I really liked my Nokia E65, I’ve had it for ages now and it’s treated me very well but the time came to move on. I opted for a HTC HD2. Yes, I know a Windows Mobile device. Shock horror. Well pardon my French but screw you guys! I’ve never actually owned a WinMo device and I prefer to make my own judgements. There is a new HTC phone I’ve got my eye on, the Supersonic which runs Android but it’s not coming out for months and I wanted to try at least one WinMo device before jumping on the droid fanboi wagon.
I’m not going to review my new phone as there are already a zillion reviews out there which are probably better than anything I can write. This is a post about how I got my phone, was screwed by the original owner and have had to jump through the sim unlock and custom rom hoops to get to the final stage of my phone truely being mine.
Buying The HD2
So I bought the phone from Amazon for £350. The original page was called “HTC Touch HD2 Windows Mobile 6.5 Sim-Free Mobile Phone”. Clearly it states Sim-Free in the title. They have since changed the title to “HTC HD2 WM6.5 1GHz Snapdragon Processor GPS Blth Wi-Fi 3G Opera Mobile” and the old page redirects here. Why the need for the title change? Probably because a ton of people in the “New and Used” section didn’t seem to understand the concept behind “Sim-Free”. Most do and post things like “locked to O2” but some don’t and just describe the state the phones in i.e. “Unboxed, unwanted present”. I made an ass out of myself by assuming that the person I bought it from would of mentioned that the phone was locked to the O2 network.
After ordering it took a week for the phone to arrive because the seller suddenly dropped off the map for a while. When it finally did arrive I was very excited, turned it on and was shown the O2 spash screen and then a phone lock code screen. I tried the usual 1234 and my sims lock code and neither worked. So here goes the first email asking for the password. Three days later I got the reply about “oops I forgot to remove that, here’s my password”. I think I could of done a hardware reset on it but I was too busy to tinker with the phone anyhow. Lucky timing. So I get past the first pass word screen and then end up on the Sim Lock screen. ARGH!!! So that’s when I sent the second email off asking why they didn’t include the information about it being Sim Locked in their description. They had no idea what Sim Locking was. Tool.
Sim Lock Frustration
I’ve unlocked all my past phones myself so I thought I could do this one as well. Turns out I couldn’t without having to do some iffy things. I rang up O2 and they said they could send me the unlock code within 28 days for a fee of £15. I thought that was pretty decent of them but didn’t want to wait 28 days. When I read around on this I saw that many people have waited weeks for the code from O2. That left me with trying the various “unlock your phonez” sites. The first one I tried was Unlock Nows HTC HD” T8585 site. Within about 3 hours I had a reply saying they had failed to find my unlock code and that they had refunded my cash. The next site I tried was Unlock Phone HTC. They charged me £21 and took 4 days to respond. When they did it was a total success. They gave me my unlock code and sure enough it worked. So at this point my phone was now unlocked.
Something to point out with these sites is that I always made sure to pay using PayPal. From what I read that meant that I got buyer protection so that if the sites ripped me off then PayPal would re-imburse me. The other thing to keep an eye out for is that the unlock site offers a refund guarantee in case they can’t find the unlock code.
I’m very curious as to how these sites work. From what I read a lot of them are run by the same person and he just has loads of different looking sites. I don’t get how it can take 4 days to generate an 8 digit code. The wording on the failed email is that my unlock code could not be found which hints that there is a database lookup going on. I found a forum post on the xda-dev site where this guy keeps referring to his works database when finding codes. Either the DB is on ancient hardware or there are billions of codes in there, I can’t think of any other reason it would take 4 days for a simple select statement to finish.
Debranding The HD2
The phone still has the O2 branding which from what I can tell is just the spash screen. No biggie right? Wrong?! If you go to the HTC site you can see that the latest firmware (at the time of writing) is 1.66, my phone came with the 1.43 firmware. If I enter the phones serial number into the HTC site it refuses to let me download the firmware as it says I have to get it from O2 directly. OK well the site doesn’t but when I emailed HTC that’s what they wrote. O2 haven’t released their version of the 1.66 firmware yet. I’m impatient and want my phone setup how I want from the start. What to do, what to do? Anyone who does any dicking around with their WinMo device will have stumbled upon the xda developers forum. This is the defacto forum for smart phone development, well from what I’ve seen anyhow. I basically just followed the guide in a single thread called Flashing your First GSM LEO Rom (For Noobs). I’m not going to regurgitate what mskip wrote but I will point out the things I noticed along the way that I think he skimmed over.
Step 1: Install the HardSPL update. This allows me to put a different firmware on the phone. This isn’t the actual firmware, just the step required to do so. I had to do some pre-requisites before this:
- Download and install “Windows Mobile Device Center 6.1”. I run Vista x64 so I got the x64 version.
- Connect the phone via USB and let Windows install all the relevant drivers. You want to end up at the point where it’s acknowledged the phone and is asking if you want to set it up. I opted not to do that at the moment since the phone is going to get wiped at a later stage anyhow.
- Create an account on the xda-development forum. You’ll need to do this so you can download the files they host. Use a valid email address since the site requires confirmation after registration.
The actual guide I followed for getting HardSPL on my phone is here. I did the bit under “Flashing via ActiveSync with USB Lead”. The first time I ran the .exe it got to just before the loading bar appeared and then popped up an error dialog about how the connection timed out. This was because Windows started trying to install a phone driver after I ran the HSPL exe and it took too long. When that happened the phone had already rebooted into the rainbow themed boot menu. All I did was OK to close the error dialog and then tapped Next again to start the process over again. It then worked straight away and in under a minute I had HSPL installed on my phone. It rebooted and all was grand. Be sure to checkout some of the videos linked to on that page so you know what to expect.
Step 2: Install the firmware. I downloaded the World Wide English (WWE) 1.66.405.2 file as that’s the latest official HTC firmware for English phone users. I followed the section titled “Flashing Via ActiveSync” although I had to leave my simcard in as ActiveSync refused to acknowledge the phone was unlocked without it. The firmware I downloaded was an executable. When the update got to about 8% the ActiveSync service crashed in the background. Windows gave me a notification of this where my only option was “Close”. I did that and sat there almost wetting myself wondering why it was sitting at 8% still, had I bricked my new phone already?! Was that service crashing part of the plan? What repurcussions would it cause? Turns out the answer was none. 30 seconds later and it started ticking again. It sped through the update and completed within 4 minutes. The phone rebooted and I was dropped on the HTC spash screen. That took a while to do anything the first time and then it chimed its tune and played the hand writing animation. After that I was taken to the “Pick your provider screen” where I chose Orange. After that was setup I was taken to the “Learn how to use your phone” set of tutorials.
Now it’s all setup. I couldn’t transfer my old contacts, images and sounds from my Nokia E65 straight to the HD2 even though they both said they had successfully connection. I’ve gone old-skool with it instead and simply copied everything to the E65s micro-sd card. I’m going to copy that data onto the HD2 by plugging the micro-sd card into my PC, then copying that onto the HD2 via ActiveSync. I just transferred my number over from my old Orange Pay-as-you-go account to my new Orange Sim Monthly one. I paid about £10 a month on PAYG, although I went up to £20ish quite a few times. Now I pay £20 per month, get 600 minutes, unlimited land line calls, 100 text messages and “unlimited” aka 500MB data connection. It’s a rolling one month contract so I can drop it whenever I want.