Apple May “Unintentionally” Kill Unlocked iPhones with Update

Apple recently announced that its new update will likely kill iPhones that have been unlocked to work on to networks other than AT&T, rendering them completely inoperable.

In a statement released by the company earlier this week, the company stated: “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.”

This statement was immediately followed by Apple’s announcement that unlocking the iPhone will result in a voided warranty.

“This has nothing to do with proactively disabling a phone that is unlocked or hacked,” Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide product marketing, said in an interview with The Associated Press. “It’s unfortunate that some of these programs have caused damage to the iPhone software, but Apple cannot be responsible for … those consequences.”

Last week Steve Jobs had publicly denounced the unlocked iPhones, saying Apple would fight against them.  “It’s a constant cat and mouse game,” he stated.

There are currently many free and paid unlocking programs, as chronicled at Global Tech News.

John McLaughlin of UniquePhones.com, a company out of Ireland that has developed unlocking software, thinks Apple’s claim that unlocking software made harmful irreversible changes is fabricated.

“We have reviewed the source code of a number of these applications and to the best of our knowledge any changes made to the software can easily be reversed,” McLaughlin said in an e-mail. “After unlocking the iPhone, minimal effort is required to get it in to its previously locked state.”

Apple has sold over 1 million iPhones as reported at Global Tech News.  There is no word on how many unlocked iPhones are “in the wild,” operating on T-Mobile’s compatible network or other compatible networks worldwide.

The update’s includes the software that will allow the iPhone to access iTunes wirelessly and the Starbucks promotional software, among other updates.

Apple’s move may be illegal according to legal experts.  The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act forbids manufacturers from voiding the warranty of a product unless they can prove that the user damaged the product.  Whether Apple’s moves are legal depends on whether they can prove in court (as they likely will) that the unlocking software caused irreversible damage to the iPhone’s software or hardware.

Many iPhone users will likely find this development alarming.  The solution is simply not to update their iPhones, but many will be displeased that they cannot get the same priveleges as other users — such as WiFi iTunes.  The legality of the move is debatable, but Apple seems firmly resolved to try to stamp out unlocked iPhones.

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