Dave McCourt thinks some thoughts...

3 (UK) on my iPhone

Posted in: Articles, Miscellany


I’ve been waiting a long time for this – 19 months in fact. See that little 3 in the top-left corner? That makes all the difference to me. Those 3 bars are a revelation.

LIke many others, I was desperate to have an iPhone and so signed-up to O2 as soon as the iPhone 3G was launched. Unfortunately living in the sticks, at the bottom of a hill in the lee of all transmitting masts isn’t great if you want to be at the vanguard of telecommunications. So it turned out that my lovely new shiny iPhone was great for all things app related over my home wi-fi but I couldn’t actually make or receive calls. D’oh.

O2’s network isn’t great – I hardly got a 3G signal even in places like London – but 3’s is pretty good especially for 3G. Outside my front door, I get a full 5 bar 3G signal for 3 and only 2 bars for voice with O2. O2 must have paid Apple a lot of money for iPhone exclusivity – that is the only reason I can see why Apple would choose an operator with possibly the worst 3G network coverage.

I had a 3 mobile broadband dongle and amazingly it worked at home. So I could use broadband internet with my laptop but couldn’t make a mobile phone call with my iPhone. WTF? I just had to bide my time and wait for my 18 month contract with O2 to run its course. When the time came, I unlocked my phone via the O2 site, waited the required two weeks, got my PAC and switched to 3. I was paying 30 quid a month with O2 and 3 offer a SIM-only monthly recurring deal for £15 with more minutes than O2, and matches O2 with ‘unlimited’ data (actually about 1GB per month).

It was a bit of faff changing operators but at least my iPhone is now usable at home. The 3 call centre (based in India) were helpful but as the iPhone isn’t a listed 3 phone they were reluctant to give me any settings. After a while and several referrals to managers, I was given the details. They were the same I’d found via Google anyway but I’ll repeat them here in case they are useful for someone else:

For data access:
iPhone >  Settings > Network > Cellular Data
APN: three.co.uk
Username: keep blank
Password: keep blank

I also managed to get my iPhone set-up for internet tethering (using it as a modem for my laptop). I used the settings from Jelly SMS which has profiles for the major networks. There is a tutorial on the Jelly SMS site but it recommends using USB for connection. I wanted to try out Bluetooth as it would be much easier and more practical when out and about. Apple say it is possible in their marketing, so I paired my iPhone with my laptop and bingo – it works! (Note the Bluetooth icon in the top-right of the photo above and below.) Just remember to turn tethering off when you want to use your iPhone for data like web browsing, etc.


So I now have an iPhone I can use at home, a better call-time and data deal, internet tethering and it is only £15 per month. On O2 that would cost £40. Now maybe I can recoup the cost of those under-used 18 months with O2.