Apple Breaks Unlocked iPhones

closeThis post was published 11 years 11 months 19 days ago. A number of changes have been made to the site since then, so please contact me if anything is broken or seems wrong.

While I haven’t an iPhone, have no plans to buy one, and don’t have friends who own or want to own one, I have been following the back-and-forth between hackers striving to unlock the AT&T-only device and Apple. Latest in the tennis match (or cat-and-mouse game, as PC World says) is Apple’s 1.1.1 update, which removes third-party applications installed using the Jailbreak hack and bricks phones unlocked with the open-source anySIM software, which allows the use of non-AT&T SIM cards with the iPhone. Users reportedly get an error message about an unsupported SIM card, even with the AT&T card installed. It is impossible to move beyond the error.

The question here is, who’s in the wrong? On the one hand, Apple’s exclusive agreement with AT&T is very restrictive, considering the price of the iPhone (for $400, one should be able to use any carrier, in my opinion), but they invented the device and control the rights to its use. Software writers who develop unlocking programs might technically be infringing on intellectual property rights held by Apple; I don’t know enough about the laws to be sure. It’s really a difficult call, though I personally lean toward the right of the individual to use the carrier of one’s choice. Devices such as the HP iPAQ phones and Apple iPhone that are tied to a specific carrier tend to turn me off, for the simple reason that I can’t choose whose network to sign up with. HP restricts you to T-Mobile, while Apple’s limitation is to AT&T, but both are nonetheless exclusive agreements, and, aside from the fact that my family happily uses Verizon Wireless, I do not wish to be forced into business with one company or the other.

Apple’s statement of obligation earlier this month regarding preventing people from breaking into the iPhone’s network policies and application restrictions especially surprises me. Aside from being the first time Steve Jobs has officially stated the policy, it seems draconian from a free-speech standpoint. Open-source software does not stand to benefit anyone financially, nor does it pose a threat to Apple. If any corporation is threatened by the unlocking hacks, it is AT&T, which stands to lose iPhone business to other carriers if the device can be successfully unlocked. It seems that AT&T should be going after the hackers, not Apple. But since Apple developed the phone, I guess it’s only logical they should support their exclusive carrier in maintaining business, right? Maybe…

dgw

I am an avid technology and software user, in addition to being reasonably well-versed in CSS, JavaScript, HTML, PHP, Python, and (though it still scares me) Perl. Aside from my technological tendencies, I am also a theatre technician, sound designer, violinist, singer, and actor.

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