Both Harri and I are on O2. This year we decided to forgo getting new phones with our new contracts, saving us a lot of money on the actual contract but meaning we’d likely pay full whack for a phone. For Harri at least, there was another route: buying a slightly second hand, locked phone off ebay. She found the pink Pixons, fell in love and bought one the next day for around £200.
We’ve unlocked phones before so thought, "How hard can it be? Surely there’ll either be codes on the interweb or somebody on ebay will be selling them for a quid a shot!"
Actually, it’s a little tougher than we thought. There are several services available, some quite excessive sounding procedures involving servers and data cables, which, at first, make you think “Oh my, this is really complex! It must be worth the £20” until you see there are other services, £4-6 cheaper that only need a serial or IMEI to work.
But my first port of call had actually been at DealExtreme. It’s a Chinese site with various consumer electronics that work but you can practically guarantee aren’t made by the people that invented them; for those prices it has to be knock-off. I bought a iSmartSIM 2008. It said it could let any SIM work with any phone all for $4.20-something (inc postage) so I bought one the same day Harri decided to buy the Pixon.
As it was coming all the way from Hong Kong, I thought there was zero chance it would show up before the phone and it didn’t. I started looking around at websites, trying to find a free or near-free way to unlock the phone but nothing worked. I then found a site promising 100% guaranteed Samsung unlock codes for £13.99 — by far the cheapest I found. So I gave them my IMEI and crossed my fingers.
But then something really strange happened. DealExtreme managed to ship something to me in under two weeks. Just a few hours after buying the unlock code, the iSmartSIM was here, looking really flimsy, fake and not at all capable of doing what it promised but here, nonetheless. Even more surprising was that it worked. So in a bout of extreme haste, I cancelled the order for an unlock code.
It was only later when Harri was back that I realised we’d been a little too hasty. The iSS worked with my SIM but it was a little tetchy with Harri’s. My and Harri’s SIMs have a slightly different connector layout but it basically meant I could use her phone with my SIM but she could only use hers 50% of the time. Cutting out. Looking like it was in roaming mode all the time. A bit of a hacktastrophe.
It’s always embarrassing when you accidentally muck people around while deciding what you really want. I went back to Unlock Samsung, got the unlock code and the next morning had an unlocked Pixon in my hands. I’d heartily recommend them to anybody.
The next part of the puzzle was getting the scummy and locked down Orange branding off an otherwise beautiful phone. They butchered the software, locking you into using Orange online services. I eventually found this thread. You have to register to download the firmware but that’s all free. I then followed their guide and after a couple of hiccoughs had a newer firmware that let you use the phone as Samsung intended.
I should stress that debranding is not for the easily scared and that it *can* damage your phone and/or void your warranty. Always backup before doing it and don’t do drugs, mmmkay.
About Oli: I’m a Django and Python programmer, occasional designer, Ubuntu member, Ask Ubuntu moderator and technical blogger. I occasionally like to rant about subjects I should probably learn more about but I usually mean well.