Bit the Bullet, Switched from Palm Centro to iPhone

I was a happy Palm PDA user for years, and when it was time to get a smartphone, the Palm Centro was logical choice, in part to dodge the issue of migrating my contacts list and other data.  Unfortunately, a year into my two year contract with AT&T, it was now plainly obvious that the Palm OS is a dying (if not already dead) platform.  This came to a head when I was having a tough time finding a decent Twitter application (the recent 2TwitMe is the only one I can think of).  This post by another blogger echoes my sentiments on moving away from the Palm platform – although written two years ago!

So I got a good deal on a first generation 8GB iPhone from a friend.  Yeah, it runs on the 2G network and not the newer 3G, but my Palm Centro also runs on 2G, so it least I wouldn’t be worse off.

2G iPhone – Jailbreaking and Unlocking

My friend couldn’t get the phone SIM unlocked, so that task was left to me.  (I’ve gotten the SIM unlock codes for other phones from AT&T before, but for some reason there is a particular issue with obtaining them for the iPhone.)  It wasn’t too hard to find instructions on the web to jailbreak (modify the operating system so that non-Apple store apps could be installed – why?) and unlock (to allow a SIM card other than the original to be used) the phone to OS 3.0 using RedSn0w. (Later I found out that these instructions would work for 3.0.1 – by doing the original restore with the 3.0.1 firmware, but then doing the RedSn0w step with the 3.0 firmware.)

The instructions worked fine (using the latest versions of RedSn0w 0.8 and iTunes 9.0), but there was one problem – no data/internet connection.  I thought it might be something in the APN (network) settings, but unlike OS 2.x, there is no way to access the settings directly in 3.x.  After many trials and tribulations of trying to downgrade the phone back to 2.x, I found out about this site – you type in the address in Safari on the iPhone, then select your country/carrier, and voila the settings are changed and data/internet is working!

Data Migration and Apps

The next order of business was to get my contacts list from the Palm over to the iPhone.  Since I was planning on a transition to Gmail anyway, I wanted to move everything into Google Contacts and then use Google Sync to get them over to the iPhone.  First, I had to export the Palm address book as CSV file and then import it into Microsoft Outlook.  Then I had to export the Outlook address book as a CSV file and import it into Google Contacts.  Although the Palm knew which phone numbers where home/work/cell, the exported file had them jumbled up for each person, so I had to do some manual checking and rearranging.

Google Sync worked flawlessly for getting the contacts and Gmail to the iPhone.  Furthermore, any updates to the contacts/mail done on my phone are synced back to the Google list also.  The downside of the Google Sync is that it doesn’t support having a different “from” address as can be done in Gmail.  Here is a workaround for that.  Also, Google Sync is set up by default to do an immediate “push” to the phone when new email arrived in your Gmail box.  This was keeping the data connection open (losing my ability to get incoming calls), so I changed this to fetch manually, and all is well. (Later on I was able to change this back to “push” without any problems with getting incoming calls, so I don’t know why I had problems before.)

With a jailbroken phone, Cydia is the “app store” for jailbroken apps. Just like there’s an Apple app store icon on the phone, there is also a Cydia icon on a jailbroken iPhone. They are also generally cheap or free, just like the Apple store apps.  Here’s a bunch of interesting Cydia apps:

  • SBSettings – Enables a drop down menu to quickly change settings. I use it mostly to get quick access to the Wifi/Edge (2G) on/off toggles to conserve battery life.
  • Rotation on/off toggle for SBSettings
  • iPod controls toggle for SBSettings
  • PDAnet – Allows using the phone data connection on a laptop computer.
  • iRealQuickSMS – Allows sending/replying to text messages without having the close the app you’re currently running.
  • YXFlash – Video player for flash, XviD, and WMV – need SSH (such as OpenSSH) on the iPhone and an SCP client on the computer (such as WinSCP for Windows) to transfer the video files.
  • Google Voice Mobile (GV Mobile) – removed from Apple app store, but available on Cydia
  • Cycorder (camcorder)
  • BTStack Keyboard Driver – can use an external Bluetooth keyboard!
  • Abaia – jailbreak version of Glaurung chess
  • Aptbackup – will automatically redownload Cydia apps upon a restore
  • Terminal
  • OpenSSH (to transfer files to/from iPhone)
  • 3G Unrestrictor (tricks apps into thinking the 3G connection is a wifi connection)
  • Backgrounder (allows apps to run in the background)
  • Kirikae (can switch between background applications)
  • Insomnia
  • Attachment Saver, iFile (to browse the iPhone file structure), and File2Mail – the combination of all three apps to deal with the annoyance that the iPhone does not allow you to save and attach files (other than photos) from/to emails!

Speaking of SSH, if you have that installed on your phone, it’s a good idea to change the default password.

I have to say I’ve been really happy with the iPhone and glad I made the switch.  The apps, such as Facebook, are much better than the corresponding ones for the Palm Centro.  I’m still getting used to the on-screen keyboard on the iPhone – I was able to text really fast on the Palm Centro keys.  At least the iPhone can be turned horizontal to get more spacing between the keys, which helps quite a bit.  (Now after about a month, I can type just as fast on the iPhone horizontal keyboard as I could with the Palm Centro.)

I was also looking for a master strength chess app and was directed to a review of six apps.  The cheapskate in me decided to download the free Glaurung app described in that article.  (The makers of Glaurung also make Abaia for jailbroken phones.)  It seems to be a stronger program than the Chess Genius and Chess Tiger I had on the Centro, and a much deeper opening book also.

Although it’s not a top priority, it would be nice to enable MMS (picture mail).  Cydia apps such as ActivateMMS2G were previously available to do this, but those were apparently all broken with the upgrade to OS 3.0 and therefore not available in the Cydia store.

I didn’t have any luck exporting the Palm calendar without paying too much for third party applications, so I’m starting fresh with Google Calendar and using Google Sync to sync it to the phone.  I’m using ToodleDo for my to do items, and I didn’t have very many memos on the Palm, so I’ve manually transferred them to the notes app on the iPhone.

Here’s a link with interesting apps for the iPhone.

3G iPhone – Jailbreaking and Unlocking (OS 3.0/3.0.1)

After going through all that for the 2G iPhone, I turned around and upgraded to a second hand 3G iPhone.  Although it appeared to be on OS 3.1.2 and unlocked, it did not appear to have been jailbroken (although I do not know how that could be the case, perhaps the Cydia icon had been removed?).  I decided to do a downgrade to a jailbroken 3.0. While the RedSn0w instructions above will both jailbreak and unlock a 2G phone to 3.0 in one step, they will only jailbreak a 3G phone to 3.0.  A separate step for unlocking the 3G with Ultrasn0w is required after jailbreaking.

Downgrading the OS is a bit tricky, and so I had to run RedSn0w may have to be run multiple times. Furthermore, I had to do an additional step to downgrade the baseband before I could use UltraSn0w to unlock. I resolved both of these hiccups by using the procedure described here.

By the way, on the 3G iPhone, I thought I was able to get away with a restore in iTunes from OS 3.0 to 3.0.1 without losing the unlock.  But then I got the bug in which the app store apps open and then quickly close when you press the icons.  I had to go through the restore/jailbreak process a few times to make that go away.

After the jailbreak/unlock, the push notifications (other than email) didn’t work on the 3G iPhone.  This fix worked great for solving the problem!

3G iPhone – Jailbreaking and Unlocking (OS 3.1.2)

Latest news, I upgraded to OS 3.1.2 using blackra1n/blacksn0w!  Process went well, but some things (such as sounds from push notifications) were a little buggy after restoring from the 3.0 backup. A clean reinstall of all the apps, rather than restoring from the backup, helped out quite a bit. More details later.