Users of imported Google Android smartphones have got a nasty shock, with their mobile phone bills showing massive unexpected SMS usage.
Just like E.T., the T-Mobile G1 smartphones were desperately trying to phone home (via international SMS) to the original carrier T-mobile but did not indicate they were doing so.
One user on Whirlpool found that his T-Mobile G1 (HTC Dream) made 200 International SMS calls whilst another user was hit with 1329 International SMS messages.
It seems the phones were dialling a pre-set T-mobile network number (453) which Virgin mobile treats as an International SMS number at 35c per message. Ironically Virgin probably never even delivered the SMS but charged the user anyway.
The problem with the T-mobile G1 is that buried amongst all of the applications is myFaves which is responsible for clandestinely sending the SMS messages without the phone owner’s knowledge. On the T-mobile network there are no additional charges, but as soon as the phone roams (or is switched) to another carrier, the costs start piling up.
The solution apparently is to jailbreak the phone and flash it with UK firmware which does not phone home. If you have RC29 firmware, that is an option but with the RC30 firmware, a jailbreak is not yet available, and the phone can't be reflashed.
Optus (Virgin mobile’s owner) claims that it is unable to block international SMS without totally disabling all SMS functionality. Nor, they claim, are they able to block specific SMS numbers (even if they don’t work).
Even if you live in the US and bring take your phone overseas you could also be in for some fairly hefty roaming charges. Apparently the T-mobile version of the G1 does not allow you to turn off data roaming even if you manually disable data roaming, data sync and 3G. We understand that the T-mobile G1 always accesses the Internet whether you are sending text messages or placing calls. The advice from T-mobile is “the phone should have be left in the USA to avoid these [data roaming] charges.”
The lesson from this is to be extremely careful when importing any smartphone from overseas, as there may be some carrier features buried in the firmware which if not properly disabled will cost you unexpected data or SMS charges.
iPhone users should also beware. If you take your phone overseas make sure you disable data roaming from the menus or be prepared for some hefty phone bills as applications on the iPhone may also chatter away over the internet without your knowledge.