iOS Carrier Bundles Demystified

One of my favourite things about the iPhone is that it’s fairly painless to throw another SIM card into your iPhone, and have all of your carriers settings just work (internet, MMS, voicemail, and tethering if your carrier allows it). The way this magic works is that Apple actually has the settings for all of the official iPhone carriers preloaded into iOS. If you throw in a SIM from a supported carrier, the settings are simply loaded and away you go. These are referred to as carrier bundles (or, carrier settings according to Apple).

Carrier settings updates are small files (about 10 kb) that are installed on your iPhone or iPad (Wi-Fi + Cellular models). Carrier settings include updates to Access Point Names (APNs), MMS settings, features such as tethering, and default apps such as Stocks, Maps, and Weather.

 

On your iOS device, they live at

/var/mobile/Library/Carrier Bundles/ – bundles that have been updated with iTunes, or pushed over the air

/System/Library/Carrier Bundles/ – stock bundles that ship with iOS

On your computer side, they can be found at

~/Library/iTunes/iPhone Carrier Support/

If you haven’t ever had iTunes prompt you about a carrier update, this folder probably won’t exist.

Carrier bundles themselves are simply .zip archives, but with a .ipcc extension instead. They’re named after your carrier, and may also say whether they’re for your iPhone or iPad (Telstra_au_iPhone.ipcc)

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Self-Checkout with EasyPay

One of the most frustrating aspects of shopping in a brick and mortar store, is perhaps the waiting. Queuing for the checkout registers is one of the most annoying parts. Especially when the person at the head of the queue is asking a handful of questions, and you only have one thing you want to buy and take away.

Several months ago, Apple introduced the idea of ‘EasyPay’, where you get to be your own self checkout; take out your iPhone and you can scan and pay for accessories yourself. Great if you know exactly what you’re after, have no questions, and you just want to get there and then go.

First up, you’re going to need to install the Apple Store app; this works on the iPhone, iPod touch and the iPad if you’ve got a camera.
You also need to have location services enabled if you’ve turned them off, and you need to connect to the ‘Apple Store’ WiFi network.
This is how Apple can verify you are actually at the Apple Store!

Upon opening the app, you should see  the store you’re in displayed;

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Unlocking your iPhone

Since there doesn’t seem to be an easy and straight through guide for unlocking your iPhone, thought I’d quickly throw something together.

Unlocking your iPhone is great. It allows you to put in other carrier’s SIM cards. This is great if your telco isn’t cutting it and wish to move networks and keep your phone. It’s also handy for when you travel; picking up an international SIM is much cheaper than using your local SIM card and then roaming overseas. Oh, and it increases the resale value; anybody on any carrier in the world can use it now!

Around the world, most telcos will allow you to unlock your iPhone. Here in Australia, all telcos will unlock a post-paid iPhone for free. If you’ve picked up an iPhone (3GS) prepaid, you’ll have to cough up an unlocking fee. Overseas, companies such as AT&T will only unlock your phone when you’re at the end of your contract (officially). Apple has a list of carriers that will unlock your iPhone on their website.

If you contact your carrier today, chances are they’ll tell you it may take a few days (up to 72 hours) for things to happen, and at that point you need to connect to iTunes and restore. However, as of iOS 5, and the new PC-free initiative and methods, unlocking has become much easier. There’s no need to do a great big backup, and then restore just to unlock your phone.

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Looking at iMessage number merging

iMessage is probably one of the most notable and widely used new features that Apple introduced with iOS 5. ‘Free’ messaging to anyone else with an iOS device without having to think. But it was fiddly; it required effort to set things up to get them as Apple described; the ability to sync messages and pick up where you left off on your other iOS device (and now, your Mac).

There was also that bug where an iPhone could continue to receive messages for a number associated with a SIM card… that wasn’t even inside the phone anymore.

iOS 6 finally attempts to fix both of these annoyances.

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Create an ‘iMessage Me’ link

With the launch of iMessage on the Mac earlier this month, we now have what I think to be the perfect IM solution – cross device (not platform, sadly) syncing of message histories – why couldn’t anyone do this earlier?

You may like to add an iMessage Me link to your website/blog to make it easier for people visiting your page from a Mac or iOS device (iPhone, iPad, iPod touch) – just a tap and they’re all set to iMessage you.

For whatever reason, iOS and OS X use different URL schemes for iMessage – I understand why Messages for Mac may not want to adopt the sms: scheme, but I find it odd that iOS doesn’t like the imessage: scheme. So we’re left with two different schemes depending on the platform your visitor is using.

Using some fancy PHP trickery, here’s some code that will detect your visitor’s operating system, and based on that display either a sms: link or an imessage: one.

Throw this inbetween your standard link and you’re good to go.

For example:

Or, put together:

And in action:
iMessage me!

Tapping/clicking on this will bring up the Messages app on either platform with your email address pre-filled. Nifty.

And if you’re not on an iPhone with iOS 5 installed, or some other handset, this should bring up an MMS window with your email address pre-filled too.