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Calling all iPhone owners. The first free easy to use - well, relatively easy to use - software to unlock your Apple handset has arrived, mere hours after a rather more tortuous process. Well, almost. It's not quite ready for release, but folk who have seen it claim it does the business.

As it stands, to unlock your iPhone for free you need a dozen downloadable utilities and software libraries, one of which, iBrickr, is used to switch on the handset's ability to accept third-party applications.

Apple_iPhone_keyboard
Apple's iPhone: unlocked in... er... 22 steps

That done, you install some open source components, including the Unix-based BSD Sub-system, copy across a handful of Unix utilities, and then with some dextrous wielding of command line syntax, you modify some system settings before using terminal software to send some command signals to the handset.

And then, as Amazon says, you're done.

The process requires an iPhone with the latest firmware, version 1.02, 7.4.

While Linux users and their ilk will say 'pah!' to the long list of instructions and dive immediately into the melee, less technically bent users may want to wait. One of the guys behind the team who worked on the unlocking process is said to be working on a graphical tool that does all the heavy lifting - or a good portion of it - for you. Early reports suggest the pre-release version does what it says on the tin.

However, it remains unclear whether you still have to activate the iPhone, a process that involves signing up for two years with AT&T - or O2, come the end of September - before you can apply the unlock process.

You can find full instructions at www.freeiphoneunlock.com, here. The GUI tool is expected to appear on the same site shortly.

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