Breaking: Apple Drops the Hammer on Unlockers

stevo-says-no-to-unlockers.jpg

Bad news, kiddies. Steve thinks we're having too much fun with his expensive toy, and henceforth has abolished the practice of iPhone unlocking. Stop it. Just stop. You know it's wrong, and puts wrinkles in Steve's mock turtlenecks. This bombshell was just dropped from the belly of the mothership...

Apple has discovered that many of the unauthorized iPhone unlocking programs available on the Internet cause irreparable damage to the iPhone's software, which will likely result in the modified iPhone becoming permanently inoperable when a future Apple-supplied iPhone software update is installed. Apple plans to release the next iPhone software update, containing many new features including the iTunes Wi-Fi Music Store (www.itunes.com), later this week. Apple strongly discourages users from installing unauthorized unlocking programs on their iPhones. Users who make unauthorized modifications to the software on their iPhone violate their iPhone software license agreement and void their warranty. The permanent inability to use an iPhone due to installing unlocking software is not covered under the iPhone's warranty.

So there you have it, folks. Unlock your iPhone, void your warranty. This is absurd, and I half wonder if it's merely a deliberate effort by Apple to back out of their warranty obligations.

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Reader comments

Breaking: Apple Drops the Hammer on Unlockers

28 Comments

Ok I'm dense..... Does "unlocking" refer to hacking the iPhone with 3rd party apps such as installer.app or does it refer exclusively to opening up the iphone for use on non-att networks?
Because if its the first one I'm forked!

doesn't apple have the resources to completely prevent any of this? I mean wtf a kid unlocked it...

No. Unlocking refers to the practice of decoupling the iPhone from AT&T service, through the use of hacks and scripts, like the recently released anySIM hack.
But in Apple's dubious world of legal speak, application support may also quality as "unlocking".

I disagree with both your attitude about Apple's position on unlocking iPhones and the disgusting mockup of Steve Jobs flipping off (apparently) iPhone purchasers who want their iPhones unlocked from AT&T's network. Your opinion is one thing, but to express it this way is less than childish and has no merit. Since you think your readers like this stuff, I don't belong here. There are too many good sources of info on the iPhone for me to remain one of your readers. I'll be back one more time to see if you have the fortitude to allow this comment to post unedited. It would surprise me.

This is the second time I've used the above image in the past four weeks, and you are the first person to post a negative response.

In the long run, I think that Apple is only hurting themselves with this decision. I've used AT&T in the past and had so many problems that I switched my family to Verizon; you really couldn't pay me enough to switch back to AT&T. Yet after seeing how a friend of mine had hacked his iPhone to use all the non-phone features (email, web browsing, contacts, calendaring, youtube, music, video...), I was considering buying iPhones for both my wife and I just to use as a "mobile organizer" minus the phone capability. Given Steve Jobs recent statements, I now definitely would not consider buying the iPhone and trying to do what my friend did. Also, there seems to be many developers who were creating some very usable native applications for the iPhone; with this latest decision, Apple really has discouraged these rogue developers from continuing to develop innovative applications. Unfortunately, Steve Jobs seems to be repeating history; the original Mac was also a groundbreaking device just like the iPhone, but it eventually lost out to Wintel because there weren't as many third party applications available for Mac as for Wintel machines.

I think it's time for a class action suit against Apple to clarify this once and for all. Unlocking is legal and wasn't specified before as making the warranty void. Contractual law does not allow normally for retroactive changes. It's time to prod "The Steve" from the dark path he is currently on.

it's all about greed? Can you explain how making FEWER people able to use the phone is greedy?
Its really not complicated: apple is in a partnership with ATT and apple's partner is shitting themselves because the supposedly ATT only phone is already hacked to use other carriers. Apple HAD to respond to this siuation, they probably have a legal duty to try to prevent non-ATT carrier use.
This could be construed as ATT being greedy, but not Apple IMO.

Sounds like Apple is playing scare tactics here. Of course the next update may not work with the current unlockers, however that won't last long.
It seems like this is Jobs/crapple attempt at appeasing AT&T to "do something" about the recent scourge of unlockers. Now they have a public policy and statement in place for legal reasons.

At 41, my iPhone was my first Apple purchase. After reading so much here on the blog and talking to others who have used Apple products for years. It spears that Mr. Jobbs, sometime ago lost touch with his customers and is intent on letting his ego influence his decisions rather than what his loyal customers want and need.

If Steve trashes my phone then I will never buy another Apple product. I'll be patient, someone will eventually build a product that is worthy, but he will lose me as a client for life. He tries to make too much money off his clients…
- Proprietary headphone jack??? What’s up with that?
- $200.00 price decrease? He never planned that?
- Itouch IPOD with crippled address book?

"If steve trashes my phone then I will never buy another Apple product."
In the quiet words of the virgin mary... come again?
Steve is not trashing anyone's phone. If we did as apple wants and suggests and left our iphones alone then a software update from apple won't do any harm to them.
OTOH if you hacked your iphone (an act that I've done myself and is in no way supported or encouraged by apple) and the next *authorized* apple update turns our phones into a $600/$400 paperweights, well that's OUR fault, not Steve's.

We agree about the blog... this is my favorite iphone blog of 3 or 4 I'm currently checking every day just because this one at least has a kick-ass sense of humor :-)

I don't get what all of the huffing is about. Is anyone really reading this?
"Apple has discovered that many of the unauthorized iPhone unlocking programs available on the Internet cause irreparable damage to the iPhone’s software, which will likely result in the modified iPhone becoming permanently inoperable when a future Apple-supplied iPhone software update is installed."
Key word here is "many". There are hack jobs out there that were written by amateurs. They are poor hack jobs. They were written at a blinding speed by kids who, while very intelligent, might not be the most experienced person to hack a device like the iPhone. Its not hard to understand that. Apple is telling people that some of these hacks are written in such a way that an update from Apple could brick it. I'm fairly sure Apple has tested all of these hacks and has probably updated these hacked phones and found out some of the hacks killed the iPhone after the update.
So they are warning you. They are even telling you when the damn update is coming. You should thank them for that, right before you unhack your phone (if you can).
And how could anyone be surprised by this line?
"Apple strongly discourages users from installing unauthorized unlocking programs on their iPhones."
If people who unlocked their iPhone's didn't understand this from day one, that's nobody's fault but their own. That's just plain ignorance, no matter what your stance is on the whole locked cell phone debate.
And while I didn't read every word of the license agreement, I was fairly certain when I first heard about these unlocking hacks that doing such a thing would void my warranty if anything were to happen to it software-wise. I am not surprised by Apple making this perfectly clear to people. No one really reads those long license agreements anyways. But it was always there.
So I say again, I don't get what all of the huffing is about. You took a risk, just like those of us who bought it at $600/$500 as "early adopters", with full knowledge of the possibly consequences of such a risk. And now you are faced with the downside of that risk and its all about Apple's greed?

By the way, love the blog. I dig your writing. And I always laugh at the pics you post. Keep it up!

You are way wrong on this one Kent. You signed contract if you bought an iPhone. When you enter into a contract, you are legally obligated. If you don't like AT&T, or the limitations of the contract, then don't buy an iPhone, or file a suit to legally exempt yourself from the contract if you win.
It's not at all absurd that Apple and AT&T would want to protect their intellectual property and businesses built on the iPhone's success. If it is absurd that this might void the warranty, then why not have at it with code that writes and erases your iPhone's flash memory over and over through thousands of cycles. That would eventually physically damage the gates on the flash, and would render the device damaged. There are things that you can do in software that cause real physical harm.
But more to the point, there are many good reasons why Apple wants to limit and protect their product, and they have every right to do so. You are simply wrong.

I have to chime in on this one :) I can really see only two reasons for the Apple statement.
1. Since the iPhone is 99% OS, by unlocking it you may be required to modify Apple's code, I'm not an unlocker so someone else has to verify that one. Since modifying Apple's OS should be some form of copyright violation I can see their position if that's in fact the case.
2. Apple may have posted the statement in support of it's currently ONLY US carrier for the phone. Some of the impetus could have come from AT$T as well. Only Apple could make the posted statement anyway since it's their OS.
I'm sure Apple couldn't care less if someone bricks their phone by playing with it's software. That's the price you pay for altering your device. Apple should not have to warranty your phone because you decide to f*&k it up by altering it's code. I don't blame them for the post actually. I look at it as a warning that an impending update will likely screw up a modded phone and Apple throwing AT$T a bone trying to keep business in their pocket.
Does anyone know how much, if at all, AT$T threw towards apple for development?
None of the above is meant to recant any previous rantings about Jobs being a money grubbing jaginthebag. That opinion still stands ;)

Bitcher: AT&T Contributed $0.00 toward development. They sunk a considerable sum into beefing up their network, tuning and improving EDGE, etc.
To Kent:
People who purchase automobiles, and new ones at that, and modify them violate the manufacturer’s warranty. Those who choose to purchase a product, purchase it “as is.” If it doesn’t suit them, they shouldn’t buy it.
Those who modify their phones into toasters, Margarita mixers, or adobe brickes, do so knowing full well what they are doing. Apple was extremely clear that they were not opening the phone up to developers.
It seems simple to me:
You modify your phone
1. you void your warranty
2. you should not update your phone with Apple’s newest software.
If the software you want isn’t on the phone, sell it to someone who wants it, use it as a boat anchor, but don’t make the manufacturer the enemy when its your own expectations that are at fault.
– Mikie

The updates are optional right? You don't have to install them. So what's all the fuss about. I live in the UK and have been using an unlocked iPhone for a few weeks.
I am perfectly happily with this device as it is, sans update. It beats any other phone I have owned (and there are many) hands down. No desperate need for an update as far as I can see.
So I am perfectly happy to let the kids see what happens after the update drops, and then do whatever seems to work once the dust has settled. If it seems worth it.
If this phone goes wrong in the future, it will be getting reset, and sent back. Warranty intact as far as I can see.
All in all, this seems like a load of hot air to passify AT&T.
As for the occassional bizarre apple fantwat rantings here. They are as brainless and sheep-like as ever. I love apple products, but can't for the life of me figure these people out..
Keep up the good work on the blog.

We all knew this was coming when we hacked our iPhones and I personally knew the risks going into it. With 4 phones locked into T-Mobile I was willing to take the risk of voiding my warranty to save myself $50/month to drop AT&T. I also made the decision that I was pleased enough with the iPhone in its current state to forget about any future updates since I knew Apple would try to lock us out of future updates.
This next update will have the WiFi iTunes store, but I imagine not too much else except for minor bug fixes. I don't care about the WiFi store since I don't buy iTunes music anyways. There hasn't been anything substantial with the first two minor updates and I really don't expect much for this first generation iPhone. There are lots of things that could be improved upon (Exchange email support, Flash in the browser, etc), but I wouldn't personally count on this anytime soon.
Didn't Apple state the iPhone couldn't be unlocked? And look what the hackers did. I will just sit tight and let those awesome hackers test out the next update before I make any moves with my T-Mobile iPhone. I am quite happy with it and love that I can use it with my T-Mobile Family Plan and my unlimited text messaging.

I really agree with Fluke's comments here... what is all the posturing and huffing about? Apple and ATT are watching each other's interests, period. And how can ANYONE think that they could hack their iphone and NOT have Apple say "If you hack your iphone our updates might brick it, sorry that's YOUR problem not ours..."

I bought an iphone last week, and it should be arriving any day now. I live in Brazil, so I won't be able to use it unless I unlock it.
In light of this announcement, what should I do: just unlock it away, or wait to see if the iphone dev team will be able to unlock it again..?

fabio - If it were me, I would definitely wait until the update is released this week, and then wait and see what comes of it. We may find that some of the unlocking hacks work fine, while others break the iPhone.

Agree with the majority here. Anytime you go monkeying around with the works for ANY sort of appliance/electronic device, the warranty goes out the window.