Open to all? Group claims first complete iPhone unlock

Software lets users ditch AT&T, use any carrier by swapping SIMs; on sale next week

A group calling themselves iPhoneSIMFree today claimed that they had created software that unlocked Apple Inc.'s iPhone, letting users make calls on mobile networks other than AT&T, the official, and exclusive, carrier in the U.S.

"No need to open your phone. No need to solder," the group announced on its Web site. Although iPhoneSIMFree said it would offer both individual and group licenses for the unlocking software next week, it didn't list a price.

Technology blog site Engadget, which first reported iPhoneSIMFree's success in unlocking the iPhone -- a project that's been ongoing since the late June launch of the smart phone -- confirmed that the hack works, said the unlock remains intact even after applying the most recent firmware update, and posted a short video demonstrating the iPhone connecting to and making a call over the T-Mobile network.

"We can confirm with 100% certainty that iPhoneSIMfree.com's software solution completely SIM unlocks the iPhone, is restore-resistant, and should make the iPhone fully functional for users outside of the U.S." said Ryan Block on Engadget.

Only a few iPhone features, reported Block, don't work when another carrier's SIM is stuck into the device. Most notably: Visual Voicemail, the AT&T-only feature that lets users skip directly to a specific voicemail message, rather than having to listen to them chronologically.

After unlocking the iPhone, a users can insert a non-AT&T SIM card and use the smart phone to make calls or access the Internet over the new network. That's contrary to Apple's intent, of course; the computer and consumer electronics maker has an exclusive arrangement with AT&T in the U.S., and has reportedly signed similar deals with several European carriers in preparation for the launch of the smart phone there later this year. According to Apple, iPhones must be activated only with AT&T, and owners must subscribe to an two-year AT&T calling plan.

It's not known whether the iPhoneSIMFree software will allow users to use an iPhone while completely circumventing AT&T, or if they would still need to buy into an AT&T plan. Previously, researchers had posted software that let buyers use their iPhone as a video iPod and Internet access device without dealing with AT&T, but doing that disabled the phone's call-making ability. One of the first was the Norwegian hacker Jon Lech Johansen, a.k.a. "DVDJon,"who unveiled his end-around just days after the iPhone's June 29 roll-out.

Engadget's claim that the unlock survived a restore is also important, since Apple has disabled prior hacks through early firmware updates. Recently, however, the 1.0.2 update, while requiring modified, or "modded" iPhones to restore from scratch, did not block hacks from operating.

Apple did not reply to a series of questions about the iPhoneSIMFree software and the company's likely response to the iPhone unlocking.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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