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The saga of changing from an iPhone 2G... to an iPhone 2G

TJ Luoma, @tjluoma

My wife's iPhone 2G is broken. The power switch always thinks it is being pushed down, which means that the iPhone turns itself off fairly regularly. As you might expect, it's fairly annoying.

Because I have a lot of nice, good, and generous friends, many of whom are also gadget folks, I asked on the Twitter if anyone had an iPhone 2G that was sitting in a drawer after they had upgraded. My friend Jim Ray sent me his. Did I say "friend"? I mean best friend.

I took both iPhones home, swapped the SIM cards, and we all lived happily ever after.

Ha ha! No, not really. Of course it wasn't that easy! As soon as I swapped the SIM cards, the phone showed the "connect to iTunes" logo. When I did that, iTunes said "Hey, congrats! You bought an iPhone! Let's get you setup with a two-year contract with AT&T!" Well, as you may have heard, there are some pretty strong suspicions that a new iPhone is going to be released soon, and the last thing I wanted was a new 2-year contract with a 3 year-old iPhone.

Read on for the rest of the story...

So this morning I took myself to the local AT&T store to ask if they could help me. And they did, and we all lived happily ever after!

Ha ha! Gotcha again. Of course it wasn't that easy! She told me that couldn't help me in the store, but suggested I call 1-800-331-0500 (AT&T wireless customer service) and tell them I wanted to "swap my IMEI" and she wrote down the IMEI of the new iPhone for me.

She also said that she recently sold her used 2G on eBay for $300. "Well, this one is broken," I said to her, referring to my wife's current iPhone. "Mine was more broken than yours," she said, "people want them for parts." So if you do have a 2G sitting in a drawer, it might be worth it to check out eBay, even if it's not in perfect condition.

I came back to my office and called AT&T. I was prompted to enter my wireless number, and then pressed 0 for an operator. Then it offered to connect me to Apple for an iPhone specialist if I pressed "1" which I did with joy and merriment in my heart. I spoke with an Apple rep named Matt who said "Oh, we should be able to deal with this, you shouldn't have to deal with AT&T at all." From your lips to Jobs ears, Matt. After a few minutes on hold, he came back on the line to tell me that my account was flagged so I could go through iTunes without having to reactivate. However, iTunes wanted to restore my iPhone which meant re-downloading the firmware (even though it was current) so I thanked Matt and hung up.

After the restore finished, it all worked perfectly and we all lived happily ever aft-- you're not falling for it this time, are you? Well you're right to be suspicious, because after the restore, I was walked through the activation process again and stopped at the screen which said "Clicking Submit will activate your iPhone and register it with AT&T." I was nervous. So I called the 800-number again and spoke to a different Apple rep who was also named Matt. I explained to him the process we had gone through, and after checking around he suggested that we get AT&T on the line so we could make sure that that my contract wasn't extended.

We called AT&T and got right through and someone helped us immediately. Just kidding; we were placed on hold together for about 5 minutes when an automated voice said "We're sorry, your call could not be completed. Please hang up and try again." And then it disconnected us from AT&T, and me from Matt The Second. He had asked for my callback number in case we were disconnected, but once we were disconnected, he never called me back. That made me sad, Matt The Second. Your momma raised you better than that.

So I called AT&T a third time, spoke with a third Apple rep, Justin (no, not that Justin), explained the situation again, and he called AT&T again, this time placing me on hold until he actually reached someone at AT&T. His name was "Mike" who walked me through the final activation steps, verified that my existing contract was not extended, and -- yes, really -- everything worked out just fine. The new-to-me iPhone 2G is currently being restored in iTunes.

Mike then asked if he could help with anything else. I asked him when the new iPhones were coming, and he said "nothing has been announced, but I hope we'll be able to give out that information soon" (I'm paraphrasing). I then asked about our upgrade eligibility. Despite reports that AT&T has been pushing up some eligibility dates, my 3GS isn't eligible for an upgrade until February 2011, but my wife's 2G is eligible now. (Note: to check your upgrade eligibility date, dial *NEW# -- that's *639# -- from your iPhone and press "Call" and you will get an SMS back with your upgrade date.) "So I can upgrade my wife's iPhone to the iPhone '4' (or whatever it's called) and then put her SIM in my 3GS and my 3GS SIM in the new iPhone?"

Mike paused. "Well," he said, "the SIM in the 3GS can be exchanged with the 2G, because it's the same size, but if the new iPhone doesn't have the same size card as your 3GS, then you'll need to get another one." (Several rumors have suggested that the next iPhone will use the micro SIM card.) "If you go to the AT&T store and tell them what you want to do, they ought to be able to take care of it all right there in the store."

Sure Mike, next you'll be promising me that we'll all live happily ever after.

Somehow I bet it won't be that easy. But if it isn't, here's what we'll do when the next iPhone comes out: we'll upgrade my wife's 2G iPhone to the new iPhone. I'll point my Google Voice number to the new iPhone and point my wife's Google Voice number to the iPhone 3GS. Voilà! When someone accidentally calls me looking for my wife, I'll give them her Google Voice number, and if someone calls her looking for me, she'll give them my Google Voice number.

Apple may be dropping support for the 1st gen iPhone with iPhoneOS 4, but that doesn't make the devices useless. For example, my son is now the happy owner of my wife's old iPhone 2G, which is now basically an "iPod touch plus a camera." He's young, so the frustration of dealing with the broken power button will be a lot easier on him. Since it will live in Airplane Mode from now on, I expect it will get much better battery life.

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