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Apple: Next iPhone update could break unlocked phones

If you hacked your iPhone to run it on a network other than AT&T's, the next iPhone software update could leave you with an iBrick, Apple said Monday.

Tom Krazit Former Staff writer, CNET News
Tom Krazit writes about the ever-expanding world of Google, as the most prominent company on the Internet defends its search juggernaut while expanding into nearly anything it thinks possible. He has previously written about Apple, the traditional PC industry, and chip companies. E-mail Tom.
Tom Krazit
2 min read

Apple issued a statement Monday afternoon warning users of unlocked iPhones that the next software update it ships will probably break their phones.

It's not clear how many people have unlocked their iPhone to run on networks other than AT&T's, but there has definitely been some interest among early adopters who want no part of AT&T's network. Most of those folks were always operating under the assumption that Apple might relock their iPhones with future software updates, but were they expecting Apple to actually disable the phone?

Hacked your iPhone? The next software update from Apple could break your phone. CNET Networks

"Apple has discovered that many of the unauthorized iPhone unlocking programs available on the Internet cause irreparable damage to the iPhone's software, which will likely result in the modified iPhone becoming permanently inoperable when a future Apple-supplied iPhone software update is installed," the company said in a statement issued after the close of the stock market. "Apple strongly discourages users from installing unauthorized unlocking programs on their iPhones. Users who make unauthorized modifications to the software on their iPhone violate their iPhone software license agreement and void their warranty. The permanent inability to use an iPhone due to installing unlocking software is not covered under the iPhone's warranty."

This is not going to sit well with the fringe early adopter who, having already suffered through the price cut debacle, now faces the prospect of a dead iPhone. The probable solution, as discussed earlier today by our new friends at iPhone Atlas, involves restoring the iPhone to the factory default settings before installing the new update. The next update will be released later this week to allow iPhone owners to access the new Wi-Fi Music Store introduced earlier this month.

That assumes, I guess, that the iPhone hackers will probably find some way around the new update next week, and that's probably not that much of a stretch. But it seems Apple is hell-bent on making sure too many people don't make unauthorized modifications to its iBaby, which in some ways, makes sense to me. This is a brand new product, and even Apple may not totally be aware of the problems that could arise from willy-nilly hacking.

So, be forewarned: if you hacked your iPhone, you might want to hold off on installing this week's update unless you're willing to go back to using AT&T's network.

Update: The Unofficial Apple Weblog thinks that doing a factory restore might not be enough to reverse the unlocking process. They've posted a detailed, step-by-step process for "re-locking" your iPhone that might make you wince unless you're handy with code. Check it out here, but TUAW warns this is still in the early testing stages.