Patent Watch: Apple Wants to Lock Down Your iPhone


Apple has applied for a patent for "provisioning" services on a mobile device based on a custom carrier profile:

Carrier provisioning profiles are distributed to computing devices via an activation service during the provisioning process. The carrier provisioning profiles specify access limitations to certain device resources which may otherwise be available to users of the device.

What this all means for the carriers is that Apple could essentially give them control of approved and unapproved features and applications that come on the iPhone at the point of purchase. So if Verizon (or China) were to carry the iPhone and they see fit to remove Wi-Fi, it can be done. Or say AT&T wants you to use their AT&T Navigation application and no other GPS applications -- that too can be done. For Apple this means they free themselves from having to create various versions of firmware for each individual carrier.

Sadly for all of us, this could be a very bad sign of things to come. One of the main reasons we love the iPhone is the fact that Apple does not allow carriers to junk up the device with their own bloatware, common on other devices. Unfortunately that may all be coming to an end.

[Thanks for the tip Jeremiah! Via Arstechnica]

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!


Community editor. Tech enthusiast. All-around geek.

More Posts



← Previously

iPhone Games Ported to PSPgo Play Worse, Cost More

Next up →

Apple Working on "Bathroom Web Surfing" iTablet Since 2003

Reader comments

Patent Watch: Apple Wants to Lock Down Your iPhone


Well, it is really already the case. Look at the MMS and the tethering... Both these features are available in the phone but can be (de)activated through carrier settings.
This is actually what is going to push me to have a look at Android. I mean, while I'm stuck with no tethering, all other 3G devices on my network that don't bother asking for permission can do it for years! And my carrier is even selling them, but is probably too busy doing something else to actually think about the iPhones.
This really sucks. The iPhone was all about having a great device. It random carriers can cripple it at will, things are probably going to change for Apple.

Android will be the same thing. Every phone from every for-profit company will, unless/until the carrier-centric model is broken, and even then countries like China will make demands manufacturers will need to follow.
Unless you go Open Moko, pick a phone you like, as they'll all come with varying degrees of corporate cruft.

The carriers will push these updates (update our phones remotely)out without our knowledge just like iphone app developers do today. They should be required to post changes before they change your phone settings. The day this happens is the day I stop paying for the over-rated/over-priced services by giving up on smartphones.

nothing to see here folks - the iphone is still better than anything else on the market - this changes nothing...

This kind of rampant bullsht would, more than anything else, kill the whole iPhone idea for me. Do it and I'm gone.

Android is the future! You watch. Give it 2-4 years and I'll gladly give up my iPhone. If their was no jailbreak I would have given it up long ago. Apple's ego is starting to equal Microsoft

this would be the straw that breaks their back, I would leave, years ago when I used a Pocket PC I had no problems with being able to install whatever application that i wanted, if one didn't work right, I uninstalled it but I was free to chose what I wanted to use, this new system of this corporation choosing what I can and can not install is not the business, I'd rather go back to a plain phone and a Pocket PC with wifi (which is pretty much always around me) where I was free to use it as I please.

that is stupid, i would want to throw this damn thing out the window if they want to do that. what the hell we got the phone for? because it open the way it is. if they gain controle over this and block me from useing my wifi or making it so im unable to use my google map service then whats the point of having the damn thing? that would suck major if you ask me.
why dont they just leave the thing alone and leave it the way it is. thats why there parental controles on the phone. so that we can do this ourself.

Exactly that ! I loved that the iPhone was just running on the network and not by the network. I like AT&T but I would hate to see things like media net on the iPhone as a default all. AT&T isn't as bad as verizon but I dont want any of it.

The comments on this article amaze me. Yes, I understand it's a frustrating topic. However, do people honestly not realize this isn't even news? This already exists and is already used. Like pieroxy said, just look at how MMS and tethering are handled. Look how streaming video apps are handled. I'm not sure how anybody can blame Apple for any of this. Apple wants cell carriers to sell their products, they are forced to allow the carrier to restrict certain functionality. It's the way that corner of the universe has always worked.
Apple may be doing some things wrong such as the many AppStore issues, fighting the jailbreak community to such an extent, and the terrible security on the device. However, this post is old news and way out of Apples control. If you don't want restrictions, buy an iPod. If you want an iPhone but don't want restrictions, take it up with your carrier. If half the people that constantly complained about such policies actually made the effort to tell their carrier how they felt, things would actually change.

Rogers said they would allow Skype over 3G if it wasn't blocked, so maybe this will put the onus on them to do it!

But don't you think Apple couldve thrown their weight around? The reason Apple developed the iphone was because even if a carrier didn't pick it up they wouldve bought airtime and essentially become a carrier themselves. They even made att give certain concessions to pick up this phone! Now it seems that they lost a significant portion of that power.
Apple needs to regrow a pair NOW while people want the phone. They should forget exclusivity deals altogether and threaten to stop selling the phone on a certain carrier if they want to cripple the device.

Not worried about losing WiFi and GPS features under AT&T. This kind of change would constitute a breach of contract and AT&T would lose the best thing that ever happened to them. However, if the iPhone goes to Verizon they will absolutely want to lock it down.
In my opinion Verizon is still thinking old school. How can we charge for every single feature of the phone. This is a reason I left Verizon. Their phones are capable of much more than they allow. They load them up with their software that seriously limits the phones capability.
Why should I pay for GPS when the phone has
GPS hardware built in? Verizon blocks access to the GPS unless you purchase their Navigation monthly service.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not an AT&T lover. I'm just not a fan of Verizon. All of cell carriers should be embarrassed that a computer company came into their yard and showed them what their customers want and presented the iPhone. I just hope we they continue to look forward and dismiss any attempts to limit existing capabilities of the iPhone. This is just my opinion so hopefully no one beats me up over it.

Nooo they better not do this.. Apple don't you have enough money to make your own cell network j/k I wish that will be cool if there was just a apple wireless just for iPhone noooooooo apple don't do it the iPhone is just great how it is. If u do it's just going to be any other smartphone Boo AT&T and verizon..

Rogers said they would allow Skype over 3G if it wasn’t blocked, so maybe this will put the onus on them to do it!

I came from Verizon (BB Storm), and the GPS was not neutered. It worked with Google maps and I had uninstalled the the Verizon app on day one.
I did leave VZ because the BB Storm sucked turds, and their data network is not nearly as fast ast AT&T, but they did not cripple GPS (not sure about WIFI, since the Storm did not have that capability).

Ugh...this was a huge part of the reason the iPhone did so well -- because, even with the restrictions of the App Store, it was still one hell of a lot more "my" phone than an "AT&T" or "Verizon" phone. This would be a huge, HUGE step backwards.
(As for the patent itself, wouldn't Verizon's crippling of features on various models of Blackberry constitute prior art, or did Verizon actually force RIM to remove the hardware components, rather than disable in software?)

This makes me afraid having an iPhone on ATT. They would be the first to sign up for limiting the feature set. In light of the recent open Internet rhetoric from the FCC, this seems like a major step backward if it is in fact true.

This means absolutely nothing I have everything I need with my JB iPhone and as long as my jb isnt affected I could care less what they do. Let us not forget that the iPhone is what makes att so cocky and if ppl decided to turn away things would change fast just look at Sprint. We have the power ppl we dint need the cell phone companies they need us

how about ppl or a class action vs all carriers for including there crapware since we pay for the devices, and would like a sub crapware phone?
its amazing how over the years it went from phones how they are mfg to phones how there mfg to changed by carriers to include there crap, if this is the case, the phone with the carrier crap should be a leased phone not something you go out and buy.
this is like the early days of telephones, nobody owned one, it was supplied by att for a fee, which allows them to do what they wish, with current state i dont get why people dont fight against this crap.
its your hardware, they only provide server, it should be what i put on the device, not the other way around.
whats next isp telling you what os/pc spec you use?

Once again Steve Jobs is flexing his muscle and trying to keep a closed system so Apple can have high earnings. Its the same strategy he used with the Mac to make it one of the most expensive computers on the market.

You're absolutely right about Sprint. They shat on their customers and everybody left. Now they're selling plans equal to (cost wise) the iphone except with unlimited texting, free GPS, mobile tv, and unlimited mobile to mobile across all networks. MAKE THE CARRIERS BEND!

I never had a reason to JB until At&t said the 3Gs could do mms and tethering. I bought it and then they crippled those features through carrier files. They lied to me when MMS would be available and I lost all trust. Keep crippling my iPhone and I will not just JB I'll cancel my contract! ....grrrrr.

Apple is doing this because they want to yet again close the iphone down. VZW did this and when they lost a lot of customers they cut that shit out fast. Now they have phones coming out with wifi and i had google maps on my Storm when i was with them.
The only thing is, this would really be a pain in the ass to enforce, cause Jailbreakers are already getting around Apples shenanigans and doing as they please.

The day they do this is the day I get a different phone!! Don't I pay enough already?!! I pay $110 a month just for my iPhone I'm not tacking on $9.99 for AT&T navigator or any other features they want to block!!!!

I understand all the rants and threats placed here, as I to will be one to chuck the iPhone in my black hole of old cell phones (bottom drawer of my night stand). But that wouldn't make much sense in regards to the Apple app. Store,that would kill many sales if carrier are going to have a say in what apps we can and can't have or use for that matter. Would apple shoot themselves in the foot? I think not! They have put to much time, money oh, and ah pride in to there precious app store to just murder it.

most people purchased subsidized phones. Which technically means you don't fully own the device until your contract is honored in full...

even if you buy an unsubsidized phone, its still loaded with carrier crap.
et fee's cover the subsidizing even when a contract is not fulfilled and whats with signup fees.
this cell industry is really living in its own world.
look at all vz phones, if you pay full retail or it or its subsidized you get the same crapware on it. or any carrier for that matter.
the good part with apple is its only apple's crapware not apple+att or carrier. but still you cant even remove apple's crapware which imo its your phone and if you don't the maps, stocks or weather app you should be free to remove it.

@pieroxy: If this gets through, Android will be a nice option, but till then, there is no guarantee that Google wont go down that road as well.
tbh, I think Google might include that sooner than Apple :/

i agree the cell industry is pretty fucked question there.....and i agree that you should be able to remove apples apps if you see fit.....i never understood why you couldnt...i dont however think that early termination fees and sign up fees cover most subsidies...and yes verizon is the king of this shit which makes me laugh every time someone talks about how they wish the iphone was on verizon

I wonder if this whole thing was caused by ATT's rollout of MMS. Because ATT wasn't ready. it caused Apple to have to deliver different Carrier file versions.
China demands elimination of WIFI because they are so fearful of their population.
Then the rumors about Verizon getting the phone crop up.
Verizon is well known for charging you for everything even if it uses none of their resource. There was a time they charged you to turn on your own bluetooth!
Apple may be sick of dealing with petulant carriers, and instead of having separate software models, and separate phone models, they are going to just foist this whole bag of hurt onto the carriers and wash their hands of it.
STILL, how can Apple patent this when other phones already support carrier specific provisioning?