The Canadian iPhone Waiting Game

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The Canadian iPhone Waiting Game


Canadians have been waiting for the iPhone to arrive since it was announced at Macworld 2007. Some Canadians refuse to wait for homegrown carriers to adopt the revolutionary device. Hell-bent on owning an iPhone by any means necessary, they've hacked, bartered and unlocked their way into possession and control of the coolest phone...well, ever.


Every single iPhone running on Rogers or Fido, the two Canadian GSM networks able to service the phone, has at some point, been unlocked and likely jailbroken (modified to run third-party applications). There are a number of methods available to fool the phone into thinking a local carrier is actually AT&T, and with the recent release of ZiPhone, the hacking process has become much easier. But early adopters faced a significant challenge just getting their phones up and running. Dave Shea, the designer behind the Mezzoblue iPhone icon set and the founder of, was one of the first Canadians to take the plunge.


“I picked up my iPhone in Seattle in early September. On September 11th, a free software unlock method was posted, but it was all sorts of ugly command line hackery. I finally worked up the guts to do it, followed a step by step guide, and after about an hour of scary scrolling black-on-white text on my iPhone’s screen, I had it,” Shea said.


iPhone hacking has since become much easier, to the point where all it takes to unlock, jailbreak, and use the phone is a modicum of patience and ten minutes with ZiPhone, which allows the phone to run on any carrier and opens up a world of third-party applications which extend the functionality of the phone. But in order to hack their phones, Canadians have to get their hands on them first, and they can’t walk into their local Apple Store or any other electronics outlet and buy one, because they aren’t for sale.


Many Canadians live close to the United States border, and opt for either a day trip or a vacation purchase in order to come back to Canada with the coveted device. Others opt to purchase previously unlocked phones from Craigslist or eBay, though usually with an inflated price tag.


Though Apple is the ultimate arbiter of where the iPhone will next be introduced, Canada’s current wireless climate explains much of the phone’s absence. Currently, only Rogers Wireless and its subsidiary, Fido Wireless, run on the GSM network, but every one of Canada’s wireless providers also charge wireless rates that are substantially higher than anywhere else in the world. These rates, which stem from a profound lack of competition in the Canadian market, are being widely touted as a major reason the iPhone has yet to hit the Canadian market, and though there have been slight shifts towards affordability, Canadian data rates are still remarkably expensive.


“I initially activated as a legitimate user on a pay as you go plan with AT&T. The $20 I paid for unlimited data for the month was equal to about $3,500 worth of data on my Canadian plan for the amount of data I managed to use in five days,” Vancouver iPhone hacker John Biehler said.


“For the most part, I just know where the open wifi spots are in my daily routine. If it was available for a reasonable price, I would sign up for unlimited, but at about $0.05 a kilobyte, and with 5 MB as my current wireless package, I could blow through that in a matter of minutes if I wanted it on my iPhone,” Biehler added.


Apple may eventually decide to bring the iPhone to Canada, and wireless providers may yet slash astronomical wireless rates, but until then, the Canadian iPhone experience continues to be a patchwork of hacking, frantically searching for free Wi-Fi and covert trips over the border.




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I have been using an unlocked iPhone here since it was first unlocked in Aug/Sept. When I first signed up for Data with Rogers it was around $100 a month for 250MB. Now I just recently changed to a new data plan that is $65 a month and gives you 1GB of data. It also rolls up to $100 and gives you 5GB of data. I am a very heavy data user and I still have yet to use more than 400MB of data in a month. Without 3G I find it hard to believe that someone would use more than 1GB of data. I think that Rogers is still over charging but to their credit the prices are coming down.

There is a 105Mhz wireless auction next month. The Canadian Gov't has reserved a 40% chunk of the spectrum that they are selling off for new wireless companies to try and spur some competition. Here's hoping but Canada's foreign ownership laws (33%) scare away any large foreign operator from coming in and saving the day.



right. many people still think the new Rogers plans have not gone far enough, thing they do is provide predictability, and reduce the fear of a financial bludgeoning that existed if you went over your allowed limits on the old plans. For example, whereas under Rogers’ old data plan you would pay $80 for 200 MB, but an astounding $4280 if you actually consumed 1 GB, under the new plan you would pay $50 for 200 MB, but only $65 if you actually used 1 GB. that's going to make a lot more people comfortable when signing up for a data plan.


Scott Brookes

the plan i have with rogers is a little more expensive then it would be in the states but there is a way to get at least a semi reasonable rate with rogers.

What you have to do is call Rogers up and tell them you bought a laptop SIM card apdator for your laptop and you want to use it for accessing the internet on your laptop (you can get them on ebay if they ask were you got it)

then ask them for the 1GB Data plan for that adaptor.... it will cost $65 extra on your wireless bill every month on top of your normal charges but 1GB should be enough to cover most people I use my iphone on edge all the time and i never go anywhere near 1GB

youll have to get the APN information to use Rogers EDGE its available online anywhere just google "iphone Rogers APN"

hope that helps.....



That plan is the business one that's $65 in addition to your normal voice plan, correct? I agree that it's a start but it's not exactly priced in a way that'll encourage a lot of people to buy in, which means that mobile internet growth in Canada will still be quite stagnant for the near future.



I gave up in December


No Rogers

I switched away from Rogers and won't go back till they get the iPhone (at areasonble rate).

When their telephone solicitors call to sign me up, I say "Call me when you have the iPhone!" Then they say "we have the iPhone.. we'll give you a blackberry iphone". ... it's pathetic.


Todd Sieling

I have the same thing - they try to tell me they have something just as good, so I let loose with the feature list, starting with Visual Voicemail. The caller usually relents at that point and admits he/she is hearing a lot of demands for the iPhone.

Whatever unholy mix of circumstances is keeping it out of Canada - trademark disputes, data rates, pressure from RIM (which I don't doubt for a second since they can't compete on design or quality) - it's pretty absurd. I'm closer to just buying and unlocking every day, but would love to do it legitimately and yes, double my phone bill to Rogers. It's that math they don't seem to like, the part where I'd pay double my current amount. Crazy. Great writeup Warren.



You guys have forgot to mention The Great Canadian iPhone Petition which now has close to 1,000 signatures @

This just shows you the level of frustration about iPhone's release date in Canada.




Ok this article is written on information from about a year ago. Rogers reluctantly after all other carriers has significantly lowered data rates to be more inline with U.S. providers, although still not on par. I read recently that the reason for no iPhone in Canada is because of a trademark dispute. Another communications company is suing Apple for the iPhone name saying Apple should buy it from them. Of course for a ridiculous amount of money. So Apple I say to you I would buy an Apple Phone just as much as I'd buy an iPhone I don't care what the name is I just want one!!



Can you back up your comment that the article is out of date with links to specific Rogers plans that are "inline with U.S. providers"? If you have one that'll give Canadian iPhone users better data rates, please let us know because all of us are paying through the nose any time we surf and don't have wifi.

Oh, you can't? Yeah, didn't think so. :)



Just today posted an update to a previous article about the trademark dispute and how it may go on for years, ( I doubt it would because I think Apple would rename the phone before paying someone for something they already own, similar to the iTV (Apple TV). And as far as rates go for Rogers data, what I said was that they are MORE inline with U.S. providers, meaning that they are getting better, but still not anywhere near what they should be. And if you'd like proof you should check out the Rogers website under blackberry plans. Yes I know you have to have an approved phone to get those plans and yes I know they are still crap but they are much better then they used to be AND if Rogers did carry the iPhone legally I would think that it too would have special plans the same as AT&T has done in the U.S. And how much data would you use if you had unlimited anyway??? $45 for 1Gig sounds like enough to me but I haven't been able to find out yet :( but it is flexable as well topping out at a crazy $100 dollars for 5gigs I believe. But I guess thats better then paying 5cents per kb.



Apart from some very specialized plans, things are no better with Rogers- some recently promising plans have either been removed or limited so much they're useless!

So, in fact, after almost a year, we are in EXACTLY the same position we were before. There's still a monopoly on GSM service, lead by a company selling data at unjustifiably high rates, with no new competitors on the immediate horizon. Add to that a piss-ante little company that could be holding up the whole works because they're too greedy/lazy/stupid to come up with their own brand identity, and now want a big payout from Apple. Sometimes I just have to ask myself, out of all the countries in the world, why do these things have to happen here?

Cause other than that, it's a pretty awesome place to live...

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