Don’t Buy an iPhone to Unlock it.

It has become easier than ever to buy an iPhone and unlock it for use on a non-AT&T GSM network, but I’ve got 3 good reasons you shouldn’t do it.

  1. Apple will break the unlock in the next update. Both the software and hardware unlocks appear to rely on hacks to firmware for the baseband, the chip that talks to the cellular network. This firmware has already been updated once, and there are strong hints that it will be updated in the next firmware release which will come before the end of the month when they roll out the the iTunes WiFi music store.
  2. Apple will break the unlock in the update after that. The software unlock relies on a buffer overrun bug in the main iPhone firmware. This kind of bug is often a security problem, and will likely be patched when they release features or fix other bugs. (Update: If the iPod Touch is any indication, Apple is going to make it more difficult to get 3rd party apps onto the iPhone, which will complicate any software unlock.)
  3. Apple will release cool new features. Sure, you can pass up software updates, but how long will you be able to hold out as Apple keeps on rolling out cool new features for your phone?
  4. Apple will keep breaking future unlocks with software updates. Chances are that the iPhone hackers will continue to unlock the iPhone each time Apple relocks it, at least for a while. The problem is, we don’t know how long it will take them to do it. More importantly, at some point the best of the iPhone hackers are going to get tired of playing cat & mouse with Apple and move on to work on something newer and cooler.
  5. Apple may be releasing a fully supported iPhone in your country soon. European’s may be able to buy iPhones as early as this coming Tuesday.

You may still decide the risks are worth it to have an unlocked iPhone, but my advice would be to wait and see what happens over the next couple of weeks. Will Apple relock phones? How long will it take the hackers to create a new unlock?

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