iPhone Update May Damage Unlocked Phones — But Will It Also Damage Apple?
from the be-careful-with-that dept
Apple has warned iPhone customers who have used third-party iPhone-unlocking software that installing an upcoming firmware update could render their phones "permanently inoperable." This has generated a lot of outrage on Slashdot, with some commenters faulting Apple for trying to lock consumers into a contract with AT&T, while others suggest that this might be an unavoidable consequence of making unauthorized modifications to the device. It's hard to justify being too upset at Apple here. Reports indicate that the company isn't trying to damage peoples' iPhones on purpose, it just hasn't tested the update with all of the unlocking programs folks are using. Given that Apple has said from the outset that such hacks are unsupported and strongly discouraged, Apple is entirely within its rights to blame the customer if the combination of user modifications and an Apple firmware update break their phones.But even if Apple is within their legal rights, releasing a firmware update that they know will break some phones is a terrible business strategy. It's never a good idea to anger your customers, and it certainly wouldn't be difficult for Apple to add a function to the firmware updater that checks the phone for unlocking software and warns the customer if a potential problem is detected. Users might still be annoyed at being unable to get the latest firmware, but that's better than silently turning their phone into a paperweight. More generally, Apple shouldn't underestimate the value of the unlockers to the iPhone product ecosystem. Those sorts of tech-savvy early adopters are the most likely to develop new and innovative uses for the product, thereby increasing its value for all customers. For example, podcasting has surely made the iPod more valuable; it was invented by tech hobbyists and only later integrated by Apple into iTunes. And if Apple plays hardball with phone-unlockers, that's not likely to enhance their bottom line. More likely, they'll most likely just persuade people who like tinkering with their gadgets to buy their next cell phone from another company.