Boris Mann

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Mossberg iPhone Review: no SIM card, CDMA only?

Mossberg has posted his review of the iPhone, calling it a "breakthrough handheld computer". What caught my eye was this statement:

But the iPhone has a major drawback: the cellphone network it uses. It only works with AT&T (formerly Cingular), won't come in models that use Verizon or Sprint and can't use the digital cards (called SIM cards) that would allow it to run on T-Mobile's network. So, the phone can be a poor choice unless you are in areas where AT&T's coverage is good. It does work overseas, but only via an AT&T roaming plan.

Uh....what? Somehow, we had always assumed that this would be a GSM phone. The confusion about the AT&T vs. Cingular brand heightens this. I was under the impression that AT&T was moving to GSM...but Cingular's network was/is CDMA based.

If the iPhone is, indeed, a CDMA phone, then the whole will the iPhone be locked to Cingular question is a bit moot: without SIM cards, you can't take it to another network.

What does this mean for the timeline of a Canadian iPhone provider? Well, Rogers is a GSM network, not CDMA. So...Bell or Telus? Well, just a bit more time and some more of this should be revealed.

Update: ok, I'm pretty sure iPhone as CDMA phone is incorrect, here's another review from USA Today:

In techie terms, iPhone is a "quad-band GSM" phone, meaning you can operate it overseas. (You'll have to tell AT&T to turn on international roaming.)

So. We know that iPhone *is* a GSM phone. But no SIM card. Our best guess now is that this is all done in software / firmware...hence the iTunes activation step. So, unless you know how to re-program the iPhone's firmware to make it emulate another carrier's SIM....the iPhone is locked to only the networks that Apple chooses to support. Which, however, they can update through iTunes.

Wow. Apple iTunes as gateway to buying cellphone services. I'm still shaking my head at how they managed to put the carriers in a headlock...and still sad that they took away user choice by not just having a user-accessible SIM card.

Update 2: OK, last update on this (and boy, this blog post now is completely wrong). The iPhone *does* have a SIM card slot, which we can see thanks to David Pogue's graphic about it. The comment says:

If you insert a pin or an unfolded paperclip into the pinhole and push hard, the pre-installed SIM card tray pops out. Any recent AT&T SIM card should work, although only after iPhone activitation in the iTunes software.

Thanks to Scott Langevin for pointing this out in the comments.

So, final final conclusion -- the iPhone is a GSM phone (duh!), it *does* have a SIM card (yay!), and it is somehow locked and/or tied into iTunes activation. Next challenge: unlock the iPhone....