Apple today released a statement that said the following:
CUPERTINO, Calif., Sept. 24 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ — 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
(http://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.
Â Â Â (C) 2007 Apple Inc. All rights reserved. Apple, the Apple logo, Mac,
Mac OS, Macintosh, iPhone and iTunes are trademarks of Apple. Other company
and product names may be trademarks of their respective owners.
So, the critical words, as I seem them, from this statement are “unauthorized,” “unlocking” and “unauthorized modifications”. We all know about the various tools (free and pay) that allow you to unlock your iPhone to use different networks. This is a huge can of worms, but is, actually very commonplace in the cellphone marketplace. You can buy all sorts of unlocked phones from eBay that work on a variety of carriers. Also, with Google potentially jumping into the cell phone market with the “gPhone” and buying up bandwidth soon, it makes me think that Apple might dig its own grave with this breaking of unlocking.
But that is not the nature of this post. For several weeks, I have been enjoying the ability to add, use and delete 3rd party applicaitons on my iPhone. So that makes me ask, with the new version of the firmware (1.1.1)Â coming out “this week,” what does this mean to the emerging new community of 3rd party developers of native iPhone apps? If I were to make a decision here, here is how I would define “Unlocking” vs. “Jailbreaking.”
Unlocking – the process of changing the firmware and/or hardware of the iPhone to allow it to be used with other carriers
Jailbreaking – the process of modifying the underlying operating system to allow the installation of third party applications into the previously protected (“locked”) OS directory structure and system
In order to install 3rd party applications, you must perform a “Jailbreak” first. Then the OS is open for things to be put in, modified and removed. “Unlocking” the phone is NOT a requirement of this. So, my interpretationÂ of the Apple PR statement, Jailbreaking should be exempt from the “irreperable damage”. When an iPhone is Jailbroken, it can always be restored to the factory default using the Restore function on iTunes, at least right now. What remains to be said is if, once the firmware comes out, whether you can restore to vesion 1.02 or only to 1.1.1 (the new one). The critical point is, though, that this is simply modifying the OS, not the firmware of the “modem.”
If your phone is Unlocked, it is not clear if you can fully restore the firmware (of the modem). There will probably be an influx of new apps or app updates that will let you re-lock or unlock-again your phone if you upgrade to 1.1.1Â but I haven’t heard of anything yet. Unlocking will probably be broken for a while though, I’m pretty sure of that.
Let’s use the following example to potentially understand the scenario better. First, let’s say your iPhone is a house. The house is built on a foundation. The house is pretty much empty until you start putting furniture in it, painting it and customizing it. So, I view the structure of the house as the original iPhone (the way you get it out of the box). When you move in, you canÂ modify your house to your liking (adding furniture/painting = customizing your ringtones, adding desktop pictures, configure your preferences, etc.), all of this “out of the box.”
You can also start doing minor modifications to your house like adding more rooms or perhaps changing the structure of the house by adding a skylight or a door. You usually need a permit to do this as you add on to or extendÂ the foundation of the house. This can be viewed as “jailbreaking” to some extent, you are modifying the footprint of the house and adding to it, increasing its usability and functionality. In the case of Jailbreaking, you really aren’t getting your “permit” (e.g., permission from Apple) but you are still doing it.
So where does “Unlocking” come in? Well, let’s say you want to take your house and move it to a different state, that is unlocking. You are essentially ripping the foundation out and moving it and the house attached somewhere else (e.g., to a new carrier). Most likely, you can’t get a permit to do that (or at least, not very easily) so you basically aren’t allowed to do it. This, I believe is what Apple is frowning upon and where the harsh statements of damage and and inoperability come in. The very foundation becomes potentially unstable during the process and there is no guarantee that it will “work right” in the new location.
Bottomline, it is unclear what this new firmware will do to Jailbroken and/or Unlocked phones. If you have unlocked, your probably should hold off on applying this firmware until other people have tried it. If you have jailbroken and installed third party apps, you may have to follow the previously recommended path as well, but my personal opinion is that your ability to add items back should be restore much more quickly than being able to unlock your phone.
HTD says: Best bet, when version 1.1.1 comes out, take a “wait and see” approach. Let others suffer the pain before you do!