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September 29, 2007

The iPhone/iBrick Verdict


I've been waiting for the internet buzz regarding the iPhone update to cool down before I made a judgement on the validity of Apple's warning about possible "bricked" phones. Especially since the day of the update there was those saying they had no problems and others saying they did. Today the New York Times reported that Apple's warning was indeed true. Some were spared, but everyone who had third-party applications on their phones lost them and at least one person who had a book contract to write about third-party hacks lost the book contract as well! Those who had just installed third-party programs were the lucky ones though. Most didn't have their phones rendered competely inoperable, but those who took the risk of unlocking their phones to access other cellular networks besides Apple's exclusive partner, AT&T, found that their chances of ending up with a so-called iBrick were pretty good.

Apple definitely had the right to do this. iPhone users are not authorized to install third-party apps by contract (though Steve Jobs of all people should have known this would happen) and AT&T is the exclusive provider of network coverage for the iPhone. By unlocking phones, users threatened the Apple-AT&T partnership and the phone networks business. Many Apple fans though are disappointed at the lengths the company took to prevent people from hacking the phone. Many questioned why it wasn't enough simply to relock the phone via the update and erase the installed applications. Rendering a phone inoperable and forcing users to purchase a new one has been deemed going a little to far by users.

It'll be interesting to see the future drama that I'm sure will unfold in iPhone circles. Will this move on Apple's part affect iPhone sales in the next quarter? What'll be the future of third-party apps for the iPhone? We all know someone will figure out a way to get around the update. It seems only time will tell.

Let us know your iPhone update experiences in the comments section. Also a couple of days back I questioned Apple's honest and transparency in this matter, so I'd encourage you to check out the activity over at Gizmodo. Question of the day yesterday: Are iPhone update problems malicious or unintentional side effect? The debate is still going strong so go check it out!

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Posted by Justin Davey at September 29, 2007 9:12 AM

Recent Comments

RL, you make some great points. At the very foundational level of this issue, Apple is not in the wrong. They developed an excellent product and anyone who signed a contract should have known what the conditions of that contract were. In the end, and I will say it again, this uproar has nothing to do with the iPhone itself or even the fact that some of them ended up bricked. This issue is about a company that has been very obviously dishonest with their customers. Remember though, that in any publicly traded company, there is something called shareholder primacy. The value of Apple to their shareholders is more important than you, the customer, or the employees, environment, etc, etc. When it comes right down to it, you have to make a decision about whether you wish to give your money to a company that is starting to display a lack of values. Enough said.

Posted by: Justin Davey at October 1, 2007 8:49 PM

IPhone is a wonderful product - yet Apple is a company who think they can bully their customers with the power of their products.

One should simply choose to vote with their wallet. Yes, you can unlock the phone, but who ultimately have gotten the money in your wallet? Unlocking the phone may avoid the charges from AT&T, but Apple has already gotten your money and you have shown them no matter how bad of a deal they are given to their customers, their customers will still put up with it.

If you don't agree with their sales-philosophy, have some bone and don't buy it in the first place and don't choose to become a victim. If you have chosen to buy it, you have already agreed to how they do things and should be expecting that they will screw you over money and profit (look at how they dropped the price and not selling the 4GB anymore - some are already screwed). The only power the customers have is to vote with their money and to refuse to being treated that way.

I hope that there will be enough people realize that we should learn to be a responsible customer: buying a product nowaday doesn't mean just buying the product itself anymore. In many cases, we are also buying "agreements" and "services" that got tagged along. Be a wise customer and don't just look at the "cool-product" and got lured into bad packages that you don't want.

For those who have already bought an IPhone and got it bricked by Apple intended damaging update, I hope that a measure will be found for them to continue to use their phone (afterall they did pay their hard earn money for it).

For those who consider launching a lawsuit against the practice, I wish them luck, as succeed or not, bad publicity on a company may result in fairer choice s for the customers in the future.

For those who do not have an Iphone, THINK SERIOUSLY before putting out your dear money to agree to something that you might not think it is right. In sum, be a well informed and responsible customers, don't be a victim.

Of course, if you are perfectly happy with the contract they put out, that is certainly fine. Yet, don't be bullied, if you think that it is unfair, don't go for it unless you really need that product so BADLY (or unless you see your money as dirt) - be a smart customer.

Posted by: RL at October 1, 2007 1:32 PM

No one will care that Apple broke the warranty or the iPhones of some hackers. Very few people will want the "freedom to tinker" with an iPhone. They are happy that they finally have a mobile phone that makes sense and performs well. That is why over 85% of iPhone buyers say that they are satisfied or very satisfied with their purchase.

The hackers aren't going to stop and Apple will squash them again and again. Why? Because they represent a security risk that Apple does not want now. Will there be third party apps for the iPhone? Sure, but they will be licensed apps sold through the itunes Music Store. There will be no software free-for-all that will allow malware to flourish.

Will the iPhone ever be sold unlocked? Probably not. But AT&T will improve its service and customer relations because Apple stands as an intermediary. Apple will treat AT&T just like it does RIAA in the MP3 player market. Apple stomps on anything that harms the user experience on an iPod. I expect Apple will do the same thing in the mobile phone market.

Posted by: Louis Wheeler at September 30, 2007 3:53 PM

There'll be never ending argument with this issue. Did Apple have the right to do what they did? Of course? Were they entirely honest about the software update? That's where the debate lies. Was it intentionally developed to disable phones that breached the user agreement of was it a just a innocent side effect of benevolently developed software?

Posted by: Justin Davey at September 29, 2007 11:58 PM

When they hacked their iPhone they broke the end user agreement. Then Apple warned them not to update. Each and everyone of them updated, ignoring the advice of Apple and ignoring the fact that after breaking the end user agreement, they had no right to instal the upgrade in the first place.

All blame lies with the users who hacked their iPhones. They no longer had a contract with Apple or AT&T for that matter.

Posted by: Al at September 29, 2007 10:13 PM

Good summary. I think Apple went this far to show they weren't just playing around. I've lost respect for Gizmodo with the "Don't Buy" verdict, but I think the general content and tone of the comment thread reveals much level-headedness.

Forget where, but one site said that it's Apple, and not AT&T, preventing unlock codes from being released as usual under certain conditions, even for use with prepaid SIM cards overseas. Don't know if it's true or not, but if true, Apple needs to make that clear to prospective customers, and explain why that needs to be case. I would regard this type of change as being anti-consumer.

Posted by: mark at September 29, 2007 5:25 PM

I agree, there is way too much speculation going on. Also, I understand people being upset about their phones being bricked. That's totally uncool, but as far as third party apps goes, Who didn't see that one coming?!

Posted by: Rodrigo at September 29, 2007 12:05 PM
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