Bringing my dead iPhone 2G back to life

By on August 8, 2011
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One of the most grueling operations of my life.

For as long as I can remember, if I see an old gadget that’s not working, I always want to make it work again. If nothing else, just to see how that old technology looked like. Not really sure why, but blowing into my “non-working” Atari 2600 cartridges since I was a wee lad may have something to do with this old habit of mine.

I remember my mobile phones since the first one I have ever had, because, well, I never had many. In the early 2000s when the tiny Nokia phones were booming around the world and pretty much everyone I knew in my high school had one, I finally got a break in the form of the Nokia 3310 in 2002. Then came the Nokia 5210 in 2003 which I carried throughout my first 3 years at university. The Motorola RAZR came soon after, because in 2005, that was the phone to have. Next was the Nokia E61i in 2006 which was my first smartphone. And then finally I jumped the bandwagon and got myself an iPhone in 2008.

Of all the phones I owned, not one had given me as much trouble as the iPhone, nor did I like anyone of them as much as the iPhone. Thing is, back when the first iPhone was launched, everyone remembers the AT&T exclusivity deal. Which meant that to use it with my Etisalat sim I had to have a jailbroken iPhone. No big deal really, as long as I had a phone which had a touchscreen, could browse the internet, and had cool looking icons; I was all over it (like the rest of the world). It truly was the Jesus-phone.

I had my fair share of fun with Cydia, and suffered with the random crashes and bugs that came with it. Finally, one day I thought I had enough of this life of “piracy” and that I’ll go legit. So I upgraded my iPhone (called the 2G after the launch of iPhone 3 and 3G) from the jailbroken firmware 3.1.2 to the official and newest 3.1.3. It was only after I got the “No SIM card installed” screen that I realized what a big mistake I made.

That was back in mid-2010. I was sort of getting tired of Apple by that time and all the crap I had to go through to get their product to work. I’m a paying customer damnit! I want everything to work! Except that I had paid some other guy who had bought the iPhone from some other grey importer. So like I said, I was having iPhone fatigue and this “Android” stuff was up and coming, so I then got a Google Nexus One in 2010 once my iPhone 2G locked up on me.

Trust me, I tried various jailbreak methods, but none of them worked. Partly because the Power button on the top doesn’t work all the time (entering DFU mode was mostly blind luck), and partly because there was still no effective 3.1.3 jailbreak at the time.

While the Nexus One was a gorgeous phone, I didn’t like the cumbersome feel of Gingerbread and how terrible the app store was at the time. A few months later I got my iPhone 4 and still love it. Over the weekend though, I was clearing out some stuff and saw the old iPhone 2G just lying there, all miserable and broken.

So I thought what the hell, I’ll give it one more try. What I thought was going to be an easy jailbreak and unlock of 5 minutes turned out to be a 5 hour exercise in frustration as I tried multiple jailbreaks (blackra1n, redsn0w, Spirit, etc.) and none of them seemed to work. After a fluke I somehow managed to downgrade to firmware 3.1.2 (by performing a restore) and then got it jailbroken through blackra1n. I must confess that until that moment I had never been happier to see GeoHot’s face.

Sup, bro!

And so my old iPhone 2G is up and running again. The first thing I noticed was how extremely ugly the screen looks! After the retina-display of the iPhone 4 I just cannot go back to low-res screens anymore. Then I also remembered the miniscule, but still irritating, screen bubbles that were a result of manufacturing defect; but I lived with it back then anyways. The phone itself feels slow as molasses when using Safari. Even the occasional microsecond when it takes time to load messages feels too slow compared to the iPhone 4.

iPhone 2G vs 4. My eyes bleed!

So now the iPhone 2G is up and running, and I don’t know what to do with it. I don’t want to sell it, coz I won’t get much for it, but I don’t want to use it either because it’s just not good enough. So it’s lying on my table again, out of a coma, but life hasn’t gotten any better for it.


About

From auditing to editing, I now test and analyze the latest gadgets and games instead of the latest financial statements. Both jobs are equally intense and rewarding. When I'm not burning up hardware in the name of science, you'll find me nuking in DOTA 2 or engineering in TF2.

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