Dubious achievement: Hackers 'jailbreak' the iPhone 3G

July 20, 2008: 7:50 AM ET

Eight days after Apple's new iPhone went on sale, an international team of programmers announced on Saturday that the device had been "pwned" -- hacker jargon for "controlled" or "compromised."

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)

  • Unlocked iPhones: $471 in China, $625 in Turkey

    Hats off to Silicon Alley Insider for their continued coverage of the overseas iPhone market.

    Last week, Henry Blodget plucked a pseudonymous post from a New York Times comment stream and re-published what may be the smartest analysis to date of what's driving the extraordinary demand for iPhones overseas, especially in emerging markets (see "Tantrum" here).

    Today, Dan Frommer treats us to an informal survey of the going rate for those iPhones MORE

    - Apr 8, 2008 2:25 PM ET
  • Apple to iPhone developer: No soup for you! [update]

    UPDATE: It appears this whole thing was a hoax. This was posted Monday on a MacRumor forum:

    Hey Guys,

    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 MORE

    - Feb 17, 2008 11:56 AM ET
    Posted in: , , ,
  • How to unlock a 1.1.3 iPhone

    You can't just click a button and unlock a new Apple (AAPL) iPhone to run in any country or on any carrier's network.

    That would be too easy.

    But the software unlock for 1.1.3 iPhones published early this morning by George Hotz, and widely publicized by Engadget and others, has now been translated out of geek-speak and into step-by-step procedures that ordinary mortals can follow. There are several versions on the Net, MORE

    - Feb 8, 2008 11:39 AM ET
  • The iPhones of Equatorial Guinea

    It's one of the smallest nations in Africa, roughly the size of Hawaii with a population of half a million. Yet the former Spanish colony of Equatorial Guinea tops the list of iPhone-using countries compiled by Net Applications, which issued a report on Friday that ranks them by the relative frequency with which the Web was accessed in January via an Apple (AAPL) iPhone.

    "We've heard the rumors that many MORE

    - Feb 2, 2008 4:17 PM ET
    Posted in: , ,
  • Apple Set to Disable iPhone Apps -- Again

    Here we go again.

    British reviewers who have tested the Apple (AAPL) iPhone that goes on sale in the U.K. Friday report that it comes pre-installed with a software update -- 1.1.2 -- that disables third-party applications.

    According to the British gadget website T3, the update closes the so-called TIFF exploit -- the software loophole used by hackers to "jailbreak" version 1.1.1. This loophole allowed iPhone owners to install dozens of MORE

    - Nov 4, 2007 9:56 AM ET
  • Apple: One in Six iPhones Bought With "Intention to Unlock"

    One of the unanswered questions about Apple's (AAPL) iPhone was answered yesterday by COO Tim Cook during the company's Q4 earnings call with analysts. Responding to a query from Sanford Berstein's Toni Sacconaghi about how high iPhone sales jumped after the $200 price cut, Cook disclosed a nugget of market data Sacconaghi hadn't requested:

    Timothy D. Cook

    Toni, we were very happy with the elasticity that we saw. It enabled us to MORE

    - Oct 23, 2007 7:18 AM ET
  • iPhone Apps Reinstated, iPod Touch Hacked

    Columbus Day was a busy one for the two dozen or so renegade programmers who have taken it upon themselves to re-do what Apple (AAPL) undid with its latest software update for the iPhone. Firmware update 1.1.1, released 10 days earlier, had wiped out virtually every unauthorized program written for the device.

    At noon yesterday, Erica Sadun, a writer and programmer who has emerged as the unofficial spokesperson for the so-called MORE

    - Oct 9, 2007 8:13 AM ET
    Posted in: , ,
  • Estimate: As Many as 100,000 iPhones Sold for Unlock

    Amid all the controversy about those unlocked iPhones -- and what Apple's (AAPL) most recent software update did to them -- it's never been clear how many devices were actually affected. Based on the number of times their iUnlock software was downloaded, the iPhone Dev team put the number of unlocked iPhones, perhaps unrealistically, at several hundred thousand. Shaw Wu of American Technology Research insists the real figure is so MORE

    - Oct 4, 2007 9:25 AM ET
Current Issue
  • Give the gift of Fortune
  • Get the Fortune app
  • Subscribe
Powered by WordPress.com VIP.