Monthly Archives: September 2007

Think Closed

I was expecting that the iPhone firmware update would simply relock unlocked iPhones so that they could only be used with AT&T. I was wrong. As you may know by now, after an unlocked iPhone has been upgraded with the 1.1.1 firmware it will refuse to activate with any SIM. The technical evidence so far indicates that this was intentional by Apple. Although the iPhone is still alive, it’s completely useless. It’s essentially a brick.

Has Nokia or Sony Ericsson ever bricked or refused service on an unlocked phone? Not that I’ve heard of, and if they did, they would have been quickly sued in several countries where consumer rights are more strongly protected.

Did Sony ever brick PSPs over homebrew software? Did Microsoft ever overwrite someone’s BIOS with garbage because they detected an illegitimate Windows installation?

In light of other things Apple has done lately, such as adding an encrypted hash to the iPod database to lock out non-Apple software and disabling TV-out on the iPod unless the 3rd party accessory you’re using has an Apple authentication chip, it’s evident that Apple is well on its way to become one of the most consumer hostile tech companies.

When Steve Jobs claimed the iPhone was 5 years ahead of every other phone, was he talking about the iPhone’s revolutionary handcuffs?

In a world where open technologies are increasingly becoming the norm, Apple’s way of Thinking Different means marching in the opposite direction.

Update: According to the iPhone Dev Wiki, there is now a method for downgrading from 1.1.1 to 1.0.2 to revive your iPhone. There’s even a tutorial on YouTube.

Apple FUD about iPhone unlocking

Apple issued a FUD-filled press release yesterday about iPhone unlocking. A poster over at Ars, Quitch, offers this view:

So either Apple is intentionally bricking the phone, or their engineers haven’t heard of checksums.

Oh this is a hard one…

Apple’s claim that “unlocking programs available on the Internet cause irreparable damage to the iPhone’s software” is a blatant lie if you use the common sense definition of damage. Apple, of course, is using a different definition of damage: any change to the iPhone software that Apple doesn’t like is considered damage.

In any case, I doubt Apple has intentionally engineered the update to brick any iPhones. According to the iPhone Dev Team, there have been several hundred thousand downloads of the iPhone unlocking software. There’s no way of knowing exactly how many people have actually unlocked their iPhones, but I estimate it’s tens of thousands. Imagine the PR fallout from the iPhone price drop. Now double that… and mix in some lawsuits.

The only way Apple could unintentionally brick any iPhones is if they’re doing a diff patch of the baseband firmware without verifying that the original firmware hasn’t been modified. I doubt they’re doing a diff patch, but we’ll find out later this week when Apple releases the update.

As for the “you’ve modified the sacred firmware!” argument that’s being parroted around by some people, tx2tn over at Ars nails it:

As far as the “you changed the firmware” issues. That’s a load of crap. Yeah, you changed the firmware. So what? There is no great universal mystery about firmware. It’s just code, and under almost any other circumstances (translation – the rest of the world outside of Apple), can be reloaded to just start over. If it can be changed to be hacked, it can be changed to be reset back to normal.

Firmware is not magic.

Update: The iPhone software 1.1.1 update is out. According to early reports an unlocked iPhone will revert to being locked and inactivated with no way to reactivate with any SIM. The update also wipes out 3rd party applications.