EDIT(Mar 8, 2011):Well, now that the iPhone is available on Verizon, Montana's biggest cell carrier, this post is more of just an archived look at what we used to have to deal with during the 4 dark years of a mainly iPhone-less Montana. I have an iPhone 3G in Montana with a (406) area code phone number that I brought over from Verizon (the phone number, not the iPhone) with me about a year ago. It works great! It took a little bit of work to get it rolling, but it's actually not too hard. If you're willing to jump through a few hoops, I'll explain in plain English how to get the coolest piece of technology in existence. Before we begin, a minor background on the situation for the uninitiated. iPhones are currently only sold in the US on AT&T. AT&T is not available in Montana. The main option here is Verizon Wireless, which most of the Montanans I know have. The reason you can't get an iPhone on Verizon is because the iPhone & AT&T "speaks" GSM and Verizon & it's phones "speak" CDMA. However, Cellular One is in Montana and does "speak" GSM, so you can get an iPhone on Montana's Cell One. To allow an iPhone to get on a cell carrier that speaks it's language (GSM), there is a process called "unlocking" that allows your phone to get on any network. Unlocking is not illegal. So, here's what you need to do to get an iPhone in Montana.
- Buy an iPhone. In order of preferred method: ask your friends, check the Craigslist for your area, or buy one off eBay. It doesn't have to be an "unlocked" one you see frequently on eBay. That just means that the next step is taken care of for you, which is the hardest, but still doable.
- Unlock it. So there's jailbreaking and there's unlocking. Jailbreaking is the process that allows one to run anything you want on a device, like an application that will unlock your phone and allow it on any network. (More info on Jailbreaking here-great info). So you jailbreak so you can get unlocked from AT&T. To start, Go here and select a tutorial that matches the iPhone you got and the Operating System you have. Follow it. You might have to try it a couple times, but don't worry about messing it up because you can always just restore your iPhone's Operating System and start over. If you're having problems, listen to what the iPhone Dev team has to say as they are the grand masters. Oh, and never pay for an unlocking software.
- Setup service with Cellular One. If you want to keep your number, tell Cell One that and they'll prepare the paperwork to send to your current cell carrier. Tell them that you already have a phone and you just need a SIM card. The plan I have is unlimited data/unlimited voice/unlimited texts for $89/month. I should note that a major drawback to this whole plan is that Cell One doesn't have service outside of Montana. You can roam, but you can't use your data plan (ie no Google Maps), which TOTALLY SUCKS, I know, but is a con I'm personally willing to accept for all the pros I get from an iPhone while I'm in Montana (which is 99% of the time). The suggested course of action is to get roaming credits before any out of state trip as that is much cheaper than paying roaming fees after the fact. Also, it should be noted that you don't have to sign a contract since you own your own phone. I'm on a month-to-month contract and can leave with my iPhone at any time :)
- Insert Cell One SIM card into unlocked iPhone. Test call someone. Brag that you got an iPhone. Hopefully you didn't piss them off, because you'll want them to call you back to test incoming calls too.
- Setup Picture Messaging & Data Network. Under Settings>General>Network>Cellular Data Network Cellular Data APN: internet.chinookwireless.net Username: blank Password: blank MMS APN: wapgw.chinookwireless.net Username: blank Password: blank MMSC: http://mms.cellonenation.net/mms/ MMS Proxy: 18.104.22.168:8080
- Test Text & Pic Messages. Send one of each to some asking them to send a test one back. Picture messages take a little bit to send. Be patient.
- Test Anywhere Internet. Go into settings and turn off your WiFi if you're by some. You'll see and "E" in the top indicating that you're connected to Cell One's EDGE network. Open Safari and go somewhere. If it's not working, go back into your Network Settings and check the Settings again, sometimes they don't stick.