April 2013 Archives

Unlocking an old AT&T iPhone

AT&T allows out-of-contract iPhones to be unlocked so they can be used on a different GSM carrier. Unlocking your phone would allow it to be used on T-Mobile or Straight Talk, or most European carriers, for example. I did this with my old iPhones. I keep them a backup phones and use T-Mobile pre-paid cards that cost as little as $ 10 for 3 months, which is a great deal for an emergency phone.

Here's what you need to do:

Go into Settings, then in the 3rd group, General, then About. Write down the IMEA number. You'll need that next.

If you're giving a phone to someone else, the giver of the phone must do the unlocking. You need the wireless phone number (the phone number the phone used to be if you've upgraded), the IMEA number (above), name, email address, last 4 digits of your SSN, and your account passcode (if you have one). You can either call customer service with this information, or use this web form:


You request unlock and a few days later, assuming all goes well, the phone will be unlocked.

In order to complete the unlocking process you will need:

The phone
A computer with iTunes installed (preferably an up-to-date copy of it)
USB cable (30-pin Apple iPhone/iPad/iPod cable up to and including the 4S, Lightning for the iPhone 5)
A working SIM card

The last one bears noting: If you've upgraded you probably have the old SIM card in the old phone, and it does not work; you can't place a call with it. This will not work for unlocking! In theory you could use the SIM card from your new phone to unlock, but that gets tricky if your phones have different SIM card sizes (3GS and earlier: mini also known as "normal," 4 and later: micro).

Your best bet is to acquire whatever SIM card you intend to get and use that. If you intend to take your phone overseas you probably ought to get a cheap US prepaid SIM card and unlock before you leave. You can get a T-Mobile pre-paid SIM card for $ 1 from their web site. Make sure you get the correct size!

Turn off the phone, remove the old SIM card and install the new one. You'll need a pointy object, a small paperclip works well, to pop out the SIM card tray. It's either on the top or side of the iPhone, depending on which model it is.

Turn the phone on, wait for it to finish starting up, then connect it with the USB cable to your computer and run iTunes if it doesn't start automatically.

If you are really lucky, iTunes will just pop up a window that says your phone has been carrier unlocked. Otherwise, back up your phone. Then restore it to factory defaults. The act of doing this will reset the carrier settings and unlock your phone.

If you're giving the phone away, now it's wiped clean and perfect for gifting. If you're keeping your phone, you can then restore your old apps and data from the backup and the phone will remain unlocked.

I'm not really sure if the recipient of gifted phone can do the iTunes steps. I'm pretty sure carrier unlock occurs when iTunes recognizes your IMEA because your AT&T account and iTunes account aren't linked. So, maybe it works, maybe it doesn't. Normally the original owner would do the iTunes step so they can wipe all of their personal data off the phone, anyway.

Here's my T-Mobile iPhone 3:

Important Caveat for T-Mobile (and Straight Talk, which I think uses the T-Mobile network): It is possible that data may not work. You can use the phone as a phone, do SMS text messages and Wi-Fi connections, but there might be a problem with 3G data. I read some posts that said EDGE (2.5G) and 4G work, but 3G doesn't. Also, you need to change your APN setting. In any case, I never tried it because since I'm using a cheap pre-paid calling plan, I don't have data enabled, anyway.

Moving Facebook pictures to a new album

Sometimes you just want to group a bunch of photos together that you have in your Mobile Uploads, iOS Photos, etc. albums. Or you want to take some of the pictures in one of your own albums and change the permissions so that not all of your Facebook friends can see them. It's not entirely obvious how to do this, but it can be done, and it can be done without losing the comments and likes, or affecting the ordering in your timeline.

Facebook is always changing things around so the specifics might vary a little, but this is how it could be done in April 2013.

From your news feed click on Add Photos/Video then Create Photo Album.


When you do this, a file selection box pops up to choose the file you want to add. You have to choose a file to upload, and you can even go back and delete it later, but this step is necessary because there is (apparently) no option to move an existing picture into a new album, or option to create an empty album.

Fill in the normal stuff like a name for the album, description, location, etc..

Here's the trick: Down next to the Post Photos button is a drop down thingie with options like Public, Friends, and Only Me, among others. Set this to Only Me. This prevents the new picture from appearing in your friends' news feeds or tickers before you can go and delete it.

Now go into your own profile/timeline and click Photos at the top.

Then click on Albums and click the album you want to move from.

Next not quite obvious thing: You need to click on the Edit button near the top of the page. Don't just click on the picture you want to move, because there's no Move button there!

In the Edit screen, if you mouse over the picture you want to move, there's a little down arrow pop-down control thingie that will appear the upper right corner of the picture. Move To Other Album is what you want.

Move all of the pictures you want to move this way, then click Done.

Go into the photo album you created in the beginning and delete the placeholder picture you used to create the album. If you mouse over the picture, in the upper right corner a pencil icon will appear labeled Edit or Remove. Select that, then in the drop-down menu, Delete This Photo.

You should now have a new album with the pictures you moved into it, with all of the comments and likes preserved!

The last thing to do is change the permissions on the album from Only Me to whatever you want, like Friends. The permission control is at the top of the album view, right under the name of the album.

This is also where you could use Custom permissions to prevent some people (or lists of people) from seeing the album. Some special albums like iOS Photos allow you to set the permissions of each photo individually, but albums that you create you can only set the permissions for the entire album, which is why you might want to use this technique for moving pictures between albums.

That's it! If you've done this correctly there won't be any indication that you've done anything in your timeline or your friends' news feeds or tickers. And if you go back in your timeline to where you originally posted the picture, it will still be there, and clicking on it will open the new album as if it had always been there.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from April 2013 listed from newest to oldest.

March 2013 is the previous archive.

June 2013 is the next archive.

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