Feeds

UK firm preps iPhone unlocking software

Walls come tumbling down

Boost IT visibility and business value

A UK firm that specialises in unlocking mobile phones reckons it's close to developing an application that would allow iPhone owners to use the device with carriers other than America's AT&T.

John McLaughlin, founder of Uniquephones, told IDG that his software engineers were working "around the clock" in order to bypass Apple's restriction that ties activation of the iPhone to signing up to a two-year contract with AT&T.

Uniquephones said it is "almost ready" to release a public beta of iPhone unlocking software. It claims the pre-release technology is already able to unlock 75 per cent of all the iPhones it has tested using unlock codes generated from the phones' IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) numbers.

Uniquephones plans to sell software designed to unlock iPhones for around $50, far more than it charges to unlock other mobile devices. The firm is highly unlikely to be the only outfit getting into the act.

Hackers have been hard at work trying to unlock the functionality of the iPhone since the devices were released in the US a week ago. Reverse engineer Jon Lech Johansen (DVD Jon) discovered a way to get iPod and Wi-Fi - though not the phone - features of the device working without signing up to AT&T within three days of its release.

The iPhone Development Project claims to have replicated this and has set out a program of goals including the ability to unlock the phone and run third party applications on the device.

Last year, the US copyright office ruled that it was legal for consumers to unlock their mobile phones in order to use them with other carriers, a decision AT&T and Apple may seek to contest, but one which gives hackers (and commercial firms) some leeway in opening up the functionality of the iPhone.

Uniquephones said it's received more than 150,000 inquiries from punters in learning how they might be able to unlock their iPhones since last weekend, many of whom have submitted their IMEI numbers. Complaints about the slowness of AT&T's data services are among the factors generating this interest, according to McLaughlin.

Prising an iPhone away from its ties with AT&T is a more complex business than providing an unlock code. Firstly, it's necessary to make changes to an AT&T SIM other than the one supplied with an iPhone that can work with the phone and be activated through iTunes. After this has been achieved there's still the problem of cracking the protection that means attempts to change the iPhone's firmware in order to support another carrier's SIM card can break the phone.

Even then the device would only work on GSM-based US networks and could be undone if Apple issues a firmware upgrade (through the iPhone synchronisation process) or frustrated by legal challenges. McLaughlin concedes that Apple is likely to take legal action against Uniquephones based on changes its unlocking process makes to the firmware loaded on iPhones rather than the act of unlocking the phones, which is legal. "They'll probably come after us for copyright infringement," he said. ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
NO MORE ALL CAPS and other pleasures of Visual Studio 14
Unpicking a packed preview that breaks down ASP.NET
Captain Kirk sets phaser to SLAUGHTER after trying new Facebook app
William Shatner less-than-impressed by Zuck's celebrity-only app
Apple fanbois SCREAM as update BRICKS their Macbook Airs
Ragegasm spills over as firmware upgrade kills machines
Cheer up, Nokia fans. It can start making mobes again in 18 months
The real winner of the Nokia sale is *drumroll* ... Nokia
Mozilla fixes CRITICAL security holes in Firefox, urges v31 upgrade
Misc memory hazards 'could be exploited' - and guess what, one's a Javascript vuln
EU dons gloves, pokes Google's deals with Android mobe makers
El Reg cops a squint at investigatory letters
Chrome browser has been DRAINING PC batteries for YEARS
Google is only now fixing ancient, energy-sapping bug
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.