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back to article iPhone may sidestep rubbish caller ID suit

At least one Reg reader believes that Apple will dodge a recent lawsuit tossed at its caller ID function because the iPhone's caller ID function is a piece of trash. Last week, we dutifully reported that a man named Romek Figa has sued Apple for violating his patent on "an automatic incoming telephone call number display system …

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WOW

WOW- I really didn't see that article turning into yet another Apple-bashing "article" from the old Reg

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Jobs Horns

iTitle

"For a company that is so focused on usability, that's pretty rubbish isn't it?"

Um, yes - that seems to sum it up well!

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Ed
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jay.tyler

Despite the word 'rubbish' in the headline?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: WOW

WOW indeed, Jay. Until now I'd not encountered anybody who would be pleased to have to store three versions of their contacts to work around a bug in their mobile phone, even one with supernatural powers of brainwashing. Maybe they're bringing back the "Think Different" regime.

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Jobs Horns

Only from an American

Only an geographically challenged American (most of them!) could design phone book software that doesn't recognise and convert internationally formatted phone numbers.

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Heart

I have a CISCO IP phone that's shit too..

If I get a call from a number outside of the building, it might match it with a directory entry, but it sure as shit can't dial it back. Because it isn't intelligent enough to understand I need to dial 9 for an outside call - and add a 1 to the number if I want to dial out of state.

If I create an entry in my directory that incorporates these requirements - the incoming number won't match.

Even the crappiest mobile phone can understand that you don't need to dial the area code to make a local call. But my super, advanced, digital, VOIP shite doesn't know that either.

Shit even telephone exchanges in the US can't differentiate between a local and long distance phone call. You have to add the '1' to out of state phone calls because they were too stupid to understand the problems of not preceeding every std code with a 0. Therefore if your exchange is so stupid it can't differentiate between a 7 and 10 digit phone number, it can't work out when the difference between a local number and long distance number that starts with the same 3 digits. Unless you add a '1'.

Therefore no one in the US can hit re-dial on freefone numbers or out of state calls.

Obviously things improve with time. Except the 5 lines of code it would take to enable a person to hit redial on every incoming call are too much for a company like Nortel, Cisco or Siemens to manage.

Let me see, if the number is 10 digits it's not a local call. If the number doesn't start with you own state dialing code, say 907, then it's either an out of state or freefone call. To connect the call the difference between an out of state or freefone number is irrelevant.

So my guess in psuedo code would be.

If number=10 then notlocal(number).

notlocal(number)

if number(3) is not equal to local_area_code then long_distance(number).

long_distance(number)

add a fucking 1 to the front of the phone call.

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ian

same same

So, the iThingie is about as good as the patent?

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Coat

Part 24

Looking at that diagram, I see MFI are going to be in trouble with Mr. Figa. Clearly he owns the patent on "Self supporting workspaces constructed from fibrous oak products."

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Anonymous Coward

d'oh

I seem to remember reading some years ago that SonyEricsson mobiles only match the last 6 or so digits of numbers for caller ID - therefore avoiding problems with area codes, international prefixes etc.

Still, doesn't bother me at the moment, I'm still using a Touch and waiting for an HSDPA iPhone (and now also with a software update which fixes caller ID lookup).

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Joe

Bah!

@ Andy Bright - Trouble is, how does the exchange decide when the number has been dialled? My mum dials as slow as anything, so when dialling a national number the exchange might think she wanted a local number.

That doesn't excuse your Cisco phone though - it should be able to figure that out as presumably you dial the whole number before hitting the call button, right?

It's really poor that the handset manufacturers (especially Apple) got this wrong - my 8 year old BT/Siemens home phone matches numbers perfectly!

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simple matter of wording

could Apple not get around the problem by simply saying that their system uses software and not hardware (suggested in the patent explanation (circuitry) ) to conduct caller ID??

does this mean that ALL the other mobile phone companies license this caller id system? i think not.

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Unhappy

add a fscking 1?

Psuedo code is easy, but has some issues when it hits the real world.

here, the Local phone company will soon require 10 digit dialing for local calls, so your first test fails (number is 10 digits, might be local) Soon they will split the city into two area codes to handle the number of telephones. I think New York has already done this. So area code != my area code might not be long distance. Of course, our city currently shares an area code with the southern half of the province, so some calls outside the city will be long distance. Hmmm, same area code = maybe long distance.

and of course, adding a 1 changes the cost of the call. If there will be toll charges, I might not want to return the call, and instead wait for them to call me again. so I will want to make the decision, and not have my phone create toll charges for me.

Other than that, the psuedo code should work fine.

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Nokia had this in 1992

If I remember correctly, the Nokia 2110 (http://www.gsmarena.com/phone.php3?idPhone=24) had this fully working in 1995 (or earlier - ISTR having one in '93).

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Anonymous Coward

Slightly off-topic

Can anyone explain:

- Why every UK phone number starts with 0?

- Why you have to drop the 0 when phoning from outside the UK, which leads to much misdialling and people writing their numbers as +44 (0) 12345....?

I asked Ofcom and they said they didn't know.

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Design Issue

@ Andy Bright - The phone's just a dumb terminal. Your system needs to be configured to add a 9 to all incoming calls, and allow local call patterns out to the pstn.

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Boffin

@Andy Bright

"Even the crappiest mobile phone can understand that you don't need to dial the area code to make a local call."

Nope. Not here, sometime before 1999 Telcel required *all* 8 digits to be dialed, then when we switched to 10 digits, all 10 of 'em. Only after several years the area code was made optional. Good thing though: I only have to dial the 10 digits, as long-distance prefixes here depend on the other side's phone:

01 - Long Distance (like your 1)

00 - International

044 - Local cellphone

045 - Long Distance cellphone

At least my mobile doesn't require all that. Add to this the nice complexity of having variable-length areacode/localphone mixups: Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey have 2 digit area codes and 8-digit phone numbers, the rest of the country has 3 digit areacodes / 7 digit phone numbers... and that's post-2002, back in the 8-digit number days the rules were even more fuzzy (1/7, 2/6, 3/5 areacode/number combinations.)

Of course, I would like my mobile phone to recognize partial phones against the full number stored in my addy book: say 5325-9000 should map to "Ticketmaster (o) 55-5325-9000", for example. If it can't... well lame programming by the handset manufacturer.

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Thank you Anonymous Coward 2

Thanks for posting that review of the psuedo code. I read so many comments in tech blogs about how it would be SO easy to fix some companies brain dead software or sub-routines for some function. These software developers are talented folks whether they be from Apple, Microsoft, IBM, etc or some open source project. If the solutions were actually so easy then the problem probably wouldn't exist. The fact that other phones might seem to be able to figure this out is probably due to the fact that the person using the phone uses it in a location that its rules work in. I'm not saying that Apple shouldn't have tried harder with the iPhone's caller ID functions just that it isn't as easy as some would suppose.

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typical really

Actually, behaviour like that is quite typical of American designed products. The ones made for the European market by people who understand the concept of "international dialing" work fine. The products I have designed by Americans, who seemingly don't understand the concept of "international" at all, are invariably rubbish. Cell phones, regular phones, computer software - all seem to fail basic usability requirements in an international dialing environment.

So it's not just Apple. It's the US developers who have never travelled anywhere.

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Nokia is Safe Too Then

Nokia dont need to worry about being sued over this patent either - my Nokia 6288 cant decipher the similarities between +4407, 004407, and just 07 either.

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Matching algorithm

Most phones do the reverse matching by using the last 6 or 8 digits of the number. This does mean potential overlaps - eg in Australia, mobile numbers are 04 followed by 8 digits, fixed numbers are 02, 03, 07, 08. So it's possible for you to have multiple numbers with common 8-digit suffixes.

BUT the chances of that are so much smaller than mismatches between various ways of putting in a phone number. eg a local number: 98765432 has a full national format of 03 98765432 (which is important if you move interstate) and an international format of +61398765432.

The iPhone does so many things like this "wrong". Its interpretation of SMS is woeful. Nothing other than pure text SMS gets through. Replace in handset flag messages are just silently dropped, etc.

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Re: Slightly off-topic

"Can anyone explain: Why every UK phone number starts with 0?"

I don't know about the UK, but here's an explanation for OZ:

Local numbers are 8 digits.

Area codes *ALL* start with a 0 to identify them as such.

So 0123456789 is (01) 2345-6789 where *1* is the actual area code. (Actually, the area code is 12, but let's not go there.)

If you are dialing within the area, you simply don't dial the 01. (00, but the way, it the international prefix down here)

*BUT*, the 0 is only there to tell the exchange that you're about to dial an area code - since area codes are required for international calls, the 0 should not be dialed.

Same thing goes for the US, for example: the "1" the US resident has to dial is actually the international code for the US - which is why the number from outside the US would look like 0011-1-number instead of 0011-1-1number as you would expect.

You can thank a chronic lack of standards back when phones were spreading for this poor world-wide implementation and patch-job. Every country developed their own phone-number convention and now we have to work around them.

BTW, can someone explain to me why 555 is not a valid area code in the US?

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Really?

I've got all my numbers stored in +44 format in my iPhone, and this hasn't been an issue at all. Incoming UK calls within the UK are correctly recognised. I certainly haven't needed to store numbers multiple times in different formats.

Has anyone else had this problem, or is this story based purely on the experiences of one individual who -- for all we know -- could have cocked something up at his end?

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Boffin

@Slightly off-topic

The 0's are to do with routing. If you dial a number (excluding "special numbers", 999, etc) that doesn't begin with a 0 then your local exchange system knows that it can handle the call itself and that there are six digits in the number.

If it sees a 0 it knows it (probably) needs to connect to another exchange to complete the call, and that there's probably 10 remaining digits.

If it sees a 0 after the first 0 it knows it needs to go international....

The zero gets dropped when dialing international because you don't need to "break out" from an exchange, all international callers must provide the area code....

This made the old mechanical exchange systems work pretty well, and still helps today. Of course international dialers probably should have been forced to put a useless zero after +44 to simplify things ;)

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Everything starts with an 0

The initial 0 in the UK (and many other nations) was originated in the old trunk call days when calls were passed through a series of telephone exchanges rather than routed directly through a single system. The prefix 0 signals that the call is a long-distance internal UK one and is needed because if you just start typing in numbers, the local exchange will think you were trying to make a local call. If I didn't have the 0, then (0123) 456 7890 would not look like number 456 7890 in area 0123, but would instead look like the local number 123 4567.

Mobile phones are point-to-point through a single system, and so the area is redundant. However, if I use my mobile to call a local land line I have to enter the area code, which I don't have to do from another land line. We could only get rid of the 0 if we made everyone include the full area code even when dialling locally from one land line to another.

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@ Andy Bright

"Therefore no one in the US can hit re-dial on freefone numbers or out of state calls."

"Freefone" is called "toll-free" in th USA, and I hit redial on them and on out-of-state calls all the time. What kind of crap phone are you suing, an iPhone, or what? I have a $50 LG (and a $10 BellSouth on the POTS line at home - both work the same).

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Coat

ahem...

@beachboy: Sure, blame America...

@ Ed.: Now you're just confusing the issues with facts...

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Paris Hilton

US 555 codes

My understanding is that these are used in tv/movies so that the general populace doesn't get confused and repeatedly dial some poor chap's number while trying to get through to Jack Bauer...

To add the the UK dialing prefix list, I once heard that from the UK you can use the triple-zero prefix to request an international digital line. Apparently its a little expensive and not used very often.

Paris, because I reckon she has a 555 number.

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Boffin

@ Aubry Thonon

555 is not a valid code in the US because phone numbers in (US) movies or TV are always quoted as "555 xywz". If 555 was a real code, the owners of those numbers would be overwhelmed by the saddos who dial up a number they hear on the gogglebox.

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@Aubry Thonon

555 is a special reserved code designed to be used in American movies and on American TV, so that fictional phone numbers can be displayed without being callable.

There are occasions where producers have forgotten this, and printed a valid number - often resulting in some poor soul being inundated with calls because their phone number was shown on TV.

I believe there are equivalent codes in other countries, but 555 is the well known one.

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Bronze badge

FiveFiveFive

not the cigarettes, but this: http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a1_374a.html

can anyone tell me why the reg comment title field can't start with a numeral?

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Go

numbers game

As other's have said, there is 10 digit (phone# + area code) dialing in many US cities - its been this way for some time. Also, there is "extended" area - which could even be in the same area code ... finally even before 10 digit local dialing, you could dial some area codes, but he calls were local (say like Northern VA (703) into Washington DC (202)).

I could see that American designed phone's suck for caller ID out of the States (even if they are marketed in those areas), but its not because we dont travel. Its cause the f*cking lame ass phone companies charge out the nose - so we either:

a) leave the phone - its nearly useless anyway

b) get a new plan/phone for your European, South American, African, Asian, etc... safari.

c) bring the phone anyway- but rarely turn it on ... like only if you in jail!

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Happy

Well, I don't know what this guy is doing wrong...

...but Chris Gibson is correct. It works fine for me, and I have a healthy mix of +44.. and 01.. numbers in my iPhone address book, and both work fine. I don't know anyone who has had this trouble, either.

Actually, though, I've heard of this before - on hacked iPhones from the USA, which run an early version of the software and aren't designed to be used in the UK. Has someone been a naughty boy?

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stupid americans..

Since the rest of the world obviously doesn't seam to exist for them they should keep there crappy iphones to themselves.

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Caller ID & poorly configured phone systems

I have occasional frustrations here when I get a missed call on my mobile or at home only to check the caller ID and find something like "0323" or "0301". These seemingly random numbers are the ones attributed to International calls and seem to be fairly constant dependant upon the country of origin of a particular call.

This is a vast improvement on a few years back when the mobile phone system would allocate a local mobile number that was not currently being used for a call to incoming International calls. Many times I'd call back the number stored for a missed call and get some confused rice farmer in Kelantan, and then later get a call from my Dad saying "I tried to ring you earlier..."

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Anonymous Coward

10 digit extended areas

In the US and Canada the 10 digit extended area is a joke, I live in Calgary and the 403 area covers a big chunk of southern Alberta (about the area of England, and maybe Wales), so you cann receive a call from the extended area and you hit redial and a nice automated "Telus" voice says I am dialing 'long distance' and must add the 1, arrgg, why does the system not know this, and why cannot the voice say something like press "#" if you want to make the call, but no the phones have a nifty piece of crap software that can let me add the 1 to the number by pressing about 5 buttons, yes it's a motorola.

The same can be said of business cards, email signatures it might say 403 but you physically have to dial it to find out its outside the "local" area, arrgg my brain hurts, 3 lines or code could fix all this, but some telco probably got sued because a call was made long distance without the usual "cup contains hot beverage" style warnings and hence make the user pay

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I'll Wait Until It's Fixed

I've been thinking about buying an iPhone, this just killed it for me.

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works for me

I'm in NZ and my iPhone (with Vodafone prepay SIM) works just fine with various number formats. I seem to recall that very early versions of the software didn't work terribly well in that regard but it's been just fine since .. 1.1.0 or so???

I have a healthy mix of +64 4 1234567 and 04 1234567 numbers in my directory and they all work.

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Jobs Halo

@BeachBoy

"Only an geographically challenged American (most of them!) could design phone book software that doesn't recognise and convert internationally formatted phone numbers."

Its thousands of miles from where I live to any country that uses different number formats, "Canada Uses the same type"

Why should American iPhone users care? Why For 99% of us we would never miss it.

I agree, if you liver in a country that is so small that it can be hidden in one midwestern US state and if driving more than 500 miles takes you into another countries phone exchage, by all means feel free to NOT buy an iPhone, we won't miss you. Promise.

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Boffin

@ ?s about US Area Codes

To the best of my knowledge, when the country standard was being set up (in conjunction with Canada, I believe, since we can dial them like we would New York or LA), 3 digit area codes were used to denote geographical locations, then the 3 digit prefix denoted where in the area code you were (usually a town had more than one, unless it was tiny), and the last 4 digits were unique to the line. Some towns were small enough that you only had to dial the last 4 digits to connect to a neighbor or local business. At the time calling an area code different from yours was always long distance, but calling the same area code as you was not always local. It was a 1 followed by area code, prefix, unique code for long distance calls.

They had a standard way of setting up area codes, so that they always had a 0 or 1 in the middle, such as 612, 704, 314, etc. 800 was reserved for toll-free, free-phone, etc. type calls that the receiver of the call would pay the connection and long distance fees, not the caller. Generally used for businesses who tried to pretend they cared about customers, but mostly used for TV scams and "As Seen on TV" crap. As the US grew, and 800 numbers became popular, they tried to keep the same theme, so you had 866, 877, 888... collectively known as "800" numbers. I believe that people overseas cannot actually call these numbers, which can present a problem when you are calling a US corporation or call center while an American overseas. The area code 900 corresponds to premium rate, or per-minute lines, like the phone sex lines and Miss Cleo, the TV psychic... not exactly for the sound of mind. Somewhere there is an area code for the US Gov't, though since I've never called them, except for the 800 numbers, I have no clue what it is.

As time went on, and 2nd lines (for home offices, teenages (some parents really spoiled their kids) and more recently, dedicated lines for modems and such) and cell phones rose in popularity, suddenly the carefully crafted rules of area codes didn't work so well. The area code, prefix, and unique portion were good enough to cover a lot of people and companies, if they kept one line each. But they ran out, and the x0x and x1x standard suddenly wasn't viable. So now, you have ones like 763, 952, 860, etc. I believe there are still rules that it cannot repeat, unless its an 800 number, so no 111, 222, 333, etc, and there the whole x11 block is reserved. 911 is the national standard for emergency, which means it cannot be an area code, 411 is information, usually charged by connection or minute, and there are other x11 numbers that are either federal or state control. 311 is often a traffic update number, I've noticed.

As to the 555 used in Hollywood, while the area code would not be legit, it also is not legit for the 3 digit prefix anywhere. I know a lot of the same area code rules apply to prefixes, because until the last 10 years, most people only had to dial an area code when calling long distance. Otherwise, the 7-digit number was just fine, which meant the x11 was out of the question. I think the repeating numbers prefix is out, so you wouldn't find 555 or 111... though I think I've seen a 222.

Relevant to the above discussions, an additional problem that Americans, especially the Californian variety, would not have realized is that here in the US, you just dial the 10 digit number for anyone you are calling if you are calling from a mobile/cell phone. No need a 1, no need for the older 7 digit code. Just dial xxx-867-5309 (damn you Tommy Two Tone!) and you are golden. I'm sure it makes the directory logic and outgoing calling logic that much easier... if you neglect the other 5.8 billion people in the world. Again, American's are good at that, yes, but California thinks of itself as the US as a whole, so you have them neglecting pretty much the whole world, minus 35 million, give or take.

Anyway, that was the tour of the American (and presumably Canadian) phone system. It was set up by AT&T back in the day when they controlled the entire telecom world in America, with the generous backing of the federal government. There are points here gleaned from years of living through the change from a 7 digit world to a 10 digit world. I'm sure Whackypedia may disagree on some points, or have varying explanations, especially around the 555 bit. I hope you were all bored silly by it, but I'm just sitting here waiting for something finish up before I can head off to bed.

Mine's the ratty terry cloth robe with cherry burns.

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Paris Hilton

Works fine over here

My iPhone with 1.1.4 works absolutely fine here in the UK, over in Paris France (thats another country for you trans-Atlantic yokels) and therefore everywhere else in the world by implication.

I suspect that chummy with the protest is running a jailbroken unlocked iPhone on some other network with an earlier version of the firmware, as suggested by others here.

I know its not best practise, by surely el Reg could at least check the validity of such claims. Especially as they are so easy to check ahead of publishing. Although that would not be in the spirit of giving the iPhone yet another throughly good bashing.

@Dana - Didn't daddy tell you that size isn't everything? Just over 200 years and you think you know it all!

Paris with a tear in her eye - because I too despair at Reg's anti-Apple stance of late.

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@Dana W

Yes....your attitude really helps fortify the stereotypes people make about how Americans don't know or don't care about anything outside of their own borders.

If you want to talk numbers, at least talk about the right ones. North America (the continent) is estimated to have a population of 340 Million people as of July 2007. Europe on the other hand in the same year had an estimated population of 801 million people. So I have a feeling that whatever your own views, the U.S. companies producing internationally sold equipment would miss the European buyers very much indeed.

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Leading 0's

The easiest way to understand the leading zero rule in European telephone numbers is to think of it as a filestore. At the top level you have directories for the countries: 44 for the UK, 31 for the Netherlands etc, and within those directories the local codes: 20 for London in the UK, 20 for Amsterdam in the Netherlands etc.

Your phone is located in your local area. So dialling a leading 0 means "cd .."

So 020-123456 means ../20/12456, and 0031-20-123456 means ../../31/20/123456

And this explains why you leave out the 0 when dialling an international number; if you dialled 0031-020-123456 it would mean ../../31/../20/123456.

This even works at my place of employment, where to dial an outside line you dial an initial 0.

So clearly, when we get interplanetary direct dialling, the interplanetary code will be 000 + planet code + country code + area code + local number. I suggest 00030 for earth, and 00031 for the moon.

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Rob
Jobs Halo

doh

in my experience my phone has worked exactly as if it was in the uk when abroad, I can dial uk numbers without the +44 as although you are connected to the local foreign carrier you have a uk sim/number, when in Sweden I had to add +3something to call Swedish numbers, so why not set your phone up with numbers how they work from this country only? All numbers in my iPhone begin 0 as they are I'm numbers apart from my mates who live in Ireland whose numbers I have starting +35, works perfectly well for me

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Paris Hilton

@Dana W

"I agree, if you liver in a country that is so small that it can be hidden in one midwestern US state and if driving more than 500 miles takes you into another countries phone exchage, by all means feel free to NOT buy an iPhone, we won't miss you. Promise."

My liver very rarely goes anywhere without me. Although there was this one time in band camp, but that's a whole different story.

Also, please note that the entire world (except the United States, Burma and Liberia) use the Metric (SI) system of units. Since you are obviously Burmese, we will ignore the narrow-minded reference to "500 miles" and assume you were referring to the song.

I must additionally protest your reference to the phone "exchage" (sic) used in other countries. Even third-world countries have made the move to a phone exchange...quite impressive, hey!

Finally, I have a feeling that, just as you won't miss us for not buying the phone of the blind-leading-the-blind, I doubt we will miss you for not posting your shockingly insular views of the rest of the planet.

Paris, because she measures her intelligence in miles-per-gallon.

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Stop

Load of bollocks!

Nope, works fine for me.

Just tested all 3 variations of the UK numbers in my phone book without a problem.

Now off you go and blindly believe and another internet story without checking the facts. I saw Jimi Hendrix busking outside Glasgow airport yesterday.

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Anonymous Coward

CLI

The way CLI is displayed on a mobile PLMN, fixed PLMN and PBX are controlled by the people who operate them. In the UK on telecom networks it is their choice whether a local/international call depending on origination and termination display what CLI. So mobile to mobile in the UK may display 07 ect but a call from germany could display 0049 or +49. Its. The rules are quite complex and if datafilled wrong can cause much havoc!

By the way as telecom kit becomes more like a server and the old telecom experience is lost to SW engineers who don't know how to even answer a call, things will get pretty interesting.

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Happy

N95 - Same problem

Having upgraded (?) my Nokia N95 to the latest (US?) software - which has not been Voda approved/branded yet for the UK - I have the same problem.

I guess this is to do with America not needing the rest of the world?

Battery life however is at least twice as good, and I'll take the phone actually working over knowing who's calling any day...

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Anonymous Coward

@Riccardo Spagni

We use miles here in the UK.

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Eh?

Never seen this issue on my iPhone (1.1.4) in the UK or Sweden, and like many others I have a mix of international and regional codes in my address book.

Furthermore, it helpfully displays two possible names as the incoming call source when two entries in the address book have the same number (e.g. the missus and me). Still only displays one picture though - I expect the 1.1.5 update will have Incoming Caller Picture Morphing enabled.

Anyway, good luck to Mr Figa - a lazy and backward thinking company like Apple need to be pushed to their limits every so often!

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Fix

There was a fix to this problem here:

http://iphone.fiveforty.net/wiki/index.php/AppSupport

which is not currently available.

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