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iPhone pwnage bandwagon

I am generally NOT ok with hacking operating systems to remove software or hardware restrictions.  That being said, the Iphone Dev Team released their new pwnage 2.0 tool on sunday, after an incredible amount of hype.  I went ahead and used the tool and now my iphone is unlocked with the 2.0 firmware for use with any sim card.

Note: Links to pages that explain how to unlock your iphone are at the bottom of this post.

So, if I am against hacking hardware and software, why did I unlock my iphone?

I am a technology industry professional.  Sure I like to have new technology gadgets, and that was the draw for getting an iphone in the first place.  Since I got one, it has become a very useful part of me.  Like my trusty old treo, it gives me my calendar and address book, which sync with my desktop.  Where the iphone really shines is with the built in WiFi.  This is, by the way, where the treo completely failed in the last few years (despite a huge number of users complaining and demanding wifi, palm simply never listened, and never delivered anything reasonable), hence my abandonment of palm after about 7 years of loyal use and 4 or 5 different devices.  I considered waiting for Google Android, but I just have no idea when that will be a practical choice.  I can't want another year to fix my phone issues today.

Since I am a technology professional, I travel a fair amount.  In the last few years, this includes a bit of international travel.  When I go overseas, I simply cannot be out of touch from the office, so I need a phone.  My choices are to bring my phone and put in a local or international sim card, or get a local phone.  If I bought a local phone, I wouldn't have all my contacts and calendar info, plus I would be paying a lot more money for an actual phone.  The logical choice is to bring my phone and put in a new sim card, so I still have all my important information with me, just a different phone number.  The problem is, that apple sells all their phones locked for use ONLY with ATT.  That means, out of the box, nobody but an ATT customer (and recently some new international companies, such as O2) can use the phone.  It also means that even if you are a legit paying customer, you can't use your legit phone in another country.  And Apple provides ZERO options to address this.  That is poor in my book.

Palm started selling unlocked GSM phones in the last few years, and that has helped a lot of people to legally use their phones abroad.  This only makes sense since smartphones are targeted at people who are always on the go, a demographic that typically travels more than people with cheapo or freebie phones.

Apple is now trying to appeal more to the technology world -- the Mac is coming back into style, and the iphone is a coveted device since the 20 somethings through the 30 somethings typically have some type of music player, and the iphone combines a smartphone with a music player -- great ideas, but still evolving.  As a smartphone, iphone has some great features, and some not-so-great features. 

The Good:

  • It has WiFi
  • It has a nice web browser

The Bad:

  • No cut and paste ?!?!?!
  • Apple is trying to keep Flash from working in mobile safari (or at least they aren't being helpful)

  • You can't easily install your own in-house written software

So Apple is trying to appeal to the smartphone market and technology sector (which is VERY obvious since they recently added MS Exchange push technology), yet they don't offer an unlock option...  Seems all backwards to me.  I wouldn't even care if they made it very expensive, but just offer any type of solution!

So in response to this poor policy, along comes the iphone hacking gurus, some in UK, some in brazil, etc. who have heard the cry of the iphone users who want a more open platform.  First they hacked and unlocked the original iphone, and have continued to hack new versions of the firmware, and now they have done it again with Apple's new 2.0 software release.  If only Apple would see the bigger picture -- people love your hardware and software, they just need to know that it will grow with an open source community....

My prediction is that unless apple changes their strategy, and opens up their platform more, they will start to lose market share after a year or two, once Google android comes out, and once other smart phone makers realize that they can work together to provide a very open mobile platform.  Sure, mobile safari is far ahead of everything else, but i am positive that software engineers are already working to recreate and innovate beyond what you can do on an iphone today.  If Apple doesn't change, they will find themselves cutting off a big part of the market.  Better to take less profit now, and develop a LARGER loyal user base that will contribute to your success, instead of breeding users who enjoy hacking your software and have a distaste for a closed minded software process.

I like the iphone, but I would like it a whole lot more if Apple took a "let everybody develop and innovate on this platform" approach.  Palm figured out the software thing early, which helped them a lot.  Apple has a chance right now, they need to change before its too late.  Consider charging a $100 fee to unlock phones, and watch the "unlocked iphone" market dry up (which is clearly one of your important goals, but will fail with your current strategy).  People just want an open option, and they will pay for it.

In the absense of a viable option from Apple, people will go to the only other option available.  Thats where I went, and I am ok with a hacked iphone until Apple figures out their problems, or until an open killer mobile platform is here (android?).

Free your mind iphone!

If you have firmware 1.1.4...

and want to KEEP 1.1.4, check out http://www.ziphone.org (very very easy)

and want to upgrade to 2.0, check out http://www.iunlocked.org/

If you already have firmware 2.0:

You will need to do a little more work and will need to download the new Pwnage tool 2.0.  See http://blog.iphone-dev.org/ for a download link that will hopefully work.

There is a guide online explaining how to do it here: http://sleepers.net/news/guides/pwnage-20-guide/

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