Doug Rodriguez never unlocked his iPhone for use unauthorized wireless carriers; he never hacked his phone by jailbreaking it and adding unofficial third-party applications; yet he was denied warranty service from Apple when his iPhone suddenly started displaying the error message "Incorrect SIM." Rodriguez only transgression: the transfer of a custom ringtone via the "manual transfer trick" method described in this article whereby an AAC track is renamed to trigger iTunes' recognition of the song as a ringtone file.
Rodriguez' iPhone stopped working properly after it was cycled off and on. The "Incorrect SIM" error message he received is symptomatic of failed unlock attempts, but can also occur for users who never attempted an unlock. This issue can sometimes be resolved by removing the iPhone's SIM card, then connecting the phone to your computer (sans-SIM card) and restoring (as described in this article), though that fix did not prove successful for Rodriguez.
After receiving the error message, Rodriguez sent his phone to Apple for repair. After a few days, the service department emailed him, indicating: "(we have) determined that (the iPhone) has been subjected to accidental damage or misuse, which is not covered by the warranty or an Apple service contract."
Rodriguez said: "I've never dropped my iPhone, I've never exposed it to water. I've never put third-party apps on it or hacked it. It just stopped working and Apple apparently does not believe me," adding "The 'product specialist' told me over the phone that it was determined that unauthorized software was installed on my iPhone and that's why I've been getting the 'Invalid SIM' message. The only thing I've ever done is back in September putting one custom ringtone on my iPhone via the "manual transfer" method. Nothing Else. "
Apple representatives previously told us that adding third-party native software to the iPhone does indeed result in the warranty being voided. Although ringtones do not, ostensibly, fall under the same category, it appears Apple used the contrary interpretation in Rodriguez' case.
In Apple's one year limited warranty PDF document, the company states that the iPhone's warranty does does not apply to:
"damage caused by accident, abuse, misuse, flood, fire, earthquake or other external causes; (c) to damage caused by operating the product outside the permitted or intended uses described by Apple; (d) to damage caused by service (including upgrades and expansions) performed by anyone who is not a representative of Apple or an Apple Authorized Service Provider (e) to a product or part that has been modified to alter functionality or capability without the written permission of Apple; [...]'"
Making this case more confusing is the existence of an Apple-sanctioned method for turning any iTunes track into a ringtone via GarageBand. Both the GarageBand and "manual transfer trick" method for transferring ringtones appear to have the same net effect.
Rodriguez' case drives home an important point: Restore your iPhone before bringing it in for service. Removing any modification (including custom ringtones) that is not expressly consented by Apple could result in revocation of our warranty, or at least difficulty obtaining warranty service. You can restore by connecting the iPhone to your computer, then in iTunes, selecting the device and clicking the Restore button under the Summary tab.