Why I decided NOT to change the iPhone IMEI (I simply switched from AT&T to T-Mobile)

Discussion in 'Jailbreaks and iOS Hacks' started by Granitel, Jul 31, 2011.

  1. Granitel, Jul 31, 2011
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2011

    Granitel macrumors member

    Jul 27, 2011
    A few days ago, I posted reasons WHY someone would legally (in the USA) 'want' to swap IMEI numbers of a smart phone with a dumb phone. Now I'm posting HOW someone can just as legally solve this problem.

    In that 'why' thread there was much discussion (some of it rather unsubstantiated, seemingly from the UK crowd who had, apparently, little understanding of less-Draconian USA laws); but the net was that there are perfectly legitimate and wholly legal reasons (in the USA) for wanting to change the IMEI number of a smart phone to mimic that of your dumb phone.

    Nonetheless, I just want to report that, after all the research, I simply switched carriers from AT&T to T-Mobile and the desire to change the IMEI vaporized by doing so (i.e., this wholly different thread is the HOW I solved the problem - based in part on all the excellent advice you guys expertly provided).

    In summary:
    • AT&T has an IMEI-penalty clause (in the USA)
    • That clause penalizes any IMEI number "assumed" to be of a smart phone (arbitrarily, by AT&T)
    • It matters not (to AT&T) whether that phone 'uses' data (or if the user even 'wants' a data plan!)
    • In fact, you can install a 'data block' and AT&T will 'still' apply the monthly $25 IMEI penalty!
    • That automatic $25/month AT&T IMEI penalty applies to any phone (no matter who owns or bought the phone or how it was purchased) as long as that phone is 'connected' to the AT&T network & if the IMEI number of that phone is on the arbitrary AT&T $25/month IMEI-penalty list
    • One desired solution is to swap the IMEI with that of an (unused) dumb phone in your possession (in this case, a broken Motorola RAZR)
    • By swapping IMEIs, you break no (US) laws; and you have absolutely no chance of causing network problems (the RAZR doesn't work anyway)
    • Yet, simply by swapping IMEIs, you get the desired power of the phone applications, the Internet (via WiFi), the phone hardware such as the cameras, the phone touchscreen etc. of the smartphone ... all this sans the AT&T penalty data plan

    By way of contrasting solutions:
    • T-Mobile does not have any IMEI-penalty clause (in the USA)
    • You can put the T-Mobile SIM card into any phone (no matter what the IMEI number is - so there is no need to swap IMEI numbers) as long as T-Mobile did not subsidize the phone
    • If the 'smarphone' is of an older iPhone, e.g., iPhone 3GS, you only need to jailbreak/unlock the iPhone (so that you can use T-Mobile SIM cards in that iPhone)
    • Again, you cause no network instability & you break no (US) laws; and you get the power of the applications, the net (via WiFi), the cameras, the touchscreen etc. of the smartphone as there is no T-Mobile IMEI-penalty data plan

    In the end, I'm happy to report this solution, suggested by many of you, is cheap, fast, just as legal (in the USA), and, in the end, much easier than learning how to swap the IMEI number of your dumbphone with your smartphone!

    Comments/discussion always welcome, as we learn from intelligent dialog.
  2. hackthatphone macrumors 68000


    Jul 28, 2010
    Ultimately it's up to a judge whether you have broken any laws in the U.S. by changing an IMEI. I see why you wanted to do this, but still. Big business has got you coming and going in this country. Next up, tax on air.
  3. Granitel thread starter macrumors member

    Jul 27, 2011
    It's actually up to a Jury in the United States (or a Judge if you 'voluntarily' elect not to be tried by Jury); but I understood your point.

    Your point is that the laws don't have to be explicit to apply.

    Of course, that means 'any' law 'could' apply to swapping of IMEIs; but, as I've said, I can't find a single one that does apply (bear in mind, nobody is harmed and nothing illegal would have been done (in the USA) by swapping IMEI numbers between two phones that you own).

    To be sure, I repeat, there is no EXPLICIT law in the United States forbidding swapping IMEI numbers any more than there is a law forbidding MAC address cloning in the United States.

    Anything not forbidden by law, is legal, as per the United States Constitution, hence swapping IMEI numbers is perfectly legal in the United States.

    BTW, if there were such a law, the FCC would have known about it when I called them; and, more importantly, this forum would have had a listing of that federal law long ago. It's ironic that the best anyone can find on the entire forum is an FCC declaration that ILLEGAL use of IMEI numbers is illegal (just as illegal use of a hammer is illegal).

    The point of this thread is that, while 'desiring' to swap an IMEI is perfectly legitimate (and legal) in the USA, the actual means to actually do so is more onerous than simply switching carriers.

    I don't disagree.

    The AT&T policy I disagree with is that they 'say' they're forcing the IMEI penalty on people to give them a 'predictable bill'; but that is an untenable justification simply because at the same time they admit they will put a data block on your phone any time you ask for it.

    So, even with my complaint to the FCC about what you refer to as "big business" notwithstanding, AT&T stands by their policy of penalizing IMEI numbers even though there is absolutely no impact to their network from use of them.

    The only way it's going to change is if people leave AT&T. I for one, have stood up for my rights and 'walked' over to T-Mobile with my wallet. (It was a bonus that T-Mobile offers more minutes for slightly less money; but that wasn't the reason for looking at T-Mobile.)

    Luckily, back to the topic, with T-Mobile as the IMEI solution, I now have no desire to learn how to swap IMEI numbers as T-Mobile doesn't care what IMEI number is attached to the phone!

    In fact, T-Mobile sent me my SIM cards and never even asked what phone, let alone what IMEI number, was going to be attached to their network. They don't care.

    In short, unlike AT&T, T-Mobile does not penalize IMEI numbers; hence, the desire to change the IMEI number has now vaporized.

    - I want a smart phone without a data plan
    - Swap IMEI numbers, or,
    - Swap carriers.
    - I swapped carriers as swapping IMEIs appeared to be more difficult to perform than simply swapping carriers.

    Note: I hesitated to respond to you because my previous thread was locked simply because I responded to everyone ...
  4. labman macrumors 604


    Jun 9, 2009
    Mich near Detroit
    your thread was wastelanded before because of it's content. now you start another thread? just not sure what your motives are. I think your battle should be with the courts not Macrumors. ;)
  5. Applejuiced macrumors Westmere


    Apr 16, 2008
    At the iPhone hacks section.
    I dont get it.
    Why You decided NOT to change the iPhone IMEI?
    Even if you wanted to you couldnt change the iphone IMEI.
    It could only be done with the iphone 2G on very early firmware versions.
    Not with the iphone 3G, 3GS or iphone 4.
  6. labman macrumors 604


    Jun 9, 2009
    Mich near Detroit
    now we have the real reason he decided not to change IMEI.
  7. awadeee macrumors 68020


    Jan 21, 2011
    Viper City
    Actually, you have to unlock too. :D

    We all told you to go to T-Mobile. I genuinely believe that you wouldn't have been able to change the IMEI even if you intended to go through with it.

    The T-Mobile solution would have and did get you exactly what you wanted as an end result and I'm glad you chose it. I think the other proposed 'option' would have just led to headaches.
  8. Granitel, Aug 2, 2011
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2011

    Granitel thread starter macrumors member

    Jul 27, 2011
    I thank you all kindly for your erudite advice to simply switch carriers.

    I had the choice of 'any' smartphone IMEI and any cellular carrier.

    That smartphone IMEI could have been of a RIM or an Apple or any other 'smartphone' IMEI.

    However, the kids hankered for an iPhone (any iPhone); but, once I found out from you guys how hard it would be to change the IMEI for the newer Apple products, I took your heartfelt advice - and simply bought a second-hand (i.e., unsubsidized) unlocked IMEI smartphone and then just switched carriers instead.

    I'm confused. You make no sense whatsoever. Sorry. Please clarify what your point is.

    I thank you all kindly for your erudite advice to simply switch carriers.

    I called T-Mobile who sent me SIM cards and didn't even ASK what phone they were going in. In fact, I didn't know myself, as I had yet to purchase the cell phone while I was doing the requisite research.

    Turns out, on my first call on Craigslist, I ended up buying for my kid a $120 iPhone 3G 8GB, which, on WiFi, is working out perfectly. After googling to find out how, I moved all the songs over from a few old iPods using Sharepod freeware and then onto the (larger memory) iPhone using CopyTrans Manager freeware. Netflix came right up. Cydia worked fine. The kids played a bunch of the freeware games. etc.

    Your advice is working so well that, the 'only' problem, so far anyway, with your recommended solution is that I hadn't noticed a slight blemish on the screen of the secondhand iPhone 3G - but I opened a separate thread to help identify a solution for that (hopefully minor) problem:
    * Request advice on what causes this odd-shaped bubble or space under iPhone 3G screen

    In summary, YOU GUYS WERE RIGHT all along!

    a) If we don't like the AT&T automatic $25/month IMEI penalty;
    b) While it's perfectly legal to swap IMEI numbers (in the USA), it's too much trouble;
    c) The recommended solution is to buy a second-hand unlocked smartphone & simply swap carriers!

  9. Granitel, Aug 3, 2011
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2011

    Granitel thread starter macrumors member

    Jul 27, 2011

    One test I just ran last night (about 12 hours long) is that I put the old AT&T SIM card (which is still active) back in the new smartphone overnight to test how long it would take AT&T to make good on their promise to penalize certain IMEI numbers.

    I called them this morning and told them to check my bill, telling them plainly what I had done overnight.

    So far, AT&T didn't automatically add the $25/month IMEI penalty - but - the support supervisor (who said my FCC complaint is clearly noted on my 'record') said sometimes it takes a couple of days for their computer systems to react to the IMEI numbers that are in the penalty listing. She also said it 'might' require me to make a few phone calls (which I hadn't done, having nobody to call in the middle of the night).

    I told them I'd test again tonight and will try to leave the AT&T SIM card in longer to see when the IMEI penalty actually hits the phone (they said a text message will be sent - but - I have text messaging & data blocked so I'm not sure if I'll actually get that text message).

    To save further time & effort, I wonder if anyone else has performed this test who can tell if it actually takes two full days to test with the AT&T SIM card to be penalized the $25/month?
  10. dhlizard macrumors G4


    Mar 16, 2009
    The Jailbreak Community
    What a waste of a thread.

    OP seems to need a dispute with someone over this issue.

    My suggestion is to just stand in front of a mirror :rolleyes:
  11. sbddude macrumors 6502a

    Sep 27, 2010
    Nor Cal, USA
    My sisters 3Gs had no data plan for about 2 months. After that she wanted data so we went to added it. In order to do so, we could not do it online or via the myAT&T app. I had to call AT&T and explicitly ask them to add data AND give the IMEI. They still had the old (non-smartphone) IMEI in their system and did not detect the iphone.

  12. Granitel thread starter macrumors member

    Jul 27, 2011
    You're entitled to your opinion - but how does your opinion help us come up with solutions to the stated problem?

    At least this thread proposes a viable solution that others may easily follow.

    That's very interesting as AT&T CERTAINLY can detect the IMEI of all phones used.

    I know this because after I notified the FCC who notified AT&T who called me up, the AT&T VP was able to tell me the entire list of IMEI numbers I had used on my SIM card.

    Their list was accurate (I have had quite a few cellphones on that account) - and - interestingly to the point - it was recent as of about a day prior to that phone call (because I had fortuitously popped my AT&T SIM card into a friend's phone a day prior).
  13. Applejuiced macrumors Westmere


    Apr 16, 2008
    At the iPhone hacks section.
    Sometimes it takes weeks even months for some to get caught and get the iphone data plan added.
    Its not an automatic within minutes or hours thing. Its when the system will eventually detect it.
  14. Granitel thread starter macrumors member

    Jul 27, 2011
    Thank you very much for this insight into the workings of AT&T.

    The problem, for me, with the desired longer-term test is that my teen now has the new smart phone! That makes the smartphone 'available' only when my kid is sleeping and I can sneak into the room to steal it back!

    It would cost another $120 to buy another iPhone to test (and I'm still trying to figure out what's wrong with the first one before I can consider that).
    - What to look out for in a used iPhone 3G
  15. Granitel thread starter macrumors member

    Jul 27, 2011
    I bought the wrong iPhone simply because I didn't have the right data!

    UPDATE: I only found out today that I 'could' have bought an unlocked iPhone 4 instead of the iPhone 3G or 3GS; but I didn't realize, at the time, that the standard 15 x 25mm mini SIM card can be fitted to the iPhone 4 12 x 15mm micro SIM slot!

    For details, see:

    They even seem to have micro SIM cutters on the market:

    Attached Files:

  16. jdaniel macrumors 65816

    Mar 21, 2009
    Lviv, Ukraine
    you are a bore... you cant keep your post short and sweet you go on and on and on and on...
  17. Granitel thread starter macrumors member

    Jul 27, 2011
    Your added value was ???

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