By Richard Koman / Top Tech News. Updated September 12, 2007.
If you're fed up with using an iPhone on AT&T's network, you now can download software to unlock your Apple handset. One package, developed by iPhoneSimFree, is now available from resellers in the U.S., the Middle East, and Europe. It'll set you back $99. Once installed, though, the app allows you to use your iPhone with another carrier.
The world's hackers have been obsessed with unlocking the iPhone from the day it was released. In late August, teenager George Hotz and a team of hackers developed a hardware hack to unlock the phone. In contrast, the iPhoneSimFree product is a pure software solution, the group said on its Web site.
Tuesday night, however, the iPhone Dev Team announced it had developed a free alternative to iPhoneSimFree's product. But the procedure involves downloading several different software packages, executing commands from a shell, and following other instructions. "This unlock is not for everybody!" the team's Web page warned.
Free iPhone Unlock
The free software is not without controversy. A statement on the iPhone Dev Team's site states that David Harrison, known as HaRRo, is distributing the application resulting from "stolen source code." The site advises users who donated to Harrison to contact PayPal for a refund.
Harrison is denying he swiped anything. In an e-mail Wednesday, he wrote: "The[y] claim [I] stole code but yet it was all publicly released last night, [I] was just the first one to actually fix it all up (as it did not work yet) and bundle it into the app working."
According to the Gizmodo and Engadget sites, the iPhone Dev Team's solution uses essentially the same exploit as iPhoneSimFree's, but was independently developed.
Apple Firmware Update
The iPhoneSimFree group and its resellers are taking pains, however, to emphasize that the $99 software does not come with any guarantees that Apple won't disable it with a future update. "We will naturally try to provide our resellers an updated version of our software for each firmware update. It is in our interest. But we do NOT guarantee that we will be able to do so," the group said on its site.
While iPhoneSimFree states that updates will be free, one reseller, Wireless Imports, noted on it Web site, "If your handset becomes locked you will be charged to unlock it again." Wireless Imports' site indicated the reseller was sold out as of Wednesday morning. Another U.S. reseller, iPhone Unlocking Tools, is selling the hack for $59.
Information on resellers' sites specifies that buyers must provide serial and IMEI numbers during the transaction.
Gray Market for Now
Would users really install these solutions, possibly invalidating their warranties? Independent technology analyst Greg Sterling conceded, "It has a 'gray market' quality right now and many mainstream consumers will be hesitant to go with something like this unless it gets blessed by the tech gurus in the mainstream press."
Still he said, "Fundamentally people want to use the phone over their chosen carriers." Depending on the extent of Apple's contractual relationships with AT&T, the company is probably interested in offering an open phone, he added. "They ultimately will deliver such a device to the market. That's part what the iPod touch is about."