Pwnage Tool logoOver the past year and a half I had assisted many people with the unlocking of their iPhones. Many more people ask me about unlocking. So instead of answering each of these people over and over again, I thought I post an article in my blog, which I can refer them to for more details.

  1. What Does iPhone Unlock mean? Many carriers around the world will "carrier lock" a cell phone that they had subsidized for their customers. To ensure the purchaser of the cell phone stays as a customer of the carrier after the purchase, the carrier will normally do two things:

    • Make the purchaser commit to a contract that bounds them to the carrier for a number of years (2 years is common). Of course the purchaser can break the contract, but there is usually a penalty to compensate the carrier for the subsidizing the cell phone.
    • Carrier Lock the cell phone to the carrier's network, meaning the cell phone cannot be used on any other cellular network in the world.

  2. Is "Carrier Unlocking" the iPhone Illegal? In most countries with consumer protection regulations it is not illegal, but I am not a lawyer so I will not attempt to advise you with this matter. If you are concern I suggest you seek legal advise in your local area.
  3. Is It Illegal to Use a "Carrier Unlocked" iPhone on My Carrier? In almost all countries there are some regulations that prevent the use of unauthorized equipments on a mobile carrier network. In Hong Kong the individual carrier is responsible for managing the OFTA license, and has the rights to disallow the use of any unauthorized cell phone on their network including the canceling of an individual's cell phone service for using an unauthorized cell phone.
  4. What is the Difference Between Jailbreaking and Unlocking the iPhone? Jailbreaking is to process of hacking the iPhone so that "unauthorized" 3rd party applications can be installed on the iPhone. Ever since the launch of the Apple "iPhone AppStore" it is less important to jailbreak, unless there are applications that one really need. For me one such application is BiteSMS. Unlocking includes jailbreaking and it is the process of hacking the iPhone so that it is not carrier restricted (carrier locked) to a particular carrier partner. As of this writing you can find a list of Apple worldwide carrier partners for the iPhone at Apple.com.
  5. How Do I Jailbreak/Unlock My iPhone? Since June 2007 there had been many methods to jailbreak or unlock the iPhone. First there were the 23 steps method, including the use of SSH client and various other manipulations of proprietary files on the iPhone. Fortunately, since then we now have simple programs like the Pwnage Tool from the iPhoneDev Team, who has been the major hacking group coming out with methods and software to "carrier" unlock the iPhone. If you have a 1st generation iPhone you can follow the guide at ModMyi.com for the 1G iPhone. If you have the iPhone 3G, you should follow ModMyi.com's guide for the iPhone 3G. The same site you will find Windows equivalent instructions for both versions of the iPhone.
  6. Can I Unlock my iPhone 3G? As of the writing of this post there are no software unlock method for the iPhone 3G. The only way to "carrier" unlock an iPhone 3G is to use a hardware unlock; tools like TurboSIM. I do not recommend this hardware unlock, since in many case it will damage the iPhone. The iPhoneDev Team claims to be making available a tool on New Year's Eve 2008 that will unlock the iPhone 3G, similar to the ease of use of the current Pwnage Tool. To prove that their method is successful and simple, they have released a video of this tool; code name "Yellowsn0w".
  7. What is the Best Carrier Plan for the iPhone in Hong Kong? Although, carrier plans changes almost monthly, like anything in Hong Kong, mobile carrier price plans (tariff plans) have been very competitive. Over this past year and a half I had examined most of them. You can read my findings of these mobile carrier plans analyzed from an iPhone user in Hong Kong's perspectives.

It has been over two weeks since my first post, Phone Firmware 2.2 NOT for Hacked iPhones about the new iPhone firmware 2.2. Since then the famed hacker team iPhone Dev Team had quickly released 2.2.1 of its Pwnage Tool to correct the bug found back in late-November. I had also used this version of the firmware for two weeks and can safely report that it has indeed fixed most of the bugs found in previous versions of the iPhone firmware. Although, Safari still crashes when visiting certain sites (ie. Mashable.com), but that may have to do with functionalities on these sites; hard to say.

PS: please read all of iPhone Dev Team's notes before using the any of the tools released for jailbreaking and/or unlocking your iPhone 2G and 3G. If you do not read all the notes you may be sorry.

I should add "YET!". Apple made available firmware 2.0.1 for the iPhone and iPod Touch.

iPhone Firmware 2.0.1 Availability

If you have an iPhone 3G (non-jailbroken), original iPhone (non-jailbroken and locked) or a pristine iPod Touch, then you should definitely upgrade to this latest firmware. So far all reports show that applications runs faster, quicker synchronization with iTunes and spiffier overall functions of the iPhone or iPod Touch.

WARNING: if you are not in the above group of Apple device owners, meaning you have jailbroken and/or unlocked your iPhone or iPod Touch you should NOT upgrade. You will need to wait for the hacking community to update their hacking methods (currently Pwnage Tool) before doing any firmware update.

The only exception will be the iPod Touch owners who had jailbroken their device and do not mind returning their iPod to Apple factory condition (ie. no more unauthorized 3rd party applications).

BTW: As I have reported on Twitter and other Social Networks, I am experimenting with a method to resolve much of the frequent crashes on the iPhone with firmware 2.0. I will be reporting here on my blog as soon as I have definite results. Please stay tune.