State of the iPhone Firmware and third party applications

Locked I figured it would be a good time to post an update on the current iPhone firmware and application status.

First of all, if you don’t already have an iPhone, or if you have the 1.1.1 version firmware (the latest as of this post), then you probably won’t be able to unlock it to use with the mobile carrier of your choice….at least for a little while longer. Reports around the net have said that all retail iPhones have the 1.1.1 firmware preinstalled on them – this includes all Apple retail stores and AT&T stores. That’s not to say there aren’t 1.0.2 versions floating around out there, there is no way to tell which version it has just by looking at the box.

Of course, your milage may vary on Craigslist or eBay but the prices of unlockable (or already unlocked) iPhones have been rising again lately.

The main problem with the current firmware update is that it upgrades parts of the firmware on the iPhone that pertain to the mobile radio. There are methods on the net (don’t make me say Google!) to roll back the firmware from 1.1.1 to 1.0.2 but *as of this post* all the rollback does is allow you to use the phone with AT&T as if it’s a locked phone. There is currently no way to unlock a phone that is or has ever been at version 1.1.1 of the firmware. This could change very soon as great strides have been made over the last few days at getting inside the latest firmware and enabling the jailbreak process to unlock it. It is possible to choose which firmware you use if you need to restore your iPhone by Shift + Click Restore (Windows) or Option + Click Restore (Mac) in iTunes, then point to the firmware version you want to restore to (assuming you have already downloaded the correct versions).

So for the time being, my iPhone is currently running on 1.0.2 firmware, and I’m using the 7.4.1 version of iTunes to sync it without issue. iTunes will prompt you to update your iTunes and firmware but you can decline it. It’s also a good idea to disable autosync just in case someone accidently plugs it in and goes click happy on your computer. I’m still using the 7.4.1 version of iTunes so that I can use custom ringtones without any hassle. The 7.4.2 version will overwrite any custom ringtones you put on your iPhone unless you have purchased them from the ITMS. I’d be happy to purchase the ringtones I have except that they aren’t all songs and I don’t think Apple is about to start selling clips from tv and movies as ringtones anytime soon.

So what’s on my iPhone that is keeping me from upgrading to the latest firmware (aside from the phone working)? Take a peek:

Home Screen Summerboard
Summerboard Summerboard

I won’t go into great detail on all the apps shown here, just a few highlights. First of all, if you have a hackable iPhone, you must install the Installer.app (aka AppTapp) as it is the gateway to so many different apps. It’s also probably already on your iPhone if you hacked it yourself since it’s the easiest way to gain access to it’s file system. Once you’ve installed this app, make sure you add the “Community Services” app as it will give you more sources for apps. It seems to be updated all the time so I usually check for updated/new apps a couple times a day. The really nice thing about Installer is that when you run it, it first checks to see if there are any updates to any of the apps you already have installed via Installer and presents you with the list of apps that can be updated. It would be nice if there was an update all option since you have to do it app by app.

The next apps you’ll want to install are Summerboard, Customize, rSBT and Dock. These apps give you the ability to rearrange the layout of the icons (rSBT) on your homescreen, add themes to the icons and dock (Summerboard) of the homescreen, change the default images for many parts of the iPhone (Customize) and access the apps from within any other apps (Dock). As you can see in the screenshots above, my iPhone’s homescreen has a custom wallpaper behind the icons and has five icons in the bottom dock instead of the default four. I use SMS a lot so I figured it made sense to have it along the bottom too. I’ve also replaced a number of the stock app icons. The Weather app normally displays 73 degrees and sunny, I changed mine to be a balmy 20 degrees and sunny. I also replaced the US interstate image on the Maps icone with the TransCanada sign. I thought the original Photos icon was kinda boring so I replaced it with an iPhoto image. This is all easily done with a summerboard theme so you can easily switch this theme on or off with one tap.

One thing you’ll notice as soon as you start poking around inside the iPhone’s file system (besides the fact that it’s setup exactly like OSX on your desktop/laptop Mac), is that it uses extensive use of XML to describe settings, preferences, and the various text that is displayed to you. In the first photo at the top of this post, you can see that I’ve changed the ‘slide to unlock’ text on the locked screen (from standby mode) to read ‘Go Canucks Go’. Wireless Services I’ve also changed the slider icon to the retro Canucks logo. I did this manually a little while ago but now it’s all changeable via the Customize app so it’s very easy to change just about any string of text or slider. Theme packs are also being released so that you have a lot more choices for the various icons and sliders. You may also notice that my network signal bars are green as is the wifi strength meter. I also replaced the blue edge logo with a green Apple logo.

There is a relatively new app called “Services” that gives you quick access to enable or disable Edge, Bluetooth, Wifi and SSH instead of having to navigate to their various locations in the settings menu. The only thing I don’t like about it is that if you use it to disable Edge, it changes the APN for Edge to “DISABLED” and in order to renable it, you have to retype the APN info.

The iPhone comes preconfigured for AT&T’s Wireless Services, which is buried in the Settings/Phone menu option. As with everything else on the iPhone, it’s just a bunch of XML data so I went in and edited it to reflect my current wireless carrier’s services as you can see here:

Wireless Settings Wireless Settings

I just added a few of the customer service and star numbers that work with Rogers. The last item on the settings menu just launches Safari and takes you to their website. Leave a comment if you want the files to add this to your iPhone and I’ll zip them up and post the file locations.
VNSea
The last app I’m going to talk about today is VNSea (available on Installer.app) which is a VNC client for the iPhone that allows you to connect to remote computers on your network (or the internet). It’s still pretty new but it shows a lot of promise. You navigate around your remote computer by using the two finger scrolling on the iPhone’s touchscreen. I don’t think it allows you to interact with the remote computer yet (at least I haven’t been able to get it to work) but it’s perfect for checking up on those torrents running on another computer somewhere else in your house.

So there you go…the bottom line for anyone using an unlocked iPhone *as of this post* is DO NOT UPGRADE YOUR FIRMWARE! I can’t believe how many people have been posting on the various iPhone forums asking how to rollback their firmware because their phone doesn’t work now. Hopefully if you’re smart enough to unlock your iPhone, you know not to be the first to update your firmware when Apple releases a new one.

Here’s a few links that have been very helpful in iPhone modding/hacking:

2 Comments

  1. Martin says:

    Cool phone there.

    I have to ask though, stupid as it may be.

    How do you scroll through your apps? I’ve found myself to be stuck, seeing as, like you, I’ve installed more apps than the screen can display. Trouble is, I can’t figure out how to scroll the screen (or whatever) to access the others. Can you help? Lol. XD

  2. John says:

    You should install “Summerboard” as it gives you the ability to scroll through your apps (firmware 1.1.1 has the scrolling built in similar to how the Weather app scrolls horizontally with little dots at the bottom). Make sure you disable “Dim Wallpaper” if you do use Summerboard as the current version seems to cause problems – at least on 1.1.1 firmware.

    Also, “Dock” is good as well since it gives you access to any app from within any other app without having to go back to home, page through the screens and then tap on the app.

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