Apple has a big headache. That headache is iPhone unlockers and jailbreakers. With iPhone jailbreaking, the powerful handsets are no longer constrained to only run the apps that Apple allows. And with unlocking, users can jump onto other networks, leaving Apple’s partner AT&T and its patchy 3G network behind.
Apple has long and unsuccessfully waged war with the unlockers. It has tried to brick their iPhones. It has tried to release new firmware versions to try to lock them out. But ultimately, time and time again, Apple’s best hardware and software engineers are finding themselves outwitted and befuddled by the persistent hackers.
Leading the crew is George Hotz, a 20-year-old New Jersey native who goes by the aliases geohot, million75, or mil online. When he was just a teen, he became the first to develop a procedure to jailbreak the iPhone allowing its use on other networks. The move netted him a hot car, extra iPhones, money, and fame. Now slightly older and a month out of his teenage years, Hotz continues to be among the most prolific iPhone unlockers, consistently outsmarting Apple.
Now Hotz has released his latest masterpiece, blacksn0w, a free unlocking utility that works with the latest iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS hardware (the latest 05.11.07 baseband, which locked out previous hacks). The unlock works with a new version of Hotz’s popular purplera1n jailbreak hack, dubbed blackra1n. Together the hacks can both free the phone from the AT&T network and Apple’s app restrictions.
Blacksn0w is available through the renegade app store Cydia, which specializes in apps Apple has rejected. Full support for Tiger and Power PC Macs has been added with the latest version of blackra1n, blackra1n RC3. The process for Apple and Windows users is detailed in easy tutorials here, and here, respectively.
One can only wonder if Apple is truly trying to defeat the unlockers. If so, how can the schemes of its seasoned engineers continually be foiled by Hotz and his legion of young iPhone hackers? On the other hand, if it doesn’t truly oppose unlocking, why would it lobby the government to outlaw the practice, claiming it supports terrorism and drug dealing?
Regardless of whether Apple truly opposes unlocking/jailbreaking or not, the work by Hotz, et. al is welcome as it introduces the iPhone to the free market of multiple app stores and networks. It also allows tethering — a feature currently banned by Apple and AT&T (be careful with this one, though, you can run over your data limits and get charged an arm and a leg — we warned you!).