Editor's note: CNET editor and Crave contributor Dong Ngo is spending the next month in his homeland of Vietnam, and plans to file occasional dispatches chronicling his impressions of how technology has permeated the culture there. Click here for more of Dong's stories from abroad.
HANOI, Vietnam--Every obstacle presents an opportunity. I saw this firsthand in Hanoi.
The obstacle in question: the iPhone 3G. Since its launch, it has proven a much tougher nut to crack than the original iPhone. Without a viable software-based unlock solution, the only way to make the phone work with any GSM carrier has been the use of a proxy SIM. Put this piece of very thin circuitboard in the iPhone 3G atop the carrier's SIM, and you can make calls and text on a new network.
(I did experience some problems using the proxy SIM, including short battery life, instability, and, most seriously, incompatibility with iTunes.)
Unfortunately, the recently released 2.2 software update, for now, has made the iPhone 3G impossible to unlock--unless you happen to be in Hanoi. Here, I met a man who takes the job quite seriously and gets it done the hard way, literally.
His name is Tuan Anh Do, and he's a 29-year-old businessman who owns five cell phone repair shops. A big part of his business is servicing the iPhone and iPhone 3G, and that often involves getting those devices unlocked at the hardware level.
One of his shops is on Nguyen Du street, a relatively small, quiet block in Hanoi. It's located in a typically narrow four-story house, with one floor serving as a reception area, and another holding the accounting department. The top floor is the workshop, where the magic happens.
Here I witnessed a brand new iPhone 3G getting its hardware unlocked and was really impressed. This is how it happened. … Read more