Friday, August 19, 2011

iphone Blues

This is one of those how to kind of posts that I never write. But considering the amount of trouble I went through in getting my iphone legally unlocked, I have to make a note of this. Also considering how I have never written How-to posts, this will probably read less like one and more like my horror story.

Somewhere beginning of last year, I purchased an iPhone 3G in India. At the time, the only options available were to either get an iphone locked to Airtel or to Vodafone. Now, none of these carriers were offering a deal. There was no lucrative plan, no discount - So you were saddled with a carrier for one year without any benefits except the ability to own an iphone.
So I got myself an iPhone locked to Airtel. At the time of taking the connection, I asked about the unlocking procedure after the completion of one year; to which the sales representative replied: It will auto-unlock in one year.
Well may be I was too gullible, but when I moved to Singapore, it did not strike me to check whether the phone was unlocked. I arrived in Singapore, and happily inserted a sim from 7-11 into my iphone - to get the rudest shock of relocation. My phone was still locked to Airtel and rejected this sim as Invalid! My first reaction was to rush off to the nearest Singtel store and buy an iPhone4, but providence saved me, as the store did not have the model I wanted. I know that iPhone5 is expected next month, and buying a model an year old is nothing short of foolishness. But to live without an iPhone till the next model arrives. Unimaginable!

So here's what I did. I shot off a mail to Airtel Customer care, requesting for a remote unlock. After about 4 days, I got a mail asking for some specifics regarding my model, which I promptly provided. Silence, for another 7 days. I could bear it no longer, and searched for ways to expedite. On twitter, I found Airtel_Presence - the twitter channel to reach Airtel's customer care. And I have to say they were responsive, at least far more than the official contact given otherwise. After two days, they responded (on twitter) saying that my phone is unlocked. I inserted the new sim again, expecting a 'Voila' moment, only to see some more invalid sim flashed on the phone.
After a few unhelpful calls with Airtel (who suggested that perhaps my sim was not good enough, etc), and after some unsuccessful internet searches, I called up the Apple helpline, who told me that my phone still showed as locked to Airtel in their database. So after confirming with the carrier that my phone was indeed unlocked from their end, I had to restore my iphone to factory settings using itunes. I inserted the new sim, and restored my phone using itunes and finally - the Voila I had been waiting for!

So if you have bought an iphone in India with a carrier, you must:
  1. Check with the carrier how long is your phone locked.
  2. If there are no benefits in price, you must request an immediate unlock, and once the carrier confirms this, restore your phone to factory settings and check with a different sim not belonging to the carrier to ensure your phone is unlocked
  3. If you find yourself outside the country, unable to visit the carrier to get the phone unlocked, mail their customer service ID (no point calling as most of the tele-callers will be unable to help with the technical issues) and request for an unlock. Constantly follow up - else they will take a long time to resolve the issue.
  4. In case any of the above does not work, call Apple helplines, which are very responsive, and can tell you the right solution depending on your phone's serial number.
  5. If nothing works, well you can always go and do a hack unlock (for which there will be several guides available on the internet), but that is not something I suggest. Other than the fact that it is illegal, you end up losing warranty, have trouble doing OS upgrades (you will have to jailbreak everytime you want to upgrade)
Happy i-Phoning.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Moving to Singapore

I have seldom stayed long in a place ever since I left my hometown. Every few years, I pack some stuff into a Suitcase, reach a new place and hope to begin a new life. When it is time to leave (inevitable), I realize my suitcase has grown several folds, and I have to disperse this excess baggage. What follow are Garage sales, throwaways, gifts to friends/college juniors/housemaids, and eventually the last resort - packing away tons of stuff to my parents, who have mercifully, been less mobile, and who always welcome the stuff piled up over the years.
So it was this time too, when I chose to finally leave Mumbai, and move to Singapore. This time, the amount of stuff to be moved was massive - I had stayed, without knowing, 5 long years in Mumbai. These were years in which I had money to spend (unlike student days), had got married, and taken up much bigger houses than single rooms of earlier times. So even after days of selling and disposing stuff, I sent 47 packets home with Agarwal Packers & Movers! When they arrived at home in Jaipur (I was there to witness the catastrophe!), I was aghast at the mess. The movers kept bringing the boxes, and soon I thought Mom and I would get engulfed in brown boxes, never to be found again. Well somehow we managed (rather mom did as I watched from my sickbed, occasionally lifting a finger), and by the time my father arrived in the evening, there was no trace of the boxes and the chaos of the afternoon.

So I arrived here, in Singapore, with yet another suitcase. A few clothes, a few shoes, a few books and a few DVDs - essential moving stuff. (Leaving my collection of books behind at home was the hardest part, and the pain hit me anew when I entered the grand bookstore of Singapore: Kinokuniya at Takashimaya mall, and looked at the book prices. ).
In Singapore, the acceptable trend is to let out well-furnished apartments - it is often difficult to find an unfurnished place. Suits me in my current transient state, though it does impose quite a few restrictions. For instance, the microwave, the oven and the Wine cellar are all knitted together in a fixed space. To buy a new microwave which suits my needs better, will require a series of approvals - from the owner, followed by the apartment contractor, followed by the building committee (and I am sure followed by a Govt authority somewhere, which seems to involve itself on a macro level with public life)
Whatever I have seen of this city/country, the one defining feature that leaps out is Consumerism. I have rarely seen people who would be caught dead with a simple phone (which is any phone other than iphone), or without an LVMH/Channel/Prada bag on their shoulders. In the MRT (metro rail), the madness to consume is most prominent. Faces are buried in ipads, iphones, and the air is heavy with an amalgamation of perfume. The ugly LVMH logo stares out from all directions. As you walk through Orchard Road, the main shopping district, you see people queuing up outside the Channel store, or waiting patiently to get their Louis Vitton. In a coffee shop, sitting on a table which does not have an ipad or a mac is almost embarrassing. Heaven save you if you have some other brand of laptop/tablet. And anywhere in the city, if you are clicking pictures using a point-and-shoot, you will be forced to wonder if it is an unwritten rule to use 'DSLR only',

So when they say life in Singapore is easy, it is true to a good extent. There are some standard formats you can adopt for your life and live happily. You don't have to exert yourself in making choices - you know which phone to buy and what purse to carry. If I ask two people, I will also know the approved shoes and dresses. As a vegetarian I do not even need to exert myself in choosing food, simply have to pick out of the 2-3 options on the menu. Commuting is easy - the MRT is convenient, and safe. Located amidst many beautiful countries, Singapore is also a great place to travel from. I am told Bintan and Batam (Indonesian islands) are less than 40 minutes away by ferry, Malaysia is an hour's drive away.

It is also a place friendly to walkers, and I simply love that. No matter where you are, you will find a walkway. Despite the warm weather, it is lovely to take evening/night walks near the river, with the city twinkling in many lights, all of them playfully reflected in the river. My favorite spot, which I have recently discovered is the walkway at Stadium (Singapore Indoor stadium).

So I think I can very much get used to staying here. And also that it is early for impressions.