A great deal of questions are asked about modifying, repairing, or even "flashing" phones. While perfectly legitimate for topic of conversation, these concepts, however, may be too advanced for beginners.
Therefore, I have taken the liberty of compiling and sharing a general FAQ and How To for those members who are new and are interested in modifying, repairing, or flashing their phones.
I will continue to make additions and changes to this post as necessary. And if you feel like you have anything useful to add to this guide, please feel free and don't hesitate to share!
CDMA and GSM--The General Difference:
CDMA and GSM are two different cell phone technologies that are the de facto standards chosen by wireless telephone carriers. The technical differences are too complex to discuss here; however, the basic difference is that GSM phones use Subscriber Information Modules called SIM cards, and CDMA phones use Preferred Roaming Lists called PRL files (see Glossary below). The easy way to tell the difference is that if your phone does NOT take a SIM card, then it is probably CDMA.
GSM carriers include:
--AT&T (formerly Cingular)
CDMA carriers include:
Some CDMA phones have a slot that looks similar to a SIM card slot. They are either hybrid phones that use BOTH technologies, OR the slot is what is known as an R-UIM card slot. An R-UIM card is a Removable User Identity Module also goes by the name CSIM or CDMA Subscriber Identity Module.
Visit Wikipedia.org for more information on these technologies.
Glossary (in no specific order):
ESN--Short for Electronic Serial Number. A serial number unique to each phone that identifies it to a specific carrier. Some carriers will not activate the ESN of phones that are from another carrier. MetroPCS typically does not restrict activating the phones of other carriers so long as it has not been reported lost or stolen. A lost or stolen phone is "blacklisted" or flagged in the company's database, and service representatives logged-in to a network computer system can identify these phones. The ESN consists of eight hexadecimal (hex) numbers and/or ten decimal numbers.
MEID--Short for Mobile Equipment Identifier--Similar to an ESN number, except with 14 hexadecimal numbers. Newer phones use MEID numbers. MEID numbers can be converted to ESN--the resulting numbers are called a "Pseudo ESN" or p-ESN.
OTASP--Short for Over The Air Service Programming. On most CDMA phones, programming the phone can be done "over the air" by dialing a special code, usually *228 or some variation. Sometimes abbreviated as OTA.
PRL or PRL File--Short for Preferred Roaming List--A small text file containing instructions for how a phone connects to a specific network's radio towers.
WAP--Short for Wireless Application Protocol--Technically speaking, WAP is a mobile framework for data exchange. However, this term is used colloquially to mean wireless Internet access or "mobile web".
MMS--Short for Multimedia Messaging Service--Also called Picture Mail--MMS allows subscribers to send pictures, sounds, and videos to one another with the same ease as text messaging. This is not to be confused with "Picture E-Mail" or "Rich E-Mail", which is the ability to send and receive e-mail using POP or IMAP protocols that can have embedded multimedia.
Brew--Allows you to download games and other applications to your phone. Different carriers have different names for Brew, and all Brew content is proprietary and locked to a single handset.
Java--Like Brew, but non-proprietary.
Mod or Modding--Short for "modifying"--To take the default "factory" settings and features and change, adapt, modify, add to, etc., hence modify. This also includes customizing the phone and its features, such as changing ("skinning") the phone's default theme (colors, fonts, etc.) or "tweaking" the User Interface (UI, i.e., menus, icons, graphics, etc.).
Hack--To make a phone do something it wasn't originally intended to do, especially if it violates rules, company policy, and even THE LAW!
Flash or Flashing--Technically, flashing refers to the overwriting or re-writing of the phone's firmware. The firmware is software in the phone that doesn't change when you turn it off, and it cannot be deleted unless it is overwritten, hence flashed. Colloquially speaking, flashing can also loosely mean making a phone from one carrier work on another carrier.
PST--Short for Phone Service Tool or Tools--Special software used by phone manufacturers to program their phones. Be advised that such software is considered "warez" (i.e., pirated/stolen licensed software) and the acquiring and trading of such software is technically illegal in most countries. You can and will be prosecuted if caught trading warez, and it is against the rules of this website and should not be discussed in the public forums.
"Monster File"/"Monster Pack", ROM, or "Kitchen"--System software that is needed to flash a phone.
MSL/SPC--Special six-digit codes needed to access service programming features on the phone. MSL stands for Master Subsidy Lock while SPC stands for Subsidy Programming Code. Some carriers like Sprint has a unique SPC for every ESN while others like Verizon use all zeros. You may be able to ask a customer service representative to give you this number, but be advised that they may refuse you or ask you why you need it.
Service Programming Menu--A special menu typically hidden from the primary User Interface that allows for "deep programming" of a phone. Typically, a special code is needed to access the service programming menu. Access to the service programming menu can be disabled in a phone's firmware.
MDN/MIN Pair--MDN stands for Mobile Device Number, while MIN stands for Mobile Identity Number. The MDN number is your standard 10-digit phone number including the area code. The MIN number starts with your area code, but it is important to remember that it is unique to each person and can be otherwise totally different from your MDN number. In order for some phones to OTASP, they need a valid PRL and must be set-up with a valid MDN/MIN pair. You can ask a customer service representative and get your MIN number.
SID/NID Pair--Two important sets of numbers that determine what home and roaming towers your phone is allowed to connect to.
The following tools are FREE and 100% legal to use:
Required Skill Level: Moderate to Expert
Description: Use BitPim to interface with your CDMA handset to send and receive files such as ringtones, pictures, graphics, etc. In some cases, BitPim can also read contacts/address books, calendars/appointments/schedules, text messages, and other personal data.
URL: Welcome to BitPim
Required Skill Level: Beginner to Advanced
Description: Use Audacity convert and trim MP3's and other audio files to ringtones.
URL: Audacity: Free Audio Editor and Recorder
Nokia Multimedia Converter 2.0
Required Skill Level: Beginner to Moderate
Description: A simple tool that converts any audio or videos that your computer can play to audio and videos that will play on ANY handset that supports multimedia playback. Be advised: You must first sign-up to become a member of the Nokia Forums to gain access to download the program. They will email you a serial number to unlock the program during installation.
URL: Nokia Multimedia Converter 2.0
Required Skill Level: Moderate to Advanced
Description: A powerful multimedia converter that can convert almost every known audio and video format to audio and videos that will play back on ANY phone that supports multimedia playback.
Q: What Mobile Technology Does MetroPCS Use?
A: MetroPCS is a CDMA carrier.
Q: Can I flash my phone to MetroPCS?
A: If your phone uses CDMA, chances are you can. MetroPCS now accepts the ESN's of certain handsets from other carriers. There are a few exceptions, however, such as if the phone is reported lost, stolen, or otherwise blacklisted. Give the phone's ESN or MEID to a customer service representative and ask if it can be activated first. MEID numbers may need to be converted first to p-ESN (see Glossary above).
Q: How can I get free games on my phone?
A: Unless your phone supports Java, be advised that acquiring Brew games and applications without paying for them is ILLEGAL, and the process for doing so involves understanding how to manipulate the phone's file system. Find a solution at your own risk. Furthermore, Brew games and applications are encrypted and cannot be shared between handsets without illegal modifications to the files or phone.
Q: How do I get files from my computer to my phone and from my phone to my computer?
A: Start by following the instruction guide that came with your phone. You can also visit the the support section of your carrier and also the manufacturer's website. If neither of those methods help then you may consider consulting an expert.
Q: How do I get my MSL code?
A: MetroPCS uses a code called a Master Subsidy Lock code, which unique for every ESN. Follow the instructions in this post:
Q: My phone isn't working correctly--what can I do?
A: Start by contacting customer service and have them reset and refresh all the services on your account. If this doesn't help, then visit the support section of MetroPCS's website.