(For folks who want the latest info on the iPhone 4 specifically, scroll down to the last couple of updates [starting with UPDATE 3, dated August 4, 2010] in this posting; also, most recently, look here)
This is a nerdy blog post coming up.
I am pleased as all get out to report that I have been using my iPhone 3G here in Israel with nary a glitch. No, I am not paying through the proverbial nose by using AT&T's partnership with local providers and thus I am avoiding phone calls costing $1.60 per minute. I actually am using an Orange (Israel) Big Talk SIM card in my phone, the same pay-as-you-go (sometimes known as PAYG) card I've been using for the last few years in an old-style beaten-up "universal" phone, which I can now toss out. Now the main feature I am missing on my iPhone is 3G data connectivity, but that is easily compensated for whenever I walk into a wi-fi reception zone, which abound in Tel Aviv.
I first saw this set-up last year when I was here in Israel on sabbatical, and met some native IT workers brandishing their iPhones-on-Orange-network here in a country that still as of today does not have an authorized seller of iPhones (though that will be changing very soon). In the intervening year since my sabbatical I bought a 3G phone, and then jailbroke it and unlocked it so that I too could saunter around Israel with an iPhone. To "jailbreak" is to alter (read: increase) access to the phone's operating system and perform modifications on the phone not allowed by Apple and its monopolistic app store. To "unlock" a phone is to render the iPhone into a universal multi-band GSM phone. And it works perfectly.
UPDATE 1: December 2009: Ran jailbroken OS 3.1.2, unlocked on baseband 04.26.08 (one iteration behind the current baseband), and everything went well once again like a charm.
UPDATE 2: March 2010: In England for a week and bought a PAYG Orange SIM for my iPhone for 10 BP and picked the dolphin plan for internet and data. Worked perfect! Got 3G reception all over London and in Oxford. Cool!
UPDATE 3: August 4, 2010: Now that I have an iPhone 4, I awaited the new jailbreak (which came out in late July, just days after a Federal court ruled that jailbreaking is not illegal, as Apple had contended), and as of early this morning, the release of ultrasn0w 1.0-1, which unlocks the iPhone 4 running iOS 4.0.1 as well as the completely redesigned baseband. Here is a link to a complete step-by-step guide. Now all I will need is a a cool SIM cutter, which cuts my "old" BigTalk SIM card from Orange Israel down to the iPhone 4's new micro-SIM size.
Whatever you do, do it quickly. Apple is going to soon release an update of the iPhone software that will close the backdoor which allows the phone to be easily jailbroken by simply pointing your Safari browser to a specific website (as specified in the step-by-step). Once Apple closes this "vulnerability" it may take the jailbreakers a bit of time to find the next vulnerability in the operating system.
Everything you need to jailbreak and unlock an iPhone is available as of today (August 4), but hurry up! The give-and-take between the hackers and Apple is always in flux, and the solution of today may not necessarily be the solution of tomorrow. And remember! Once you jailbreak, never upgrade your firmware or your iTunes program on your PC or Mac until the jailbreakers give the "all clear."
UPDATE 4: August 26, 2010: 2 developments:
1) I got a SIM to micro-SIM cutting tool from meritline.com which was drop-shipped from a factory in China. I think the total cost was something like $15. I cut both my Orange UK and Orange Israel SIM cards using the tool and they both worked perfectly in my unlocked iPhone 4 using iOS 4.0.1.
I've looked at the web sites of the 2 main GSM providers in Israel (Orange & Celcom) to see if either offer a micro-SIM PAYG card, and I also checked the major Hebrew language chat board devoted to the iPhone in Israel (http://www.iphones.co.il/forum/) and while I can confirm that micro-SIM cards are sold by both companies (after all, once the iPad was marketed in Israel, micro-SIMs became a necessity), neither company seems to market yet a PAYG micro-SIM. Most of the Israeli forum participants also discuss exactly what I am suggesting: cut your SIM down to micro-SIM size with a cutting tool.
Which brings me to point 2:
2) The dev-team has announced that they will not be providing a jailbreak for the latest iOS, numbered 4.0.2. In the cat-and-mouse game between Apple and the jailbreakers, the decsion has been made by the hackers not to play this round. This is understandable, because the only reason Apple released 4.0.2 was to close out the security "leak" which the jailbreakers had found in earlier iOS's whereby one could jailbreak over the web. The hackers don't want to "waste" an exploit (you can be certain they know other ways to get into the guts of the iPhone operating system) on a trivial upgrade. Which means that if you go out and buy a brand new iPhone 4 pre-loaded with 4.0.2 (which is the case now), you are shit out of luck, because no one I have seen has come up with a way to downgrade a brand new US iPhone 4 pre-installed with 4.0.2 back to 4.0.1. You'll probably have to wait until Apple unleashes an iOS that actually offers tangible improvements (dubbed iOS 4.1 - due out Sept. 8) and the dev-team produces a jailbreak. If you have a 3G or 3GS right now it is not a problem to jailbreak iOS 4.0.2, but you have to use a different method than the OTA (over-the-air) solution unveiled in late July. ha-mevin yavin.
UPDATE 5: Sept. 26: I'm still stuck on jailbroken iOS 4.0.1, even as iOS 4.1 has been widely deployed and Apple has announced that iOS 4.2 is on the way in November. The dev-team simply hasn't released its new jailbreak yet; but rumors on the net suggest it is a matter of days or weeks before the jailbreak for 4.1 is issued. Also, Apple released a new version of iTunes this week, numbered 10.0.1, and according to the experts, it is "jailbreak safe." But avoid all the web sites that offer a jailbreak for you iPhone for money. These are malicious sites.
For us iPhone 4 "unlockers" (people who jailbreak primarily so they can unlock) there may be a further complication - the baseband (the software running the actual phone component of the device) needs to be manageable by the unlocking software, and the simple fact that a JB might soon be available for iOS 4.1 does not guarantee that an unlock will be available. The baseband of 4.1 is different than 4.0.1, and currently unlockable. Remember: Jailbreaking is one thing; unlocking is another. So stay tuned...
UPDATE 6: October 10, 2010: Today on 10/10/10 a long-awaited jailbreak exploit "dropped." The jailbreak for the iPhone 4 running iOS 4.1 came from a surprising source (someone who a few months ago announced he was "out of the business"), is officially named LimeRa1n, and early reports indicate that the system is a touch buggy (there have already been 3 updates to the software today). Most importantly, there is no known method in the jailbreaking software to "hold" the baseband at an unlocakable version. So even though with great fanfare there is now a workable jailbreak for the iPhone 4 running 4.1, I still say "WAIT"!
I've posted a new entry over here, continuing the saga.