Four independent projects have claimed that Apples iPhone can be unlocked, allowing users to use the phone with cellular providers other than AT&T.
At least one of those projects, the Belfast, U.K.-based iphoneunlocking.com, has claimed that it has received a warning call from a law firm purportedly representing AT&T.
An AT&T spokesperson said that the company had no comment on this claim.
All iPhones currently require registration through and contract with AT&T to unlock the products phone, Web browsing, iPod and other functions. Apple has a five-year exclusive deal with AT&T as the sole service for the iPhone. This effectively limits iPhone owners to areas in the United States covered by AT&Ts GSM network.
The iphoneunlocking.com group is a branch of Unique Phones, which sells unlocking guides and claims to provide support for more than 1,500 handsets. The group claimed that it was “poised and ready to release remote software unlocking services” for the iPhone as of Aug. 27.
However, the group wrote on its blog that it received a telephone call from a Menlo Park, California law firm early that day that “presented issues such as copyright infringement and illegal software dissemination.” As a result, the company said, it will hold off on releasing its product until it has evaluated its legal position.
No specifics about their iPhone unlocking software are available.
Another group, iphonesimfree.com, claimed on its Web site that it offers the “worlds [sic] first (and only) software driven sim unlocking service for the iPhone,” although the site may not have been updated since the iphoneunlocking.com announcement.
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Though the groups Web site offers no background on the participants or further information, the site promises that individual licenses will be on sale starting next week, along with bulk purchases of 500 licenses or more. No pricing was stated and no third party has verified that the software exists or works.
The Web site Engadget claimed that it received a demonstration of this groups ability to unlock an iPhone.
The process required a SIM card from another cellular service active account (in this case T-Mobile). Most iPhone functions such as SMS, Web browsing, e-mail and Google Maps were functional, though the “visual voice mail” feature remains an AT&T-only feature.
Representatives of the group were not available for comment.
Other methods of unlocking iPhones have appeared on various hacker forums, some of them needing additional hardware, such as a SIM card reader/writer.
The “SuperSim” method, posted on the Hackintosh forums requires users to extract data from the standard AT&T SIM card and then reconfigure both the iPhone along with a new SIM card with some of the extracted data. The forum offers no word on whether this violates the iPhones warranty or allows users to apply Apples software patches and upgrades.
A similar unlocking procedure was posted on the forums of Bladox, a company that sells the Turbo SIM card. The company labels the Turbo SIM as a product for SIM Toolkit-based mobile applications deployment. This method also requires reprogramming.
Much of the initial work in digging out many of the iPhones hardware secrets was done by the open, non-commercial group calling itself the iPhone Dev Team, which discourages direct links to its Wiki pages in order to not stress the site servers. However, the site is easily found through a basic Web search.
The project is a “community effort” with no official leader, states their Wiki pages, and they say that “we want to share all the information we discover. Its in everyones best interest for us to share the progress that has been made on making the iPhone an open platform.”
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The group was possibly the first to discover how to open the iPhones file system and delve into other secrets that formed the basis of hacks by other parties, such as the MAME arcade game emulator.
The earlier hardware hack developed by a group led by New Jersey teenager George Hotz was neither free (in terms of hundreds of hours of time) nor easy. Hotz documented the process on his blog.
Hotz outlined 10 steps to unlocking the iPhone, steps that included opening the iPhone, soldering and modifying the iPhones firmware.
Though he initially attempted to list the modified iPhone on the auction site eBay, Hotz wrote that he traded it to Terry Daidone, the founder of CertiCell, which sells aftermarket handset parts as well as used and refurbished handsets, for a Nissan 350Z and three unmodified iPhones.
In Hotzs most recent blog post, he recounted that he has arrived at college and has also started consulting for CertiCell and PureMobile. He wrote that he is also trying to develop a hack that will add GPS functionality to his iPhone.
Apple representatives did not respond to requests for comment.
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