The Ashes

Technology, Science and other news
April 10, 2009

Turn your iPod Touch into an iPhone (almost)

Posted by : admin
Filed under : General

The iPhone has taken America by storm since its much-vaunted release. The rest of the world is slowly working on giving a crap, but to the States the iPhone represents the current holy grail of their mobile phone industry. New handsets with high expectations are relentlessly branded ‘iPhone killers’, though has any phone even come close to knocking the iPhone from its pedestal in the minds of its users? Not even close.

However, during these times of economic uncertainty, a little bit of fiddling you can give your iTouch essentially the same features as the iPhone. Sure, you won’t have an inbuilt camera, but you can’t send MMS messages or record video anyway, so what are you really missing out on? The kink in the plan here is that you need to be in range of a Wi-Fi hotspot to use your iTouch-Phone, but with the ever-increasing number of public hotspots, it’s likely that if you live in an urban area you’re probably not too far away from one most of the time. The only money you’ll need to spend is on a microphone, since sadly the iPod Touch has no built-in mic.

The great news is that besides having to spend a bit of cash on your microphone solution, all the software used in this tutorial to give your snazzy iPod Touch the functionality of the iPhone is totally free. So what are you waiting for?

There’s no need to jailbreak your iTouch or modify it in any way – all you need is an iPod Touch on 2.x.x firmware, a pair of headphones with a microphone, a WiFi network, and access to Apple’s App Store so you can download and use Fring – a free app which supports several different chat protocols.

1. Choose your microphone

Philips iPhone Mic Adapter Apple Earphones with Remote & Mic Apple In-Ear Headphones with Remote & Mic
Philips iPhone Mic Adapter
$9.99 from Target
Apple Earphones with Remote & Mic (MB770)
$29.00 from Apple Store
Apple In-Ear Headphones with Remote & Mic (MA850)
$79.00 from Apple Store

I’d recommend the Philips mic adapter, mainly because it costs under $10 compared with Apple’s habitually expensive alternatives, but also because it allows you to use your own headphones. However, you’ll lose out on having the remote. If you prefer a hands-free approach, SwitchEasy’s ThumbTacks might be more your style. Thanks to Apple’s proprietary chip in the new iPod shuffle remote/mic combo earphones, pickings are a little slim at the time of writing.

For 1st generation iPod Touch users, you’ll have to come up with a solution that uses the iPod’s docking port, since the 1st gen doesn’t support line-in through the earphone connection. Sadly, the new fancy Apple earphones are not backwards compatible with the 1G iPod Touch. However, there are some alternative solutions which use the 30-pin dock connecter, such as the popular iVoice3.

Once you’ve sorted out your mic, you’re ready to start setting up your VoIP application.

The alternative to Fring is downloading the new Skype for iPhone/iPod Touch application, which was released last Tuesday. How do the two compare, though? Well, Skype is a very recent release and I’ve found that it tends to crash occasionally, though it’s still very much useable. Fring’s current release (v1.0.0.2.4) is very stable in comparison. Both allow you to import contacts from your iTouch’s contact list, and support both text and voice chat… but what really sets Fring apart is its ability to support not only the Skype VoIP protocol, but also 3rd party SIP accounts, MSN, ICQ, AIM, Yahoo, and Google Talk. It even has plugins for Twitter and last.fm, which make it the winner in my book. However, you can add SkypeOut credit and dial any phone in the world from the Skype application, so if you’d rather stick with a brand you know already, go ahead and download Skype for free and have fun making calls on your iPod!

Personally, I have both, since I prefer the look and feel of the Skype application, but love having the extra functionality of Fring.

2. Install Fring

Search for Fring in the App Store with your iPod, and download and install it for free. Once installed, fire up Fring and register a new user account (or sign in if you’re already a Fring member).
Step 1: Search for Fring in the App Store with your iPod, and download and install it for free. Step 2: Once installed, fire up Fring and register a new user account (or sign in if you’re already a Fring member).
Now simply pick a User ID, nickname, password and email address (only used to retrieve your password if you forget it). 04-addons
Step 3: Now simply pick a User ID, nickname, password and email address (only used to retrieve your password if you forget it). Step 4: Next, link your Fring account to an active Skype account, and a SIP provider if you have one (I recommend voipstunt.com – it’s free!)
Your contact list should now populate with your Skype contacts. Just click their names to call and chat. Click the Dialer and… hey presto! Dial the number you want (don’t forget the leading 00s) and hit the green “SIP” button to dial over your own VoIP provider, or “Skype Out” to use your outgoing Skype credit.
Step 5: Your contact list should now populate with your Skype contacts. Just click their names to call and chat. Step 6: Click the Dialer and… hey presto! Dial the number you want (don’t forget the leading 00s) and hit the green “SIP” button to dial over your own VoIP provider, or “Skype Out” to use your outgoing Skype credit.

Congratulations! You can now make as well as Skype-to-Skype and Fring-to-Fring calls with other users, absolutely free. Add some SkypeOut credit and you can use that, but watch out – if you don’t make a call for 180 days, they’ll wipe off any credit on your account.

I’d recommend signing up with VoIPstunt for your free VoIP service – they offer 100% free calls to the USA, UK, Canada, Australia and many other countries in Europe, South America and Asia (see the full list here). All you need to do is top up your account with a little bit of credit every 120 days to keep it active. Best of all, Fring supports it out of the box – just enter your username and password and you’re away.

3. Get SMS working
Now that we’ve got the microphone and phone sorted, you’re only missing SMS. Well, you’ve got plenty of options here. For a long time there were apps available that granted jailbroken iPod Touch users completely free text messaging, but sadly a lot of these have been banned, obsoleted, or have not been updated in a long time.

Right now, your best options are:

  1. http://sms.dynadel.com (Worldwide, free)
    Open this web page in Safari on your iPod (or even better, make a bookmark and put it on your home screen), choose your country/carrier and type in your friend’s number, type your message and press send. Done.
  2. Using the AIM client (Worldwide, free)
    Download the AIM client for iPhone from the App Store on your iPod Touch. Once installed and signed in, you can text anybody by creating a new buddy contact, and set their AIM address as their complete mobile phone number, with country and area code, preceded by a plus (+), for example: +12065550559. It might be better to log on AIM using your computer so you can add friends’ cell numbers more easily. Now you can simply tap the buddy number on your iPod Touch, compose your message, and click Send. Any replies you receive will show up in your AIM client as part of the chat! This method may also work on Fring, as it supports AIM chat – but I didn’t get round to testing it yet.
  3. http://www.txtdrop.com/iphone/ (US/Canada only, free)
    Open this address in Safari and send a free text to any US or Canada cellphone.
  4. http://www.cbfsms.com (UK only, free)
    Another web-based one, open in Safari and send free UK text messages.
  5. http://www.jellysms.com (Worldwide, paid)
    You can purchase the JellySMS app from the App Store for around $3.49 (there’s also an ad-assisted version for half the price). Then simply sign up with a one of the many free VoIP providers they give you, and you can send cheap text messages. OK, so it’s not free, but it seems to be more reliable than the free alternatives, it’s contained within its own app (which supports landscape texting!), and you can set your own caller ID so you can direct replies to the number of your choice.
  6. Send SMS through email (US/Canada only, free)
    Quite a nice feature of North American providers is that you can actually send an email to a number via a provider, and it will convert it into a text and send it for you. Try using the iPod’s native Mail app and email your messages to the following addresses, replacing {phone#} with the recipient’s phone number. You will have to know which carrier they’re with, however:
T-Mobile:
Virgin Mobile:
Cingular:
Sprint:
Verizon:
Nextel:
{phone#}@tmomail.net
{phone#}@vmobl.com
{phone#}@cingularme.com
{phone#}@messaging.sprintpcs.com
{phone#}@vtext.com
{phone#}@messaging.nextel.com

If you’ve got any other working methods for sending and/or receiving SMS on the iPod Touch, let us know!

Many thanks to everybody who helped me out with info for this tutorial! I got most of the info from the iPod Touch Fans forum and Macrumors – check them out if you need even more info on making the most out of your iPod Touch!

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