updated 12:20 pm EDT, Fri July 6, 2007
iPhone unlocking soon?
A company based in Belfast, Northern Ireland says it is "almost ready" to debut software for unlocking the iPhone. Uniquephones founder John McLaughlin tells IDG News that programmers have been working "around the clock" on a crack, which would allow users to activate their iPhones without agreeing to an AT&T service contract. The company is already claiming a 75 percent success rate for its pre-release software, and a forthcoming public beta may prove even more effective.
Unlock codes are generated based on the iPhone's IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) numbers. The potential rewards for Uniquephones may be substantial: should it be first with commercial software, it plans to charge approximately $50 for it, a price considerably higher than what it charges to unlock other phones. The demand for carriers other than AT&T has also proven remarkably high, especially in light of network speeds and activation problems.
The Uniquephones crack should be distinguished from the one produced by "DVD Jon,", which renders the phone component useless, only allowing use of iPod and Internet services. It may also require Windows to implement if not done manually.
The long-term viability of Uniquephones' solution may be questionable. While it is legal to unlock phones in the United States, doing this with an iPhone first requires a different AT&T SIM card, which must still work with the device and permit iTunes activation. Users then need to break the protection on the iPhone's firmware, altering it so it will accept carriers other than AT&T. It is this step that McLaughlin admits may trigger legal action from Apple, who could also undo the process with a simple firmware update. "They'll probably come after us for copyright infringement," he says.