Unlocked iPhones (Temporarily?) iBricked

from the and-so-it-goes dept

As Apple warned earlier this week, the latest firmware update did, in fact, “break” unlocked iPhones and kill unofficial 3rd party iPhone apps. It’s still not clear how intentional this was, but it still seems like something that Apple should have made at least a little more of an effort to avoid. The folks who unlocked their iPhones and who were installing 3rd party apps were the early adopters who were most likely to go out and evangelize the device — especially if it was more useful thanks to alternative networks and better applications. Over at Gizmodo, they have a good post discussing what’s actually happening, with two important points: the update is not doing any permanent damage to the phone (meaning that it’ll probably be a short while until software hacks are developed to bring bricked iPhones back to life) and that Apple could have pretty easily avoided messing up the phones (suggesting that perhaps it was at least somewhat intentional).

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Comments on “Unlocked iPhones (Temporarily?) iBricked”

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Anonymous Coward says:

“It’s still not clear how intentional this was..” it’s pretty clear given that warnings were given and care has been taken that emergency calls still work.

You keep saying things like it’s advantageous for companies like apple to support unlocked devices and dump DRM, but clear that’s not the case; it would be hard to beat Apple’s expertise on exactly who does what with their devices how much objection there is to lock-in, and how much money Apple would make or loose by unlocking so if Apple think it’s worthwhile maintaining the lock that seems pretty much definitive (certainly it’s more convincing than a techdirt opinion).

In any case Apple have taken care to maintain control so that if they need to “unbrick” some devices they can, probably with typical Apple spin about how much they look after their customers.

Chronno S. Trigger says:

Re: Re:

Yah apple has never made a bad decision in history. You know like creating an OS that only works on proprietary hardware (for too much), or letting Steve go. But I have to admit that it seems that they are more willing to fix their mistakes, if just a little slow.

I agree that it probably was intentional, and I would go one step farther and guess that it was AT&T’s idea. Apple made an exclusive contract with AT&T to sell the iPhone only with them. They are going to have to live with it, and adjust to the fact that they are going to lose customers and have to appease AT&T at every turn.

Random (user link) says:

They Must have known

Even if this was intentional, Apple would have known that very quickly after all these phones were “iBricked”, someone would be able to unlock them again and everyone would be back to where they started. The only difference being people would then fear every addition to software provided by Apple in case this happened again.

Surely this would just limit who would want to buy the phone?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: They Must have known

Of course they knew it would be temporary. The key is making it an insufferable pain in the ass to keep unlocking the damned thing. It’s a chess game. After a few of these updates, only the hardcore will remain to play. The rest will throw up their hands and either fall in line, or step aside.

Also note that the number of people doing these kinds of hacks are pretty close to statistically irrelevant to Apple. The majority of users are abiding the terms.

Chuck says:

“but it still seems like something that Apple should have made at least a little more of an effort to avoid.”

Really? How much effort was made that just a little bit more would have been sufficient. I hadn’t realized that Apple made anyone privy to this sort of information. How was it that you became aware of their level of effort?

“The folks who unlocked their iPhones and who were installing 3rd party apps were the early adopters who were most likely to go out and evangelize the device — especially if it was more useful thanks to alternative networks and better applications.”

So the 1 million iPhones sold in 74 days were all unlocked? Or is 74 days not considered an early adopter? 30 days perhaps?

“that Apple could have pretty easily avoided messing up the phones (suggesting that perhaps it was at least somewhat intentional).”

Hysterical commenters can probably get away with accusing Apple of intentionally causing damage. Techdirt? Not so much.

If blogs want to be consider ‘new media’, maybe they shouldn’t report opinion as fact.

Wolfger (profile) says:

Re: Re:

It was pretty obviously intentional. As another commenter noted, emergency calls still work. There’s absolutely no reason regular calls won’t work if emergency calls will, except for deliberate interference of the regular calls. This is clearly a move by Apple to maintain control (and keep their business partner happy). The question is, how long will it take before they get tired of playing “cat and mouse” with the hackers?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Emergency calls

You don’t need a SIM to make emergency calls, but niether is a SIM relevant to an update unless you want to make a Brick.
You may have a point though that if Apple stuffed emergency calls they might then be obliged to provide an unbricking update, whereas if emergency calls are left functional they can please themselves about any unbricking.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Emergency calls

FCC requries the emergency call capabilty independant of SIM becuase of public saftey.
If you mod’ your phone and it can still make emergency calls, then Apple were to mod’ it and screw that up, they have gratuitously damaging public saftey (regardless what else they do) so they have some obligation to fix.
Nothing to do with warranty my friend. Have a nice day.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Emergency calls


Care to test that in court? It’s nice that you believe it, but that does not in any way effect the reality of the situation.

Just as Apple is not responsible for fixing it if you drop it or run it over, they are not responsible if you knowingly and purposefully alter the system to something their updates are not compatible with. Plain and simple. Sorry if that’s too hard for you to comprehend.

inc says:

My friend has an iPhone he modded up, but he didn’t unlock it. He applied the firmware and it was still working just all his mods were gone. Not as big deal. I don’t think Apple should spend the extra effort to test unauthorized mods of their hardware unless they want to add those mods to the next firmware update. This is not to say that people shouldn’t take step to do cool thins with their phones, but I also know that if I brick my HTC8525 doing stupid shit with it they aren’t going to support it either. This stunt by Apple was probably more to make people greatful their phones still worked an not pissed off that their mods are gone.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

this stunt was in no way to make anybody grateful unless you owned stock in at&t.

apple is a greedy son of a bitch just like microsoft is. they just hide it a lot more and they convince their customers that they like being taken from behind and want to do it again. thats the only difference between apple & microsoft.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

That’s true. When it comes down to the bottom line, Apple has much more questionable business practices than Microsoft does, and if not for the constant public flair from Jobs, they’d be out of business right now for treating their customers like they’re nothing but money trees. The only thing keeping antitrust regulators from ripping Apple to shreds is the fact that they have a very minimal market share for PCs. Maintaining such a closed environment amounts to short term gain, long term loss, and no busines strategy they employ will change that. Once people figure out how much of a ripoff Apple really is, it’ll be all over.

And just to be clear, I think Apple makes some great products, and has excellent marketing strategies. I just don’t agree with the concept of businesses telling consumers how they can and can’t use the products they buy. That is not fair to the consumer at all. The iPhone may be revolutionary in some ways, but unless Jobs gets his head on straight and allows apps to be developed and installed and the phone to be used on any network, it will never corner the smart phone market, ever. The strategy might have worked with the iPods, but it won’t pan out in the cell phone market. There’s too much it can’t do that other, much cheaper phones have always been able to do. If the iPhone would cost $100 and work on Alltel, I might at least look at one in the store, but I am NEVER switching to AT&T and will NEVER spend that much money on a cell phone. A $40 cell phone will still let you talk to people, and I have much more important things to spend my money on, like gas and groceries.

Snapper says:

Re: Re:

Now, now; let’s not get on our “the iPhone is overpriced and my Blackberry is better” horse. There was a time when the Blackberry was locked to one provider and was waaaaaaaaayyy overpriced. To each his own. I bought my iPod, applied the update and have had no problem. I used a lot of internet based apps and the Blackberry would never be able to do what I need it to do for my business. Like I said to each his own.

Random Thoughts says:

Good Apple

Everybody complains about the (in)security of Windows anything. I say three cheers if Apple wants to tighten up their system to prevent poorly crafted, unauthorized 3rd party apps from creating security holes by keeping them from running at all. Remember, you hack-crazy idiots, you only get a LICENSE to use the OS and apps anyway. You don’t OWN much of anything in the way of software/firmware. A license can have any restrictions the seller wants to put in, within some legal boundaries. If Apple wants to use proprietary hardware as part of their strategy, that is also their right. Nobody forced you to buy an iPhone, iTouch, iPod or Mac. You bought it because it is a nicely integrated package that works pretty reliably when compared with anything M$ ever did.
PS – Every computing thing I have is ‘windows’, nothing Apple, and I don’t own a cell phone because I don’t need the interruptions, annoyances or expenses involved. I just think Apple is predominately right in this issue.

Matt T says:


Well, I’ve read all the comments of what happened with the iPhone and the update that they released. Let’s be real here… Apple knew, 100%, no questions asked, that the software contained lockdown software, otherwise, they would have never come out to the public in general and warn them. Apple is now AT&T’s puppet with a whole lot of strings attached. As for me, I was thinking about getting an iPhone, but now… no way. I’ll make sure I stay away from apple, at least their iPhone, and AT&T.
One other side note…. Why is it that we, the public, allow companies to tell us what is best for us? Why don’t WE demand that all cell phones work on ALL networks? After all, would that not be better for US, the Public?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: iPhone


Apparently because most folks in the US couldn’t care less. If the demand was there, the market would meet it. The folks whining and complaining about lock-in may be vocal, but their numbers are insignificant compared to the size of the market as a whole.

If you want an iPhone, but not the lock-in, import a MiniOne when it’s released (hopefully by Xmas). I’ll be getting one. They are faster, more functional, unlocked, etc… The only things missing are the multi-touch zoom and the vendor lock in. 😉

Sean says:

Re: iPhone

I don’t think it is a 100% certainty that Apple knew. Perhaps they simply did not write the update with any consideration of third-party apps. Couldn’t they have written the warning as a CYA? Anyone who drops $500 on a phone is not your typical hacker on a shoestring. Apple knows this. The users that would mess with an unlocked phone have disposable income, a desire for status, and a willingness to forgive corporate decisions that don’t favor the consumer (if there is a perception of the corporation as honest). Ultimately Apple has to protect their legally binding obligation to its financial partner, but I doubt they are willing to repeatedly test customer loyalty.

I think it would be great to have the freedom to pick and choose phone and network. I just don’t see a way there from where we are.

ed (profile) says:

Re: iPhone

‘One other side note…. Why is it that we, the public, allow companies to tell us what is best for us? Why don’t WE demand that all cell phones work on ALL networks? After all, would that not be better for US, the Public?”

Hey buddy guess what.. you don’t HAVE TO BUY A CELL PHONE; NO ONE PUTS A GUN TO YOUR HEAD. It isn’t a natural born right that you have a cell phone (or that is open source or open to any network you want). Don’t buy products from the company if you don’t like what they offer. Idiot.

TriZz says:

iPhone Hacking

…Apple has said that they’re not going to intentionally mess with the people who are hacking iPhones. However, they’re also not going to work around the people who are hacking iPhones either!

This sounds right to me. Apple created the device, and I see no reason for them to support it any way that they see fit. You have to realize that being a techie and hacking your phone really makes you the minority. Most people just go about things the way they were designed and Apple has a duty to support the majority.

You have to also keep in mind that Apple is in bed with AT&T for the next 5 years…consider this like taking your girlfriend’s side in an debate she’s having with someone at work. You have to take her side because it’s your girlfriend.

PS: I have an iPhone. It was hacked. The hacked phone seemed buggy to me, not nearly as responsive. So, I restored it prior to the update.

Anonymous Coward says:

I think Apple is actually worse than Microsoft in that aspect. Microsoft at least lets you install applications on their devices and support you messing with it. For instance on my Windows Mobile phone I can make registry changes, install custom apps, etc. Apple will chastise you for such behavior apparently. That being said, that’s the way Apple does business and you know it before purchasing the phone. If your buying into a product that you already know is not open source then you shouldn’t have the expectation it will be supported, as they’ve already set that expectation.

As for why you can’t have cell phones that work on ALL networks, that’s impossible. The very thing that drives our technology, free enterprise, causes company competition and the motivation to continuously innovate. There will be times that each network has its own technology that they use to try to get ahead. Look at sprint, granted you can only use Sprint phones because its not GSM but it’s also the fastest network out there for data. So your suggestion is not possible.

Anonymous Coward says:

Well..Re: Re: Anonymous Coward…The strategy kind of worked on iPods but even then Apple STILL forces their crap down your throat. For example, I should be able to access my iPod however I want to access it…but no…I have to use the retarded iTunes with Ads poping up telling me to buy this and that. I want to put my MP3s on the way I want to. It should come with iTunes as an alternative means of accessing the iPod rathar than the ONLY means. Granted there are some cheesy programs written out there to alleviate this nonsense but I don’t want to use those either. Just good ol’ Windows Explorer. F* Apple and their constant requirement to force their crap down my throat.

C.Meeks (user link) says:

the apple way

OK for a while (i.e. as long as Apple has existed) Apple has been down right rude to their biggest fans ad supporters. Remember when they opened cloning of Macs then stopped it I do. Introducing a wildly popular product at their usual high prices ad then right after the rush is over dropping the price. Then there is the Newton.
I like Macs I use Macs I will ever buy anything apple again. So I will leave the Mac world at the will of my employers. Most businesses reward loyal clients.

Jim says:


Why would even be Apple’s responsibility to make sure unofficial 3rd party applications continue to work? Do you expect them to be Microsoft (and have bloated software).
Traditionally Apple has always had a closed system and designed everything to to work with a closed set of hardware and software. Did you think that would change over night? Microsoft had taken the road to make a agile OS that would hand nearlly all hardware and tries to resolve bad software – and you can see where policy has lead them.

With a closed system you have more control to make a more stable product. Apple said it would do upgrade but would NOT concern itself with unofficial 3rd party applications. They have always done this to maintain the best stability for their products.

Quentin says:

Apple stepped into a new market with the iPhone. A market that is all about customization and personal usage. Locking it down should not be tolerated, because just as we’re getting to a point where we have more consumer freedom and choice, being happy with a lockdown just because it’s Apple is going to slow the rest of it down. We need to demand the ability to choose our carrier and hardware on our own, not be forced to use a carrier just because we want/need a certain hardware. This applies to all devices, not just the iPhone.

In terms of the update, there has been some speculation and some semi-confirmed reports that the pseudo brick is caused by Apple changing the IMEI number to phones that have been unlocked. If that turns out to be true, then it was obviously intentional, and there is a LOT Apple should have done to avoid it. No matter what anyone says, software development isn’t as complicated as the “Apple could not account for every change” apologists. They did not have to account for every hack or unlock, they just needed to do a simple checksum to the software and see if it’s been unlocked, and not apply the update if it causes problems. They are obviously doing the checksum anyway, since they are only changing IMEI numbers on unlocked devices, they have the functionality in there, they just used it in a bad way. A way that eliminates our choice as consumers of how to use the devices we OWN. Even if you don’t think Apple is wrong in their decision you should not defend their actions on the principal of consumer choice. What they are doing is stopping innovation and causing a roadblock in the “revolutionizing” of the mobile market. Beyond that, Apple has been pushed forward by 3rd part apps for years. Many of the great features people love now were once 3rd party apps developed by independent developers. Dashboard was Konfabulator, CoverFlow was originally a 3rd party plugin developed by SteelSkies. These products are now cornerstones in Apple’s products, if it weren’t for 3rd party developers, Apple would be no different than MS in terms of usability and “cool” factor.

Love them or hate them, what Apple is doing is actually BAD for the market and innovation, not good.

Quentin says:

RE: It's a phone

And your car is just a car, and your house is just a house, but I bet you want it to be yours no matter who made it and told you what you could do with it when you bought it.

It’s defining ownership. Yeah, for this argument it’s just a phone, but if they can get away with it, everyone else will try the same. And soon enough it will be with something that matters to you, then I don’t want to hear you bitch about it, cause you could have saw it coming.

Michael Long says:


Many people have said that they should be able to do whatever they want with “their” phone since they bought it. Fine. But the point is they knew it wasn’t open up front, and bought it anyway in spite of that fact.

All of the unlocking and “jailbreaking” systems rely on exploiting security loopholes in the OS. Now, do you really expect Apple to continue to leave those loopholes open for just anyone to exploit?

Quentin says:

RE: Loopholes

“Many people have said that they should be able to do whatever they want with “their” phone since they bought it. Fine. But the point is they knew it wasn’t open up front, and bought it anyway in spite of that fact.”

Who cares? We still shouldn’t stand by and allow it to happen. We should be working towards more consumer choice, freedom and innovation, and not away from it.

We know Apple isn’t doing blatant illegal things, what they are doing is just bad for the consumer market, and only good for profit. We should be aiming for more freedom on our end and more responsibility on that of the corporations.

Clueby4 says:

Wealth of Ignorance

Man, you Apple fanboys are pretty hopeless. Warantees have nothing to do with this, nor Apple dubious TOS/EULAs. The phone is owend by the customer, if they want to take a sledgehammer to it, or load custom OS/Mods on it, that’s their choice they should not have to worry about a silent firmware updates. What are you telling me if I buy an iphone and I miss a firmware update the phone will stop working? If no, then why mandatory updates, only justification is to provide a path to play games like this.

If what previous posters stated is true; “Emergency Calls still work if bricked”. Then how can you possible flap that it wasn’t intentional. Let me walk your feeble asses thru this, they intentionally made sure that their firmware updates would not affect emergency call functionality, they could do the same for additionally functionality, or just avoid the issue entirely by; NOT applying firmware updates without user permission. I know this concept require a bit of abstract though but come on, you can’t be that obtuse.

common_sense says:

not surprised

i’m not surprised at your position, mike, but it’s not in the interest of a company to create a product and support that product no matter what modifications are made, either hardware or software. basic rule of thumb – you hack it, you support it. the ‘entitlement’ mentality when it comes to technology – especially hardware that utilizes software – is such a whining cause to get what you want and do what you please with no consequences. if you don’t like the product or the services it provides or is limited to, then don’t buy it. if you choose to do otherwise, the only person you can thank for your brick is yourself. if a person tried this with an automobile they’d be laughed out of the dealership, and rightfully so.
if your argument is that apple could get more customers by offering more of an open source product with 3rd party apps available and supported, and even options on service providers… sure, maybe they could. but they don’t and they have every right not to, just like you have every right to choose your phone and service based upon the features provided.
look to google to create more of a product like the one so many hacked iphone users are desiring.

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