iPhone Question: “Unlocking” and “Jailbreaking” the same thing?

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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.
    (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) 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

…and… 

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 interpretation 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 1.1.1 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 can 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 extend 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!

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26 Responses

  1. If you’ve followed the procedures for carrier-unlocking an iPhone, you will note that there is a common step known as “re-flashing baseband”. This means that there is a baseband (i.e. GSM radio) firmware modification that could indeed hose your phone. Steve Jobs’ comments in a recent ComputerWorld article only point to his (Apple’s) fight against carrier unlocking, and makes no mention whatsoever about 3rd party applications. I believe the rampant 3rd party development will face no resistance from Apple, because it only serves to encourage interest in the device without breaking contractual agreements with AT&T. But, like you say HTD, let’s wait and see.

  2. If you’ve followed the procedures for carrier-unlocking an iPhone, you will note that there is a common step known as “re-flashing baseband”. This means that there is a baseband (i.e. GSM radio) firmware modification that could indeed hose your phone. Steve Jobs’ comments in a recent ComputerWorld article only point to his (Apple’s) fight against carrier unlocking, and makes no mention whatsoever about 3rd party applications. I believe the rampant 3rd party development will face no resistance from Apple, because it only serves to encourage interest in the device without breaking contractual agreements with AT&T. But, like you say HTD, let’s wait and see.

  3. I agree. I think that Apple should follow a Google-ish model, by letting people innovate, spend their own blood, sweat and tears developing an application that people want and use, and then buy them and include in future releases. It helps the small business as well as the large company. Stiffling creativity and innovation is counter-productive. So, I am with you in thinking that 3rd party apps are a needed addition.
    What Steve will do next, in his wisdom, could be something completely different.
    Perhaps a “market place” with iTunes as the delivery mechanism will be the place where 3rd party developers can showcase and monetize their works. Tmobile and Danger did this with the Sidekick, annother innovative product. It had a closed architecture (more so than the iPhone) yet they still produced an SDK to allow 3rd party developers to show their work and make money off of it.
    -HTD

  4. I agree. I think that Apple should follow a Google-ish model, by letting people innovate, spend their own blood, sweat and tears developing an application that people want and use, and then buy them and include in future releases. It helps the small business as well as the large company. Stiffling creativity and innovation is counter-productive. So, I am with you in thinking that 3rd party apps are a needed addition.
    What Steve will do next, in his wisdom, could be something completely different.
    Perhaps a “market place” with iTunes as the delivery mechanism will be the place where 3rd party developers can showcase and monetize their works. Tmobile and Danger did this with the Sidekick, annother innovative product. It had a closed architecture (more so than the iPhone) yet they still produced an SDK to allow 3rd party developers to show their work and make money off of it.
    -HTD

  5. Okay, I am seeing now that Apple has totally locked down the OS like with the Touch, so 3rd party dev is effectively annihilated until our heroes at Nullriver or elsewhere can crack it again. That really sucks and I am surprised at the move. I expected better. I can mildly sympathize with the SIM unlocking dilemma, but killing developer innovation only kills interest in the product. Now we’re boxed into whatever Apple deems “standard” and have to go to lame websites to “add” any functionality to our iPhone. I, for one, have great aversion toward mobile SaaS sites. This is encouraging for competitors (Hello Nokia? Hello PalmSource?) who can now one-up Apple by providing SDKs for their next-gen mobile OS’s. If the Internet went the way of iPhone’s current trend, we’d still be surfing via AOL’s browser and a filtered view of cyberspace. Bad Apple. You just pissed off a lot of loyalists.

  6. Okay, I am seeing now that Apple has totally locked down the OS like with the Touch, so 3rd party dev is effectively annihilated until our heroes at Nullriver or elsewhere can crack it again. That really sucks and I am surprised at the move. I expected better. I can mildly sympathize with the SIM unlocking dilemma, but killing developer innovation only kills interest in the product. Now we’re boxed into whatever Apple deems “standard” and have to go to lame websites to “add” any functionality to our iPhone. I, for one, have great aversion toward mobile SaaS sites. This is encouraging for competitors (Hello Nokia? Hello PalmSource?) who can now one-up Apple by providing SDKs for their next-gen mobile OS’s. If the Internet went the way of iPhone’s current trend, we’d still be surfing via AOL’s browser and a filtered view of cyberspace. Bad Apple. You just pissed off a lot of loyalists.

  7. Unlock your iPhone today at Unlock iPhone HQ. It';s so quick and easy to unlock absoloutly any iPhone or iPhone 3G worldwide!

  8. Unlock your iPhone today at Unlock iPhone HQ. It';s so quick and easy to unlock absoloutly any iPhone or iPhone 3G worldwide!

  9. Just wanted to post a note saying i tried yellowsn0w out on my iPhone 3g, the first time I did I wasn’t getting any signal – trying to use it on tmobile, so I restored my iPhone to factory settings and then run yellowsn0w again and it worked fine… and still is *fingers crossed*, but if you have any trouble try factory restoring your iPhone 3G and then running yellowsn0w again.

  10. Just wanted to post a note saying i tried yellowsn0w out on my iPhone 3g, the first time I did I wasn’t getting any signal – trying to use it on tmobile, so I restored my iPhone to factory settings and then run yellowsn0w again and it worked fine… and still is *fingers crossed*, but if you have any trouble try factory restoring your iPhone 3G and then running yellowsn0w again.

  11. If you are going to use unlocking software then there are also those available that can be undone so that you dont get locked out of your iPhone and also dont void your warranty.

  12. If you are going to use unlocking software then there are also those available that can be undone so that you dont get locked out of your iPhone and also dont void your warranty.

  13. Nice useful information, thanks. If you're looking to buy an unlocked iPhone 3G instead of having to unlock one yourself, then you can get one at BuyUnlockediPhone3G.com

  14. Nice useful information, thanks. If you're looking to buy an unlocked iPhone 3G instead of having to unlock one yourself, then you can get one at BuyUnlockediPhone3G.com

  15. Nice useful information, thanks. If you're looking to buy an unlocked iPhone 3G instead of having to unlock one yourself, then you can get one at BuyUnlockediPhone3G.com

  16. Nice useful information, thanks. If you're looking to buy an unlocked iPhone 3G instead of having to unlock one yourself, then you can get one at BuyUnlockediPhone3G.com

  17. Thanks, however, the unlocking process is much easier than it used to be. While you may offer a good service to some, others should know that you don't have to necessarily purchase unlocked phones.-HTD

  18. Thanks, however, the unlocking process is much easier than it used to be. While you may offer a good service to some, others should know that you don't have to necessarily purchase unlocked phones.

    -HTD

  19. I absoloutly agree with you there, the unlocking process is much easier now and it would work out cheaper to purchase your iPhone from an official store and then unlock it yourself. But some people prefer just to purchase an unlocked iPhone straight up – thats what we do :)

  20. I absoloutly agree with you there, the unlocking process is much easier now and it would work out cheaper to purchase your iPhone from an official store and then unlock it yourself. But some people prefer just to purchase an unlocked iPhone straight up – thats what we do :)

  21. Does anyone know the status on the unlock for the iPhone 3.0? Is there going to be a software unlock or jailbreak available for it any time soon?

  22. Yes, there will be an unlock coming. If you want to keep your iPhone
    jailbroken, don't update to 3.0 until an official unlock comes out.
    This is the site you should pay attention to for details and
    information: http://blog.iphone-dev.org/

  23. Yes you can now unlock the iPhone 3.0 using the ultrasn0w tool. It also works to unlock the iPhone 3Gs.

  24. A furniture outlet can be a terrific way to outfit your home or office in comfort and style at a low cost. Outlet stores have been around for years now and have been a way for anyone, but especially bargain shoppers to get the brand name and top of the line products such as clothing, shoes and even pots and pans, at lower prices than they would find at a regular retailer. The manufacturers are able to do this by cutting out some of the middlemen and selling more directly to the consumer.

  25. A furniture outlet can be a terrific way to outfit your home or office in comfort and style at a low cost. Outlet stores have been around for years now and have been a way for anyone, but especially bargain shoppers to get the brand name and top of the line products such as clothing, shoes and even pots and pans, at lower prices than they would find at a regular retailer. The manufacturers are able to do this by cutting out some of the middlemen and selling more directly to the consumer.

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Michael Sheehan (“HighTechDad”) is an avid technologist, writer, journalist, content marketer, blogger, tech influencer, social media pundit, loving husband and father of 3 beautiful girls living in the San Francisco Bay Area. This site covers technology, consumer electronics, Parent Tech, SmartHomes, cloud computing, gadgets, software, hardware, parenting “hacks,” and other tips & tricks.

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