Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Help, my iPhone is going to be a brick!

The world is full of very interesting people...

In the last three months, lots of non-technical users jailbreaked their iPhone, opening it up to third party applications. Then they unlocked it, opening it up to any carrier. Rumors say "lots" could mean over 100,000 people, 10% of the iPhone buyers ;-)

Now they are all panicking...

Apple yesterday has said: "we are about to release an upgrade of the iPhone firmware. If you unlocked your iPhone, this upgrade will most likely transform it into a brick". Maybe you will be able to use it as a mirror. A $499 mirror (after rebate). A rather expensive one.

What is exactly happening?

  1. jailbreaking was an easily reversible operation. You could click on Restore in your iTunes and you would have a virgin iPhone. Apple would do it for you. Automatically. At any firmware update.
  2. unlocking is not easily reversible, since you actually update the baseband... To reverse it, you have to get the baseband back to its original state. You would need a tool, which is not available today. And the hacks available today do not seem to be working too well...
Not many people realized the difference, subtle but significant. And now that Apple is about to issue a firmware update, panic has spread... If you cannot give your iPhone its virginity back and you upgrade the firmware, the phone will be bricked. If you go to an Apple store with it, they will laugh at you. Your wife will make you pay for it.

Blogs are full of strategies today, like throwing the iPhone out of the window and asking the credit card for a refund (they would refund a broken iPhone, in particular if you cannot even turn it on anymore ;-) Some are thinking about a class-action lawsuit against Apple (for what? Issuing a software upgrade?). Others are starting to blame the developers of the unlocking tools (like they did not tell you it could be risky...). Unbelievable.

Seriously, what do you do?

You just wait :-) Apple firmware upgrades are not mandatory. iTunes asks you if you want to update the iPhone. Just say no.

If you did only software changes to the iPhone (remember, you did not open it up), those are reversible. You just need the software developer who developed the unlock, to develop a working ununlock. Worst case scenario, they will develop a virginity tool. At that point, you will be able to upgrade your iPhone and get the wonderful new features in it (as far as I know, only the ability to spend more money buying music online, maybe not even worth it ;-) Then you can re-unlock it, if you feel it was worth the anxiety.

Do not panic. Just wait. Next time, think about it twice. Leave it to the geeks.