Feeds

UK firm preps iPhone unlocking software

Walls come tumbling down

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

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. ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
UNIX greybeards threaten Debian fork over systemd plan
'Veteran Unix Admins' fear desktop emphasis is betraying open source
Netscape Navigator - the browser that started it all - turns 20
It was 20 years ago today, Marc Andreeesen taught the band to play
Redmond top man Satya Nadella: 'Microsoft LOVES Linux'
Open-source 'love' fairly runneth over at cloud event
Chrome 38's new HTML tag support makes fatties FIT and SKINNIER
First browser to protect networks' bandwith using official spec
Admins! Never mind POODLE, there're NEW OpenSSL bugs to splat
Four new patches for open-source crypto libraries
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.