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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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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