MetroPCS has ended actively offering its MetroFLASH CDMA handset flashing service after being the first US carrier to offer such a service when it was first offered in the carrier’s non-AWS markets beginning in 2008. The carrier has ended the acquisition of licenses for the Houdini flashing service and all dealers are being instructed to cease offering the service in legacy markets, with any and every reference to the service to be eliminated by the end of this month.
When MetroPCS first began offering this service, it was seen as a way for the carrier to attract new customers and to drive activation numbers for dealers, as the carrier’s own handset lineup was not as developed as it is now with smartphones from major manufacturers and the carrier was better known for its lineup of cheap entry level phones. With MetroFLASH, MetroPCS also gave those customers with old CDMA phones incentive to jump from Verizon and Sprint if they were out of contract, but did not want to spend more money on another phone.
However, the MetroFLASH service ended up being so popular that it attracted the ire of other prepaid CDMA service providers such as Virgin Mobile, which took MetroPCS to court and attempted to force the carrier to cease and desist from offering the service on the grounds that MetroPCS was actively committing copyright infringement by flashing Virgin Mobile models for MetroPCS service and doing nothing to address the brand confusion that Virgin Mobile assumed would occur as a result of the flashing service.
In practice, the Houdini flashing service that MetroPCS relied on to flash CDMA handsets was rather rudimentary in its application, as it flashed CDMA phones with new PRLs and messaging center numbers for the bare minimum of compatibility, but did not address the issues that cropped up with the supposed lack of data access, even going as far as offering a disclaimer that stated that the MetroFLASH service did not include data access due to technical limitations, limitations that in reality did not exist and were attributed to laziness on the part of MetroPCS rather than any longstanding data provision issue related to CDMA phones from other carriers.
The introduction of MetroFLASH also heralded the birth of a cottage industry of dedicated hackers and a dev community dedicated to flashing all sorts of CDMA smartphones with full data and messaging support despite caveats given from MetroPCS regarding the lack of data access. In many cases, the flashing community superseded the products offered by Houdini to the point that many third-party dealers would forego strict Houdini use and hire dedicated flashing staff with a better grasp on the MetroFLASH service that could flash nearly every phone with full data and messaging support.
The only real caveat to the service was due to network expansion, as the service was not available in markets which utilized its AWS network for CDMA service and flashed phones could not work on AWS networks due to the lack of the necessary radio hardware, which limited the appeal of the service to the same people that were more interested in hacking and modifying phones for use on MetroPCS.
Ultimately, the longevity of the service which was intended to be a stopgap until it could offer a deeper selection of phones grew into a trump card for the currently struggling carrier, at least until manufacturers started paying more attention to the company, which led to it expanding its handset selection to include smartphones. Now that it has officially ended sales and support for the service in favor of its transition to LTE, the carrier stands as the only CDMA carrier to ever allow a BYOD offering with a flashing service that no other carrier will even look at, let alone bother to respond to competitively.