this in some way bind you to the G1?

If I decide I don’t like the G1 can I pop my SIM card back into my iPhone without consequence? Relatedly, does this mess with my voice/data plan?

Good question. I just popped the card out of my G1 and back into the iPhone, and everything worked normally (including a new voicemail notification!) so yes, you CAN switch between the G1 and iPhone at will.

AFAIK, this doesn’t mess with your voice/data plan… I’ve got unlimited data on Edge with 200 text messages, so whether I’m on the G1 or iPhone it shouldn’t matter.

Gina Trapani [+195]
Feb 9 09 at 8:32 pm

Something to keep in mind is that some carriers keep track of a phone’s IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) number. This number is transmitted everytime you make a call. I know for a fact that this number is tracked by AT&T. Just something else to keep in mind. Not saying not to do this, just that this popped into my head on the way home from the office after reading this earlier today.

Lazarus [+4]
Feb 9 09 at 10:18 pm

I should clarify my last post real quick. IMEIs are also used to block a specific mobile device from accessing a particular GSM carrier’s network. So technically its possible for AT&T to block all HTC Dream (G1)phones from accessing the AT&T’s GSM network, but I doubt they would. More info on IMEIs here.

PS. When will there be a Preview function on here? I think WordPress has a number ofplugins for that feature.

Lazarus [+4]
Feb 9 09 at 10:25 pm

For those wondering how to buy a G1 without a contract, go to http://www.android.com/market/ and sign up as a developer. Then buy the phone. $399.99 I think.

stevenik
Feb 9 09 at 10:50 pm

I have a Sony Ericsson phone with AT&T service. Can I use the SIM card from that phone as described above?

Still mourning the Kogan Agora…

rwhe
Feb 9 09 at 11:28 pm

AT&T 3G is incompatible with G1. The reason behind that is the T-Mobile 3G operates on the AWS spectrum (1700-2100 Mhz) while AT&T utilizes, if recall correct, the 850Mhz and 1900Mhz band.

Joseph Antico
Feb 10 09 at 7:48 am

Does the G-phone have all the apps that iphone has?

1gerlaine
Feb 10 09 at 9:32 am

Gina – T-Mobile uses 1700MHz, the so-called “AWS” frequency. AT&T uses 850MHz and 1900MHz, so no, the G1 will NOT run at 3G speeds on AT&T’s network.

Hope your battery isn’t dying as fast as mine is. Charging has become a daily occurrence, and it saddens me.

vnangia
Feb 10 09 at 7:18 pm

So who gets your old iPhone now?

Oscar Bartos
Feb 10 09 at 11:41 pm

Has anybody tried it with a Sprint SIM? If so, does 3G work?

BFKelleher [+5]
Feb 11 09 at 5:20 pm

@BFKelleher – Sprint won’t work because the G1 is GSM

@Gina – just got through following your advice on this one: it worked like a charm! :-D

Jeffrey Canton
Feb 12 09 at 12:31 am

I already have a phone with T-Mobile and want to move over to the android- how would I go about doing that? Would they make me redo the contract? What steps would I have to take? Thanks!

-Mig

Just did this today. Love the guide. Followed along and everything turned out perfect. Thanks a lot!

Hey Gina,

Is now a good time to get the Android or should I wait? Is there another upgrade I should wait for? Thanks for helping.

-Mig

Migs [+15]
Mar 6 09 at 4:49 pm


Comments are closed. Thanks for reading!