Q: Recently I bought a used iPhone 3G from a friend. A month after I started using it, I realized that AT&T added a data plan to my service. I never use the data features so to get around the requirement, I accessed my customer profile on AT&T's Web site and changed my phone to an old Sony Ericsson W760i. I then called AT&T and asked them to take the data plan off and they reported seeing the W760i in my profile.
About an hour later, though, my profile said I have an iPhone again! Now I suspect that in another month they will tack on the data plan again. Is there a certain jailbreak that will stop AT&T from seeing that I have an iPhone? - Ryan
A: Unfortunately, each time you use your iPhone 3G, AT&T can tell which handset you're using. The company gets this information not from your customer profile, but from your phone itself. Here's how it works.
Each time you make a call, a couple of things are going on. First off, your SIM card identifies you as a subscriber to the carrier. If your account is in order, then you can make the call. Before that can happen, however, the network also accesses your phone's International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI), which is a number that's unique to every GSM handset (CDMA devices use something similar called an Electronic Serial number, or ESN). The IMEI identifies the phone to your carrier and it checks that the handset is valid to use. If the phone is locked to another carrier or if it's lost or stolen--your carrier can use the IMEI to "blacklist" a device--you won't be able to make calls.
So it's the IMEI, and not your customer profile, that lets AT&T know that you're using an iPhone. You can switch to the W760i for a while, but once you go back to the iPhone AT&T will know. I'm not sure how how much time the carrier waits before tacking on the mandatory data plan, but it will happen eventually. I'm not in favor of mandatory data plans, and I really don't like it when they add new services to your contract without asking, but it happens all the time. Unfortunately, jailbreaking won't help since that process only removes the Apple-imposed restrictions that block you from downloading third-party apps.
You can find your phone's IMEI by looking behind the battery cover, on the box, or by typing *#06# on your keypad. … Read more