Workaround for Bell’s Whitehorse iPhone Wormhole

My Whitehorse iPhone in Edmonton

As I posted yesterday, there appears to be a problem with Bell’s new 3G HSPA network in Whitehorse. The core issue seems to be its location setting: for some reason it reports to devices, at least to iPhones, that they are in Edmonton, Alberta. This not only affects location, of course, but also time and date since Edmonton is located one hour ahead in the Mountain Time (MT) zone. (Whitehorse is in the Pacific Time (PT) zone.)

So, on an iPhone in Whitehorse, the following problems will manifest:

  • if time is configured to automatically set itself, the iPhone will be an hour ahead;
  • if you use location services, such as in the Maps app, the iPhone will resolve itself to be in Edmonton; and
  • if you sync with a network calendar, such as MobileMe, the iPhone will automatically set time zone support to the MT zone.

One other risk, which I haven’t been able to verify to date, is that phone calls may be getting assessed as having being made from Edmonton. That could mean that local calls in Whitehorse may be billed as long distance. I’m trying to verify this with Bell.

It’s easy enough to work around the network problems on an iPhone. Unfortunately, you’ll lose one of the device’s coolest and most useful features in the process: location services.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed that Bell irons out the wrinkles in the local network sooner rather than later. In the meantime, here’s how to make your iPhone behave in Whitehorse.

Turn Off Network Services

From your iPhone’s home screen, tap on the Settings app. Then tap on General. Slide the setting for Location Services to off. You’ll get an warning that says, “Turning off location services will disable ‘Find My iPhone’.”

Turning Off Location Services

Click Turn Off.

This effectively makes the iPhone blind in terms of its ability to verify its whereabouts. Which totally sucks, because a lot of iPhone apps, like Maps, Compass, and Camera depend on location services.

For example, when the iPhone’s Camera app takes a picture it geo-codes the image with latitude and longitude information it sources from location services. By turning off location services, your iPhone won’t geo-code images. However, if you leave your iPhone’s location services on in Whitehorse, your images will be geo-coded as having been captured in Edmonton.

When you travel outside of Whitehorse, you can probably turn location services back on.

Manually Set the Time Zone

The two local iPhones I’ve worked with to date were initially configured differently. So your iPhone may already be configured properly. It’s still worth following these steps to verify it.

From your iPhone’s home screen, tap on the Settings app. Then tap on General. Scroll down a little and tap on Date & Time. Slide the switch beside Set Automatically to Off.

(Note: if Set Automatically is not present on your iPhone, as it was not on one iPhone I’ve serviced in Whitehorse, you’ll have to call Bell for support, as there’s a misconfiguration with your device.)

Tap on Time Zone.

In the top search bar start typing Vancouver (it won’t recognize Whitehorse). When Vancouver, Canada, appears in the results list, tap on it.

Tap on Set Date & Time to verify that the current date and time are correct.

Manually Setting Date and Time

It’s important to note that manually setting the date and time hard-sets this information on your iPhone. If you travel to a different time zone, your iPhone will not automatically adjust itself to that new time zone.

I’d recommend that you manually set the date and time in Whitehorse following these instructions. When you travel elsewhere, slide the iPhone’s Set Automatically switch to On and the iPhone will take care of itself.

Manually Set Calendar Time Zone Support

Even if you manually set your iPhone’s time zone, the calendars you work with on the device may resolve to a different time zone. In Whitehorse, follow these steps to make sure you’re working in the right time zone.

From your iPhone’s home screen, tap on the Settings app. Then tap on Main, Contacts, Calendars at the bottom of the screen.  Then scroll all the way to the bottom of the screen where you’ll find a section titled Calendars.

Tap on Time Zone Support.

Slide Time Zone Support to On.

Tap on Time Zone.

In the top search bar start typing Vancouver (it won’t recognize Whitehorse). When Vancouver, Canada, appears in the results list, tap on it.

Manually Setting Calendar Time Zone Support

As with the other workarounds, this one also hard-sets your iPhone’s calendar time zone.

When you travel outside of Whitehorse you should be able to set Time Zone Support to Off, which would enable the iPhone to automatically sense your location and make any relevant time zone adjustments to your calendar automatically.

Wormhole Forever?

As cool as having been graced with a wormhole is, these workarounds are no fun. The iPhone has been carefully designed to take care of its own whereabouts and many of the device’s apps take advantage of that.

So it’s really too bad that the local network has this problem, as it’s reducing the local value of the device significantly. What’s more, travellers who arrive in Whitehorse with iPhones will no doubt experience difficulties with matters of time and location.

Let’s hope Bell doesn’t take too long to sort things out and fix the problems so that iPhones in Whitehorse gain full functionality.

4 thoughts on “Workaround for Bell’s Whitehorse iPhone Wormhole

  1. Pingback: Bell iPhones in Whitehorse Show Edmonton As Their Location | iPhone in Canada Blog - Tips, Tricks, News, and Tutorials for Canadian iPhone Users

  2. I am on Telus and have the exact same issue. I am in London Ontario and it’s showing my location as Richmond hill.

    If I go outside, it’s fine. Usingy the gps I guess

    • I was hoping GPS would override the cell tower misconfiguration in Whitehorse, too. Apparently we have almost no satellite exposure up here, however. I have a second iPhone 3G that I’ve pulled the SIM card out of and it’s totally incapable of locating itself. We used to get great satellite exposure up here, I don’t know what’s changed.

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