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Cingular Treo 650 Unlock Hack

Following yesterday’s release of the new ROM updates for the Sprint and Unlocked Treo 650, a clever cookie apparently figured out how to use these to convert the ROM of a locked Cingular Treo 650 GSM to that of an Unlocked Treo 650 GSM (which has DUN enabled and thanks to the new update also better memory management among others).

I was originally pointed to a post at UneasySilence which offered detailed but somewhat confusing and complex steps to follow for the unlocking procedure.  However, leaving aside the fact that I couldn’t quite understand the process, I also lacked a Cingular Treo 650 to potentially try it on and so when A. Davis (who is quite a bit more of a techhead than I am) told me via email that he was going to give it a go I asked him to share his story with us if he was successful at unlocking it:

Well, thank goodness it worked.   My charger was at home, so I had to wait to do the update after I got home this evening.  As it turns out, I've been sync'ing via bluetooth for so long that I didn't realize my sync cable was bad, so I was forced to wait for it to work over IR, which was painfully slow... but in the end it worked (more on this later).  I followed the instructions from UneasySilence (read these first). Here's a simple run down:

0) A pre-requisite that UneasySilence’s instructions left out: The Unlocked GSM update page at PalmOne mentions upgrading a few applications like DocsToGo and Zap2016 (the only two listed that applied to me) before proceeding with the actual ROM upgrade. On my Treo 650, I upgraded both of these to the latest version.

1) I started with an AT&T (Cingular, but without the Cingular logo on the case) GSM Treo 650 with the firmware. I sync'd over bluetooth and backed up my system. I have a few extra SD cards, so I took one and blanked it out.

2) I downloaded the 1.23 firmware upgrade referenced in the instructions.  I unzipped it and had a new "PALM" folder.  I copied the folder straight to the SD card.  I then set my email clients (GoodLink and Snapper) to not auto-retrieve, turned off my radio, removed my SIM card, and removed my primary SD card, then did a soft reset.

3) The phone booted up and I popped in the SD card with the copied 1.23 update and followed the prompts.  At one point, you have to click OK and it appears to do nothing, but just click it once and if you wait 10 to 30 seconds, it proceeds.  I saw the progress bar, some scrolling text, then it reset itself prompted for my language, reset again, prompted to setup the digitizer, reset again, etc.

4) After all was done I popped in my SIM card and checked the phone version... it was at 1.23. Perfect so far...

5) Next I downloaded the 1.13 Software Updater (for firmware 1.28) for unlocked GSM phones from the Palm website and unzipped it.

6) Next I went into Palm Desktop and created a new user called UPGRADE.

7) First, I removed the SD card containing the 1.23 upgrade and my SIM card, then from my PC ran the executable that does the update (please follow the instructions that palmOne provided for the Unlocked GSM update).  At this point, I found out that my USB sync cable is bad.  I'd been sync'ing over BT for so long, but after loading 1.23, I couldn't get a bluetooth connection working properly.  Thus, with no BT and no USB cable, IR was my only choice (thank goodness I had choices).  I setup hotsync on both ends to use IR and let it run.  For me, this process took close to an hour.  I'm sure it would have been much faster via the cable (more like 20 or 30 minutes).

8) The upgrade instructions tell you to sync and go through the reset hoops, then return to the installer and click next to go to step 2 of 2.  I did this and it prompted to restore my data.  At first, I was a little panicked as it said it was ready to "restore data for user UPGRADE", but I clicked next anyway and was presented with the choice to create a new user or use an existing one.  I chose my normal sync ID and let it run.

It restored all my data, again over IR, in about 30 minutes.  When all was done I was quite disappointed to learn that I had only gained about 1 or 2Mb of extra space (went from 6.1Mb to 7.8Mb free).  But then I went into SnapperMail, copied all my mail to the SD card, deleted all of my mail from the phone, then restored it back from the SD card. Afterwards, I had 17.2Mb free... quite an improvement.

The last thing I did was to go back to Palm Desktop and delete the UPGRADE user, then perform a final hotsync. I popped in my SIM card and regular SD card, did a soft reset, then went over to PowerRun and told it to re-create all my shortcuts. One thing I found was that I had to re-run Dataviz-tech (which I normally leave in phone memory) and told it again move everything to the card.  It prompted about progs already on the card and asked if I wanted to overwrite. I  chose yes and all is working just fine.

I now have Firmware 01.28 and Software: Treo650-1.13-ROW. Also, in my Bluetooth settings, I now have a "Dial-Up Networking" option.

Odds are pretty good that PalmOne will make an update to disable this "update hack" and protect precious Cingular/AT&T from unscrupulous individuals like myself.  As such, I'm putting both the 1.23 zip file and 1.28 zip files on my website for future generations to abuse, errr... I mean enjoy

EDITOR’S NOTE: Please CAREFULLY read ALL instructions posted BOTH here, UneasySilence and palmOne support before proceeding with this unlock hack as we really don’t want anything bad to happen to your beloved Treo…

Finally, if all that you’re interested in doing is to enable DUN on your Cingular Treo 650 then the most straightforward option remains PDANet ($34).  However, you won’t benefit from the improved memory management that optimizes memory handling and frees up more memory.

How-to: Upgrade Locked Cingular GSM Treo to an Unlocked GSM version [UneasySilence]
Finally… Treo 650 Sprint and Unlocked ROM Updates [Treonauts]

UPDATE REGARDING CARRIER UNLOCK: I initially thought that this unlock hack would also unlock the Cingular GSM Treo 650 for use with any other carrier’s SIM card but unfortunately A. Davis reports that:

“I just tried SIMs from Verizon (they now have a worldphone that operates in both CDMA and GSM via a Vodaphone partnership) and from a T-Mobile phone. Both came up with the standard "You can't use this SIM in this phone" message and allowed only for 911/SOS calls.  So, it is confirmed, the unlock hack only unlocks features and removes branding, but doesn't unlock the carrier aspect of the phone. On the plus side, however, I now have BT DUN and I can get future updates whenever PalmOne releases them which is more often than not a lot more frequently than the carriers themselves do.”

[Many thanks to A. Davis for his clear and very useful instructions and also to ‘signedandsealed’ for pointing me to the UneasySilence post.]

Treonauts don’t like to be locked

Posted by Andrew on June 18, 2005 at 11:36 AM

Wireless Carriers

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by Ronin | Jun 18, 2005 11:57:16 AM

I do not believe that this procedure actually unlocks a locked phone, that is, allows you to use a non-Cingular SIM in a Cingular branded phone.

My understanding is that this is a means of getting (1) the Palm NVFS update on a Cingular phone and (2) getting Bluetooth DUN and whatever bugfixes are present in this ROM, i.e. the OS v5.4.7. In essence, you are simply running the ROM of an unlocked GSM phone on your locked GSM phone. Note that as a consequence, you lose the Cingular ROM customizations.

by Andrew | Jun 18, 2005 12:07:28 PM

Thanks Ronin - I'm double-checking this issue about the unlocked SIM now and will update the post accordingly if not correct.

Cheers, A.

by A. Davis | Jun 18, 2005 2:10:12 PM

Interesting. I read something similar in the posts/comments over at Engadget. In short, I don't have a solid answer for you. I do see the difference between having "features unlocked" and having the "SIM unlocked". Personally, I don't care about an unlocked SIM. I care more about having all my features unlocked and being able to use my phone to the fullest. I also care about using PalmOne's ROM updates moving forward as they release them much earlier and more frequently than the carriers (Sprint, Cingular, etc) do. Also, PalmOne is more likely to release one update per fix than a carrier which is going to wait for multiple fixes and roll them out in a single update (and make us wait longer as a result).

As for the ROM customizations... I can't comment on these either. My phone still works after the update. I have BT DUN now and I didn't before. I also have the NVFS fixes without having to wait for Cingular to drag their feet some more. I'd very much like a better explanation of the "ROM customizations". Do they provide any benefit? If my GSM and GPRS/EDGE connections still work, and all my apps still work, I don't see that I've lost anything. If I'm wrong, please tell me how.

As for the unlocked SIM, sometime this week I'll pick up a prepaid SIM from a carrier other than AT&T/Cingular and test it out. I guess that'll give the final answer. From my experience, the only way you could have "an unlocked GSM ROM on a locked phone" is if they burned the carrier's ID into a chip on the phone. I don't think PalmOne would do this as it costs more money in manufacturing. I believe (and I may be completely wrong) that the carrier locking is in the firmware and once you put the unlocked f/w on the phone you are essentially completely unlocked.

As an aside, I'm very glad I have an AT&T provided 650 instead of a Cingular one. The AT&T ones have blue around the screen, but don't say AT&T or Cingular anywhere. The Cingular ones, however, say Cingular on them. So now, my h/w doesn't say a carrier and my s/w doesn't say a carrier either. :)

by Ronin | Jun 18, 2005 2:43:37 PM

I have actually performed this procedure myself and there are rather substantial threads on both mytreo.net and treocentral.com about the procedure and many statements that is does not unlock a Cingular phone.

The install of the Unlocked GSM does not deprive you of any features (as far as I can tell) and the only ROM customization that I am aware of that is special to the Cingular specific ROM is the stub program for XpressMail, the Cingular screens for phone on/off and the disabling of DUN. With the Unlock GSM ROM, you can still get and use XpressMail without the stub in ROM by doing a desktop install, I doubt anyone is really going to miss the Cingular screens and the enabling of DUN is a good thing.

I have not delved into the ROM customizations myself, however, the primary reason to do so is to free up RAM. If you make a custom ROM which removes the various languages and replaces VersaMail with SnapperMail and includes DateBk5 you won't have to store these programs in RAM taking up the precious and limited space (the update certainly makes this less of an issue but can you ever have too much RAM). I have not seriously considered making a custom ROM primarily for time reasons and also because I have the Treo to use it and if I fried it, I would be lost. :)

As to locked versus unlocked - in my opinion there is value to an unlocked GSM phone only if you are traveling abroad. In this case you can buy a pre-paid SIM in the country you are in and avoid international roaming charges. On the other hand, this dovetails into your statement about having all of the features of your phone available for you to use.

On the Cingular phone the Bluetooth DUN can be described as feature locked (it is there but the user do not have access to it). I understand how, even if you never will use DUN that this could bother an owner of a Treo and how the fact that you are also locked out of using other SIMs even if you don't travel often would also be bothersome as well. After all life is all about options.

by Marvin | Jun 18, 2005 5:43:30 PM

Well i tried it and it worked! Wohoo!! and i thought i would have to wait for cingular....

by Arnoldo | Jun 19, 2005 3:33:44 PM

It does not SIM unlock phone.... But it does Unbrand phone!!! Awesome...

by A. Davis | Jun 19, 2005 9:56:37 PM

Ronin - I agree on the carrier agnostic SIM card capabilities for intl travel. However, I'll wager that most Treo users have both voiceplans and unlimited data plans. If you use a different SIM, you can avoid the LD charges, but you also lose data. I've yet to find a SIM that provided data. To me, I don't see the point in saving on the LD charges only to be barred from my email cause I have no data access.

Also, for what its worth, my service plan w/ AT&T Business Wireless provides my voice, unlimited data, and for an extra $30/month, unlimited intl LD & roaming within my base voice plan's minutes. Not bad if you travel frequently. And for an extra $5/month, my data plan works internationally w/ any partnered carrier.

by A. Davis | Jun 20, 2005 1:54:42 PM

I just tried SIMs from Verizon (they now have a worldphone that operates in both CDMA and GSM via a Vodaphone partnership) and from a T-Mobile phone. Both came up with the standard "You can't use this SIM in this phone" message and allowed only for 911/SOS calls. So, it is confirmed, the unlock hack only unlocks features and removes branding, but doesn't unlock the carrier aspect of the phone.

On the plus side, however, I now have BT DUN and I can get future updates whenever PalmOne releases them which is more often than not a lot more frequently than the carriers themselves do.

by Josue | Jun 20, 2005 4:50:05 PM

need help for unlock my treo 650 i recently bought it but it comes locked i live in costa rica and i can´t return it please neeedds help ....i need the codes

by Antoine RJ Wright | Jun 21, 2005 12:07:15 AM

Now see, after reading this, I really feel like there needs to be an update for my T5, and or, Treonauts needs to run a contest for an unlocked 650 that I can win. I feel so much like I am on the outside looking in. But I know that for me, the 650 doesnt meet all of my needs. If it had about 215 more megs of RAM, then I'd be all over it (even without a camera).

by Al | Jun 21, 2005 10:18:30 AM

Mine (att 650) went into a reset loop during the final stage.
Pulling the battery did nothing. I did a hard re-set.
It shows 1.23 firmware, but bluetooth dun is now there.
I set it up to my laptop and went to dsl reports and ran a speed test.
I got 115.2 down and 21 up.
Not too shabby.

Here is the link to the Palm One pdf that describes setting up dun:

by lyle | Jun 22, 2005 12:12:49 AM

Is it possible to get sprint service with an unlocked treo 650 phone?

by Andrew | Jun 22, 2005 7:36:38 AM

lyle - you can't get Sprint service on the Unlocked Treo 650 because Sprint service operates on a CDMA wireless network (also Verizon) while the Unlocked Treo 650 can only run on GSM networks (Cingular/T-Mobile).

It is expected that future versions of the Treo will have dual CDMA/GSM antennas built-in but at present you can't do this.

Cheers, A.

by alex | Jun 22, 2005 5:29:51 PM

is it possible to run into problems in the future after doing this update?

by Rita | Jun 23, 2005 12:18:19 AM

Some similar discussion at mytreo, looks like there are keys now for unlocking Treo 650.

by Kris De Jesus | Jun 23, 2005 6:40:01 AM

Lately we just found out that again this will not unlock the phone but only unbrand the phone. The only problem about these are the risk of the phone might not work and also void your warranty. Fortunatelty mine worked but started thinking what if Cingular came up with a better update. Well I tihnks it's to late for that. Anyways another good trick to unlock the phone is by calling Cingular and ask them the code directly. Going out of town will work and tell them you have to be there for a while and want to use your phone there. They gave mine right away. To do it, type *#*# (the code) # and press the center in the D-pad button. Hope this works. Mine did.. thanks

by Kris De Jesus | Jun 23, 2005 7:05:34 AM

by Matt | Jun 27, 2005 6:04:27 PM

What about future updates? Would the unlock GSM updates work? or Would it even be possible?


by Andy | Jun 28, 2005 4:16:48 PM

Treo 650 unlocking now available here. Unlock from any network for use on any network! Simple online unlock method.

by Bill Julian | Jun 30, 2005 1:49:45 PM

I tried to update and used the SD card as described and I got a localazation error. It took about 2 hours to get my phone back to its origanal state. Thank goodness I backed it up. Any help would be appericated as I really want to update this 650

by cgripp256 | Jul 1, 2005 5:08:53 PM

So. I was about to do this and then got to thinking, "Do I realy want to take the risk?" Well, here is the question, I've had the problem that many users have, echoing of the remote caller's voice back to them. This is NOT due to the volume level, etc. It happens regardless of whether I am on speaker phone, regular or via my bluetooth headset. I have found other posts that say it is common with Cingular (which I have) and not other phones. Has anyone with a Cingular service had this issue, applied the update and found that the problem went away. This is my ONLY gripe about this phone other than DUN not being enabled but that has a fix even if it isn't free. A caller hearing their own echo makes this phone almost unusable though. I've replaced the phone once and the SIM 2 times for rebooting issues. Man this thing is a love hate relationship. I've also noticed my versamail settings and accounts periodically dissappear. Anyone else?


by Nathan Hoover | Jul 3, 2005 7:47:46 PM

We unlock treo 650s
in the states.
Our pricing is upfront
no need to sign up to unlock. You just email us
[email protected]
and we will email you info for unlock. Pricing is $45 USD Quick Simple and easy. This is a actual sim unlock remotely. Done right on your computer in front of you.

by oallos | Jul 3, 2005 10:41:19 PM

Has anyone used any of the pay services for unlocking the 650?

Did it work?

by kaz | Jul 4, 2005 7:20:40 PM

YES it does. i read a threat here guy name SHAWN who is unlocking TREO 650 . he does remote method you do not have to send your treo any where. he charge me 30 USD and it did unlocked my treo 650 from cingular. i treid this method of upgrading to new version. i was not successful. i was kept getting SIM error. email shawn at [email protected]

by Jean | Jul 5, 2005 3:00:22 PM

I had no problems at FastTutorial, but I realized I had to be first plug-in and then put it in "test mode". This is the Treo 650 unlock tutorial if you using GSM server method. http://www.fasttutorial.com/treo650/

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