The loosely organized group, which calls itself the "iphone-dev team," played an important role in the worldwide dissemination of the original iPhone, releasing a series of tools that allowed the device to run third-party software and to work in countries where Apple had not yet struck deals with local carriers. By February 2008, estimates of the number of unlocked iPhones in circulation around the world ranged from 800,000 to 1.5 million. (link)
But the value of the latest hack, dubbed Pwnage 2.0 and available for free download here, is not so clear.
For one thing, although it "jailbreaks" the new iPhone -- meaning it allows it to use programs not authorized by Apple -- it does not yet "unlock" it to run on unauthorized cellular networks.
Moreover, the very real needs that the iphone-dev team served in the first year of the iPhone's release have largely dissipated.
Whereas there were almost no native third-party programs for the original iPhone, today there are hundreds available at Apple's App Store, 25% of them free. (See here.)
And even if the iphone-dev team releases an unlock tool for the new iPhone -- which it probably will soon enough -- Apple (AAPL) and its partners have effectively shut down the black market for unlocked iPhone 3Gs by requiring that buyers either sign a long-term contract with a carrier or pay a prohibitively high price for the phone. The official price of an unlocked, pre-paid 16GB iPhone in Italy, for example, is 569 euros ($888).
The real value of the new tool -- which can both jailbreak and unlock the original iPhone -- may be for people who want to use the iPhone classic in countries with expensive calling and data plans (Canada and New Zealand come immediately to mind).
But there are risks to consider. Installing any unauthorized firmware on an iPhone voids the warranty and could "brick" the device. Even though the new jailbreak program has an easy-to-use interface and is supported by step-by-step instructions -- with screen grabs -- a high percentage of the user comments here and here are from iPhone owners who have run into serious problems.
Don't be fooled by the friendly interface. Pwnage 2.0 is not for the faint of heart.
UPDATE: Erica Sadun, an iPhone developer and veteran jailbreaker, reports on TUAW that she has liberated her iPhone 3G with the new tool. "Without getting in details," she writes, "I'd rate the new 2.0 Pwnage software as 'for dedicated hackers only.'" (link)
Three days ago it seemed as though the world had finally opened up for would-be iPhone developers.
After eight months of pent-up demand, the pieces were in place to begin exploiting the new platform in earnest. Getting hold of the free software developers kit (SDK) was as simple as entering your iTunes name and password. The tools were powerful. The support was rich.
The programmers were "excited," Apple's PR department assured us MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Mar 15, 2008 11:23 AM ET
UPDATE: It appears this whole thing was a hoax. This was posted Monday on a MacRumor forum:
It's finally time I just come out and say it; I lied.
Tiny-Code never had any relations with Apple, Inc. or any other division of Apple. Never had the new firmware or any pre-SDK pack. Certainly never signed any NDA.
I find it interesting that a simple joke on the front of MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Feb 17, 2008 11:56 AM ET
What's next for the Apple (AAPL) iPhone? A flurry of new features -- starting with a "locate me" pseudeo-GPS function on Google Maps -- according to leaks that have been making the rounds of the Apple blogs.
The scoop goes to GearLive.com, which for the past two days has been exploring what appears to be a pre-release version of firmware update 1.1.3. The improvements (documented with screenshots) that it has discovered MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Dec 31, 2007 1:02 PM ET
That was quick.
Hours after Apple (AAPL) published firmware update 1.1.2 for the iPhone and the iPod touch -- and even before it was officially available for installation through iTunes -- rogue programmers had managed to "jailbreak" the iPod touch, once again allowing unauthorized third-party applications to run on the device. See Erica Sadun's report on TUAW here.
As of this morning, however, the iPhone still hadn't been re-jailbroken. That means that, MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Nov 9, 2007 9:06 AM ET
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