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.

9 thoughts on “Think Closed

  1. Dankoozy

    If Apple just sold the iPhone unlocked first day like every other mobile phone company does they would probably have made a lot more money. All the cool kids over in yurop would put their own prepaid sims in it, etc. I hope someone sues the shizzle out of Apple + AT&T for denying them their basic human right to unlock their mobile phone.

    I will be keeping my unlocked & unbranded Nokia E61 for now – its much better than the iPhone anyway. 5 years ahead of every other phone? it doesn’t even have a built in SIP client and if you manage to install one Apple will go out of their way to try and disable it to protect AT&T’s precious revenue stream. Even some of the satellite phones are more open & have less restrictions than the iPhone

  2. dRaiser

    Apple just wants to controll everything what people are doin’ with iPhone. And this fight will stay until they understand it isn’t possible :P

  3. JohnnyW

    I still speculate that there will be a reflash tool that will relock unlocked phones from Apple at some point. I think they might have done this simply to scare any casual hackers out there and to make AT&T happier in the meantime – they did, afterall, have to pay an extortionate amount of money to carry the iPhone. Once they “reactivate” these bricked phones, the idea is that most people will think it’s not worth the effort hacking it in the future.

  4. Nick Dumont

    You take the words out of my mouth! We’ve seen this coming for years. I refuse to be part of the craze and the madness; I’m slave enough to Gates.

  5. Bernhard

    Hi Jon,

    actually, I agree with every word you say. On the other hand, I am thinking for some time now, that Apple has made the best present to the hacker community, ever.
    Think about it : How many people are dealing with firmware up- and downgrades, baseband problems, and the like now ?
    It is almost an “industry” that came to life. It looks like ten’s, if not hundreds of intelligent hackers take the chance, fight the simlock and other challenges.
    It is a new community that emerged : The iPhone pirates !
    I believe, Apple knows this and only halfheartedly fights against them. They give their top-product momentum, keep it in the news, lots and lots of blogs were created regarding iPhone hacking.
    Think what it would be if the would be no simlock : People would buy the iPhone like a Nokia, use it like a Nokia, it would soon be as common and uninteresting as a Nokia.
    So, although I would prefer to just buy an iPhone and just use it with my German SIM, I think that this is anonther ingenious marketing gag of Steve Jobs !

    Greetings,
    Bernhard

  6. Felipe Cepriano

    Just renember two things:

    1) Nokia and Sony Ericsson sells unlocked devices. You can pay more and get a “free” phone.
    2) Apple gets 40% of what you pays to AT&T.

    So, Apple will do everything possible to relock or even brick unlocked iPhones.

  7. Tom

    I’m not sure I would jump to the conclusion that Apple is intentionally bricking unlocked iPhones. What “technical evidence” do you have of this?

    Apple doesn’t have any obligation to make sure their software updates don’t conflict with unauthorized modifications. It wouldn’t surprise me if a software update that is simply designed to prevent futures unlocks also bricks already unlocked iPhones. They designed and marketed the iPhone as a closed platform, so they shouldn’t have to spend extra resources accommodating those who choose to mess with it.

    That said, I also don’t think they should be spending extra resources locking people out of the iPhone.

    Apple is likely required by their contracts with AT&T (and now European providers) to prevent people from unlocking the iPhone. However, I don’t think they should also prevent people from running 3rd party applications. These apps will only help sell more iPhones, but I get the impressions that Steve Jobs thinks only Apple can create good enough applications, and 3rd party developers will somehow spoil the iPhone’s greatness…

  8. Tim Trainor

    I held off buying the iPhone due to the extortionary rates that AT&T charges US customers. When I read of the unlock procedure, I decided to take the plunge.

    In my opinion, the iPhone is a right smart little computer. The only thing totally revolutionary about it, however, is the *way* cool (Touch) user interface. That is the part of the design that sells it and makes it fun. All of the other applications and functions are average to mediocre.

    I paid top dollar for the 4 Gig version, suffered through the unlock process, never quite got it to work with a Nextel SIM, and eventually decided to just use it as an iPod with Wi-Fi, all before the advent of the iPod Touch. Then, all of a sudden, the iTunes “upgrade” left it useless. All of what I have read and researched about the upgrade, and why the upgrade bricks the pirate unlocks, make it seem to be intentional.

    As a consumer, I am mostly astonished that Apple would choose to treat me and any other paying customer with such arrogant disdain. Further, I am angry that the industry in the US is set up to rip us off for buying and using any technology.

    Steve Jobs and Apple: You should buy back our good faith with a free unlock firmware download. It doesn’t have to provide telephone (although is really should), but it should reactivate the hardware. Otherwise, it’s just junk I bought from Apple. iJunk.

  9. Joe

    Well i too bought an original 8gb iphone. In fact ive bought several and given them to people close to me, some of which do not live in countries with this service.

    To date we have had 1 bad phone…never worked properly due to a problem with the radio portion. Apple replaced no-problem.

    All the others have been hacked and all but 2 have been converted over to use any sim.

    This was done in asia and continues to today. Currently we are all on 1.1.3 and loving it. My 2 iphones here in USA work great and are through ATT but are also hacked (currently using the ijailbreak.com method. works great.

    Not sure what Tim did to his, but the first rule of hacking is you assume some risk.

    As for Apple forcing you to do anything…get real man….they announced it would break hacked phones…they dont require you to update (which the easily could) and they still make available every version from 1.0.0.

    If they really wanted to lock this down they could lots more aggressive. Sounds like to me…you screwed your phone and are all sore about it. still not sure how you did that as ive always been able to reset it to factory…..maybe you dont know about the force reinstall function or maybe your hacking at a much lower level.

    You can always tell the pioneers….they have the arrows in their backs.

    But overall the vast majority of users love thier iphones….my wife didnt want one but her moto finally died :) Now shes kickin herself for not having had one. As with all products, yeah its not perfect…but its a helluva lot better than anything else out there so far…..and this was the first try. If you havent noticed the cell phone builders of the world realize Apple just handed them their ass. Now the real question is can/will they learn from this and push the bar higher. Lets all hope so. I have no doubt Apple will continue to push…..but if the others push too then we all win.

    YMMV

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