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iPhone bricking: I blame AT&T

With a few iPhone blunders behind us, some are blaming Apple. But Don Reisinger has had a change of heart, and this time, he takes aim at Ma Bell.

Steve Jobs
Maybe Steve isn't in charge, after all? James Martin/CNET

After a while with my newly dehacked iPhone, I'm left with Tap Tap Revolution withdrawal, many fewer icons and a loss of some of the features I had come to appreciate from my iPhone.

Could you say I'm bitter? Perhaps. But what may surprise you is that I've had a bit of a change of heart. (In my pre-update post), I told you that if Apple decided to brick iPhones and disrupt hacks, it will have single-handedly destroyed its ability to maintain its post as the world's most influential tech company.

But after analyzing the update that actually came out, I don't blame Apple anymore. Instead, I blame AT&T for forcing Apple to do something that it has never done before and effectively become the bad guy while AT&T laughs its way to the bank.

Shame on you, AT&T.

iPhone bricks

What would have driven Apple to brick iPhones? Some may say that an unlocked iPhone running on a T-Mobile network means significant losses in revenue, but I think that argument is a bit flimsy.

Historically speaking, Apple is a hardware company, and it's in the business of selling as many computers, iPods, Apple TVs and iPhones as possible. Wouldn't an unlocked iPhone allow the company to sell more hardware? And if so, couldn't it be said that this hardware company would benefit the most from hardware sales?

An unlocked iPhone means more hardware sales because T-Mobile customers and people from all over the world could pick one up at an Apple store, bring it home, and put it on any GSM carrier.

Now, I'm not naive enough to believe that Apple doesn't enjoy earning revenue from AT&T plans, and chances are, the company's best-case scenario would involve an unlocked iPhone that, whenever it's attached to a network, that carrier would pay Apple a portion of the monthly fees it collects from iPhone customers. But alas, this isn't the perfect world, and Apple isn't that lucky.

But if it was Apple that decided to brick iPhones and render them useless on any carrier, what's the business use of this decision? Not only would it lose the possibility of further hardware sales, because bricked iPhone customers would surely not buy another Apple product, but it would also mean lost AT&T revenue because the customers can't get back onto the service. As a CEO of a company, would you condone this tactic?

Let's not forget that Steve Jobs is one of the most intelligent CEOs in this industry. Not only does he know how to coax incredible deals out of unsuspecting companies, but he also understands what the customers want. Did iPhone owners want bricked iPhones and hacks thrown away? Did Apple want to lose revenue by bricking the devices? Of course not.

iPhone hacking

If you think back at all of the decisions made by Steve Jobs over the past few years, you would be hard-pressed to come up with a poor decision that ostracized a significant group of Apple customers. And although a large group of iPhone owners probably didn't hack their iPhones, the people who did are the vocal minority that tells the world about experiences with hacking.

Sometimes those people come in the form of the family tech guru, and sometimes they come in the form of journalists. Either way, iPhone hackers are probably the most vocal. So why would Steve Jobs annoy that group? Did he do it intentionally? I can't believe that he did.

Perhaps the most convincing evidence that AT&T may be wielding more influence over Apple than originally thought is Apple's own admission that hacking the iPhone would not be supported or reprimanded. Then, just a few weeks later, the upgrade is released, and the very action of hacking that most Apple folks were claiming was fine turned out to break rules.

But it goes far beyond remarks made by Apple representatives. If we take an objective look at the Apple TV, I think it's safe to say the device is one of the most hackable and customizable devices Apple has ever released. In a matter of days after its release, the Apple TV was being modified into an entirely new product.

Where was the Apple outcry then? Why didn't a software update destroy our ability to hack the Apple TV in any way we saw fit? Apple didn't bother with Apple TV hackers for one simple reason--Apple doesn't care about hacking. But with the iPhone, it had a partner to consider--a partner that, in my opinion, doesn't have the slightest clue about what's good for the customer and that was calling on Apple to do something. Unfortunately, Apple did.

If one were to take an objective look at the past month, it's quite plain to see that it's not Apple running the iPhone's future, it's AT&T and that contract Apple signed with the company. Are we supposed to assume that Apple would make this many blunders out of the blue?

Apple is smart, and AT&T isn't. The past few iPhone moves were certainly not intelligent. If you ask me, a zebra can't change its stripes.