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Turning an iPod Touch Into an iPhone 175

Posted by kdawson
from the at&t-not-best-pleased dept.
David Burnett recommends an eWeek article on the leading contenders to make an iPhone out of an iPod Touch. Of course your newly phone-capable iTouch needs no activation and no binding carrier contract, just Wi-Fi. One of the companies working in this space, JaJah, is bundling the software with back-end services such as billing, so that carriers — or anyone really — can offer free-calling iTouch phones.
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Turning an iPod Touch Into an iPhone

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  • "Just needs wifi" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nurb432 (527695) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @04:57PM (#26804517) Homepage Journal

    Ya thats nice, but haven't you noticed that open/free wifi is starting to become more and more scarce? If you cant just whip it out at anytime and make a call, its rather limited in its usefulness.

    It would be worse then it was when having a cell phone back in the old days when coverage was spotty at best and you were paying for that privilege.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @04:59PM (#26804555)

      Oh I can just whip it out anywhere I feel like it.

      I'll whip it good.

      *ahem* Now its time to read TFA, to find out what the hell you're talking about.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by defenestr8 (1002010)
      that's interesting, considering that 1) free wifi seems to be more and more prevalent where i live; and 2) no, it wouldn't really be "worse" since you wouldn't be paying for it. other than that, spot on.
      • by nurb432 (527695)

        Not here, its becoming less and less common every time i scan.

        • by dirkdidit (550955)
          I can confirm this in my area (Fargo, ND), too. It seems the average user has learned how to turn WPA on. On the flip-side, I've noticed more and more restaurants offering free wifi.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Tony Hoyle (11698) *

            Even paid wifi is becoming scarce here... with 3G being so prevalent and laptops being offered cheap/free with 3G dongles the use of wifi is dropping.. there's no money in running a hotspot any more. Both starbucks have shut down their Wifi and the only one left is Costa Coffee at £5/hour.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by aaarrrgggh (9205)

              Paid wifi is dying because they charge too damn much for it! I bought an unlocked $250 3G dongle because it would pay for itself on a two week trip.

              The traditional telco model of paying off your infrastructure after 6 months of service and making pure profit until the end of days is why high speed internet is such a mess in the first place. These paid providers need to switch to a pricing model where they keep closer to a 30% margin over operating costs or they will become completely irrelevant.

          • by treeves (963993)
            I was wondering whether more people know to turn it on, or routers are shipping with it default to on now.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by MrCrassic (994046)
        It's not even about that. This "hack" essentially gives you VoIP service, while also:

        A) Making it easier for someone to listen in on your call,
        B) Kill the battery life and
        C) Not make it into a reliable phone.

        If you can't dial 911 in a jiffy in an area that cell phones can cover just as well, then it's useless for emergency situations. Then again, I don't think that this was what the article was attempting to advocate.
    • by the_humeister (922869) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @05:23PM (#26804971)

      They should do this with the Zune, because not only can you whip it out, you can squirt other people too!

    • Ya thats nice, but haven't you noticed that open/free wifi is starting to become more and more scarce? If you cant just whip it out at anytime and make a call, its rather limited in its usefulness....

      Ah, not sure what you're finding as scarce, but the simple fact that you see a set of golden arches every 1/2 mile across the US, McWifi pretty much laid a good blanket across my area. Not to mention coffee shops, malls, gas stations, most major restaurants, they all seem to be offering it now.

      • by Tony Hoyle (11698) *

        I thought mcdonalds had abandoned that project? Of the 3 in this town only 1 ever got it, and that never worked... it brought up a login page but the routing was fubar. They eventually gave up a few months back.

      • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @05:48PM (#26805321) Journal

        Yeah right. Try finding a McDonalds between Harrisburg and circa Uniontown PA, along the Pennsylvania Turnpike (I-76). Out in the mountains it's hard to get just a "normal" cellphone signal, much less Wifi. I think some of ye who make comments like "a McDonalds every 1/2 mile" never leave further than 25 miles from the city. Try driving across North America sometime and you'll see LOTS and LOTS of open space, with, shocking, no technology. I named the PA Turnpike. There's also the wide-open stretch between Richmond and Charlotte. Or the isolated Interstate 81 corridor... which could be nicknamed Redneck Alley.

        Off-topic:

        How do I get my Iphone, Ilaptop, Iwhatever to receive Shoutcast radio while I'm driving in my car? I was thinking maybe I could cancel my satellite Sirius-XM and just go with "free" internet radio.

        • by Wiseleo (15092)

          Well, I listen to http://di.fm/ [di.fm] premium stream on my Windows Mobile phone while driving. It's as simple as going to www.di.fm and selecting mp3, wma, or aac. If you are a premium subscriber, you can login and get your premium options. The thing plays using Windows Media player.

          I would expect syncing up a PLS file from Shoutcast would enable similar functionality on the Apple platform.

          I can also listen to SiriusXM on my phone. :)

        • by anethema (99553)

          Download the free shoutcast app:

          http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?id=299647180&mt=8 [apple.com]

          Get a Tunebase-FM

          http://catalog.belkin.com/IWCatProductPage.process?Product_Id=257270 [belkin.com]

          Load up shoutcast (or whatever other streaming radio app, there are probably hundreds by now), stick your phone on the tunebase (or other charging fm transmitter), pick/tune a proper frequency.

          Done. I personally use last.fm and the tunebase, but it works anywhere there is coverage.

        • Something like FStream [apple.com] ought to work. Kinda depends on the QOS you get with your EDGE / 3G / Wi-MAX while driving.
    • by vitaflo (20507) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @05:38PM (#26805171) Homepage

      Really depends on what your definition of "limited". Of course you're not going to be able to use it everywhere, but if you want that, that's what cell phones are for.

      Not everyone wants (or needs) to be available to take a call all the time. The main times I want to be around a phone is at work (where there's wifi) and at home (where they're also wifi). Anywhere else that happens to have free wifi (like my local coffee shop) is a bonus. For me this would allow me to use the phone 90% of the time where I am normally. That would be enough for me and I wouldn't find it limiting at all.

      • You're confusing "limited" and "acceptable". Limited is true about this mod. Heck, it's true about any communication device: It's limited to functioning when it has a valid connection. "Limited" varies device by device. "Acceptable" varies person to person.
    • by tverbeek (457094)
      I'm an iPod Touch user who finds it very frustrating how often I try to use features like e-mail and the news apps... but can't because I'm so often offline. Trying to use it as a phone would be even more annoying. Looking for a place with free wifi would be a lot like the bad old days of trying to find a pay phone whenever you wanted to call someone. And forget about incoming calls.
    • Good enough. (Score:3, Interesting)

      It wouldn't be as convenient as a an iPhone, but it would me much more convenient than finding a pay phone (remember those?) and much cheaper than the convenience of a cell phone.

      It wouldn't be worse than an "old days" cellphone with limited coverage because you wouldn't be paying for the (false) perception of convenience. You could, conceivably, get the same shitty service for free.

    • I turned my iTouch into an iTouch phone by simply duct-taping a second cell phone that I already had to the back of it. Okay so it's not as thin as an iPhone and I'm probably in violation of some patents of the Samsung Upstage [cnet.com], but hey it has better signal reliability than any of them.
  • by weston (16146) <westonsd @ c a n n c entral.org> on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @05:06PM (#26804677) Homepage

    I'll give 'em credit for following the idea of using a WiFi mobile device with VoIP, but that's really not particularly revolutionary. What's needed next is WiMax or a small portable cell-WiFi bridge. If the bandwidth's high enough (EVDO rev a is almost there), then you have affordable unlimited talk and data...

    • by Barny (103770)

      We have them available in aus, a wireless router with a 3g (using telstras NextG) modem built in, just add power and you have your own portable hot-spot anywhere*.

      *being limited by telstras NextG network of course, which, without a good aerial on the sucker, will be rather limiting.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by batkiwi (137781)

        They have them for any ISP. Linksys WRT54G3G will work with almost any PCMCIA based 3g modem (works with all providers in AU, theyupdate often).

        There's ones by netcomm that work with any USB 3g dongle as well.

    • >...but that's really not particularly revolutionary

      You're right. I've been running Skype on my Windows Mobile phone for years.

      But it sucks. Jitter, low battery life, poor quality, problems with WIFI on the mobile requiring a reboot, limited range.

      Now mind you, I love Skype. It works great on my PC and Macbook. Just not on my mobile device. And from the reviews I've seen of other Skype WIFI phones, I wouldn't be much better off on those.

      What would be revolutionary is if they could offer VoIP on th

  • by mouse_8b (854310) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @05:07PM (#26804687)
    I looked all over my iPod Touch and didn't see a speaker or microphone. No bluetooth either (well, sort of). So you can make a call, but you can't talk to anyone? Am I missing something?
    • Um. No speaker? How do you listen to your iPod music?
    • by Dog-Cow (21281)

      I'm wondering the same.

    • by rob1980 (941751)
      Maybe a combination of jailbreaking the iPod and some doohickey that plugs into the port on the bottom of it?
    • Not the same as unlocking, which connecting to an alternative carrier.

      I forgot whether you can walk out of the store without an ATT contract these days.
      • They're starting to sell them at Wal-Mart, and it's a known trick there to claim that you're buying the phone "as a gift", and that the recipient will set it up with their current plan. I don't know if they have a different policy for the iPhone.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by EvilIdler (21087)

      The second generation of iPod touch has the option to plug in a headset with a microphone, and it also has a speaker. Who cares about the old thing you still lug around? :P

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by mbaer (1099749)

      True. I have a first generation iPod Touch and it hasn't got a mic. However, people have managed to get an external mic working with it, just google for touchmod, these guys have done awesome stuff! They also have made a VOIP client for the Touch, quite some time ago.

    • I had assumed that they at least supported the iPhone headphones that have an inline mic. That wouldn't be ideal, but it would get the job done.

      If this usage picks up, I would really hope that Apple would put enough bluetooth support to support headsets.

  • by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @05:11PM (#26804767) Homepage

    This is why I really hope we get some actually *open* wireless Internet built as a result of the analog TV spectrum being reallocated. I was very disappointed that the government didn't adopt the openness rules recommended by Google in the auction.

    Imagine how great it would be to not be beholden to cell carriers, but to be able to buy any kind of Internet device you want, and use it as a phone if you want. It would open up competition between hardware manufacturers and service providers. Competition is good.

    • by Eil (82413)

      And there's no technical or financial reason that what you propose couldn't be possible. The only roadblock is the cellular telcos throwing millions of dollars at congress-critters to protect their tightly-controlled market from competition.

  • by fermion (181285)
    The new ipod touch has bluetooth and apparently line in capability, so this is feasible. But is this going to back a hacked solution, or is the application going to be on the App store. Since it will not work over the cell network, I can see that it might be.

    Even so it this a reasonable solution. The iPod touch is a $200 gadget. One has to assume that some use outside of the spec are going to be used. For instance, if Apple is not saying it can support a microphone, then one assumes that feature cann

    • by nuttycom (1016165) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @05:23PM (#26804977)

      There's one application where VOIP is significantly preferable to the standard cellular network: international calling. I can use a VOIP app to talk to my cousins in Australia for free; being able to walk around my house or sit at the local coffeeshop while doing so would be nice.

      This isn't about style; it's about adding functionality to a nice little piece of hardware. My cell phone's practically an antique at this point, but I have no need to upgrade it because I don't talk on the phone much. My iPod is a great PDA; adding VOIP capability would just be icing on the cake.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Sechr Nibw (1278786)
      The new iPod Touch has bluetooth? Since when? Not according to the Apple Store: http://store.apple.com/us/browse/home/shop_ipod/family/ipod_touch?mco=MTIxMTE [apple.com] AFAIK, the new features were a physical volume control, microphone, speaker, and new case design.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by EkriirkE (1075937)
        Yes, since 2G. Right now its limited for use with the Nike thingy. The chip is there, and it is in use on the BT frequency, but until its jailbroken we won't know for certain if it uses the BT stack, or can be altered to do so by patch.
      • by anethema (99553)

        No microphone afaik, just a speaker.

    • by MrCrassic (994046)
      Read my first post above. A used iPhone can also be had for not much more money. I got my Dad's at $279, shipped, and then got mine (both with GREAT screens) at $300, shipped.

      While this is an interesting exercise (that isn't totally unique, but interesting for an iPod), it shouldn't be a primary solution for someone who can only afford an iPod Touch.
  • by Goodgerster (904325) <goodgerster @ g m a i l . com> on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @05:17PM (#26804863)
    "What? It competes with our own services!? Delete it from the Store! Then bring me the developers' ashes on a plate with a glass of red wine..."
    • by batkiwi (137781)

      Apple is a mobile service provider now? Who did they buy, or did they just start putting up towers without FCC approval?

      • by djp928 (516044)

        They might as well be, as they're completely in bed with AT&T on the iPhone contract deal. Why sell one iTouch once, when you can sell an iPhone once, then also collect monthly kick-backs from AT&T on the contract?

        • by batkiwi (137781)

          Someone better tell Optus to send AT&T and Apple monthly kickbacks for all the outright iphones they're selling then...

  • by TinBromide (921574) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @05:18PM (#26804887)
    I love the itouch for being all the good parts of the iphone minus the badparts (the crappy phone quality coupled with a crappy network and contract, [never met any serious phone users who praise the iphone's phone quality, uptime, and availability]). Why turn a really cool internet appliance into a kludge-phone?

    I love my ipod touch for cooking, I bring up the browser, look at a recipe, and its right there next to the stove. I love my ipod touch for games when i'm bored on the go. I love my ipod touch for movies on the go. I love my ipod touch for being 99.95% as useful as an iphone near a free wifi hotspot.

    I also love that it can do all of the above without drawing one nano-watt from my real phone's battery.

    PS. the ipod touch does not have a built in microphone or ear speaker, why kludge a microphone attachment onto a beautiful internet appliance/ebook reader/gaming device/portable movie device?
    • by Chabo (880571)

      Have fun when your frying pan spits grease onto your touch screen... ;)

      • screen covers, its nigh impossible to get an itouch without a touch screen, the raw glass is really high friction, doesn't slide well at all.
  • Mic? (Score:3, Funny)

    by ahoehn (301327) <andrew@[ ].hn ['hoe' in gap]> on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @05:28PM (#26805049) Homepage

    I was fairly confused, even after i RTFA, about how you talk into an ipod touch, since they don't come with either a microphone or bluetooth.

    Google helped me find this Lifehacker Article [lifehacker.com] that is way the hell more useful than the linked one. Basically you have to buy some sort of external mic that clips onto your touch, then use your headphones to listen to the call. To me, this awkwardness seems like sort of a deal breaker for the practically of an iPod TouchPhone.

    If there were a way to hack a bluetooth module in there, it could be a whole different deal. You could talk using a handsfree bluetooth device, and in a brilliant circlejerk of redundancy, even tether your internet connection to a traditional cellphone with a data plan.

    • by jayloden (806185)

      I have an iPod touch, and it works just fine with the apple headphones [apple.com] that include a mic. I didn't want to shell out for another pair of headphones, so I use the ones that came free with my Blackberry (also includes a mic) and that works fine too. I believe the earlier generation iPod touch required an external mic attached to the dock connector but the current models can use any headphone/mic in a standard size jack.

    • by jmorris42 (1458) *

      > If there were a way to hack a bluetooth module in there, it could be a whole different deal. You
      > could talk using a handsfree bluetooth device, and in a brilliant circlejerk of redundancy, even
      > tether your internet connection to a traditional cellphone with a data plan.

      That wouldn't be a circlejerk it would be useful. Look at Nokia's Internet Tablet line, the same WiFi+BT combo.

      Advantages:

      1. You get to keep a cell phone, i.e. you don't have a *%^$ing PDA stuck to your ear.

      2. You can lose the

  • I have a Nokia E71 with Fring on there. It connects to Skype, any SIP provider (in my case FreeWorldDialup), I have a virtual number forwarded to my SIP account so I can be called from a normal phone and the caller pays local rates to my mobile no matter where I am in the world, and it logs me onto my MSN and ICQ accounts. The only thing it lacks is IRC!

    Fantastic. And it's so small and light it makes the iPhone feel like a brick. The only reason I didn't and never will buy an iPhone is the proprietary lock-

    • by darjen (879890)

      I've had an iTouch for about a year, and I really wanted it to be a good voip phone. I realized it's probably not gonna happen, because Apple in their infinite wisdom decided not to include a microphone and a speaker in my revision.

      Now I'm going with the e71 instead, it's due to arrive within a week. I'm hoping Fring works well with skype in and skype out, then I will probably get just a data plan with it and skip voice all together. I'll still hang on to my iTouch for browsing and games.

      When those android

  • Already there (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kilodelta (843627) on Tuesday February 10, 2009 @08:20PM (#26807231) Homepage
    I use fring on my Touch and it works great through my Skype account.

    Already have the external mic kit for the Touch so that was the first bit. Got it from sparfun.com
  • There's only one hitch: Without a Wi-Fi connection, the iTouch is still, well, an iTouch.

    Which means it is not really a phone. It's just a wireless enabled device.

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