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It has been almost exactly a year since the world was made aware of the unlocking business for Windows Phone 7. Back then the conversation wasn’t just about the unlocking tools that were being developed, but mostly about where Microsoft stood on the whole thing. Back then, Microsoft was just about as middle-of-the-road as it got, actually going back-and-forth on how they felt about folks unlocking their phones after purchase. It ultimately came down to Microsoft being perfectly okay with it, and actually working together with the group that was behind the whole story in the first place. So that’s all well and good. But now, almost exactly a year later the tool is out, and the unlocking has begun. I gave it a shot, and I would love to say it went by smoothly – but it didn’t.

I had heard that the unlocking tool had been made available to the public, so I went after it. In truth, I don’t really think I have a specific reason as to why I need to have my Windows Phone device unlocked, but I wanted to get it done, and the sooner the better. There are some cool applications (especially Folders) that I would love to try out, so that’s what I’ll do. And, with the way that the ChevronWP7 Labs team was talking up the unlocking process for Windows Phone and how easy it would be, why wouldn’t I give it a shot? At this point in the process, which has ultimately turned out to be quite the process after all, I’m debating on whether or not I should have gone through with it.

First, let’s start from the beginning, as these things usually do. You begin at ChevronWP7 Labs’ website which is about as straight forward as a website can be. On the left you’ll see the option to buy a Token, which will run you $9 USD. Once you buy that token you’ve got the ability to developer unlock your Windows Phone device, which is the whole goal, right? Anyway, you drop your $9 down, get your token, and then you download the necessary software. It should be noted that, before you download the unlock tool from the team, you also need to download the Windows Phone SDK, and the Windows Phone Support Tool. After you get all that downloaded, you’re ready to go.

And that’s it, pretty much. At least, that’s the way it looks at face value. What you’ll notice after you get your Windows Phone plugged in and the process starts, is that you’re put in a queue. If you’ve ever unlocked a phone before, meaning a phone that isn’t a Windows Phone, then you can already see how this is a bit different than those other situations. Those other platforms give you the ability to run the unlock tool yourself in some fashion or another, whether that’s installing the software on your device directly, or something to that effect. This isn’t like that, mainly due to the fact that you’re waiting in line to basically hit the ‘unlock’ button on the tool itself. When I did it (the first time), I was in position 798. I started the process at 12:30pm, and it finished at 9:00pm.

And when I say finished, I mean the process finished with “internal error, retrying…” and that’s it. I let it sit there for another 30 minutes, hoping that something would change and that my phone would be unlocked, but it didn’t happen. I had to restart the whole thing over. Yes, after nine hours I had to start over, and I had absolutely no idea why I had to start over, which made it all the worse. But, I wanted my phone to be unlocked, and I had already paid for the token, so I resolved myself to get it done. I made the necessary changes (stopped the tool, unplugged my phone, restarted the tool, plugged my phone back in), and then sat back and waited. My position at the start this time around? 527.

I started the second process at 9:20pm, and at 11:50pm the status changed from 420 people ahead of me in line, to “down for maintenance, waiting…” Keep in mind that as this message pops up, that’s the only indicator that something is amiss. Everything else about the tool has stayed the same, so I’ve got literally no idea what’s going on, or what is going to change, if anything. I can imagine that something on the back-end, or behind the scenes in general, is being changed in some fashion or another and that I’m just suffering from bad timing, but this isn’t just a process anymore, it’s an ordeal.

I left it there overnight. I did it because I originally thought I was a patient person, but it turns out I’m just a glutton for punishment. When I woke up and checked at 8:00am, the status hadn’t changed. However, what had changed was ChevronWP7 Labs’ ability to let folks know what was going on. On the front page there’s now a (as of the time of this writing), “We are currently improving the ChevronWP7 Labs service. Our website and unlock service are affected and will not work at this time. Please follow @ChevronWP7 on Twitter for latest updates.” That’s all I want, actually. If it isn’t working, fine, just tell me (and everyone else trying to use it) what’s going on, and we’re good to go. Sure it’s annoying that this whole thing started 24 hours ago (pretty much), but if it’s down it’s down, and there’s nothing I can do about it.

And finally, let me just say that this may have worked perfectly fine for many people, and I completely understand that this is just one incident. Unfortunately it had to happen to me. So while I’m going to just stop trying now, I won’t completely count it out. If I ditched every piece of software or technology that burned me the first time I tried, I’d never play with a piece of technology again, and that wouldn’t be any fun at all.

Did you try to use ChevronWP7 Labs’ unlock tool? If you did, were you able to get your device unlocked? Which phone did you use? Let me know in the comments.


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