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UK firm close to unlocking the iPhone

Belfast firm working round the clock on fix

Even after an iPhone were unlocked, it still could only work on carrier networks that support the GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) network, which is what AT&T's service is based on. In the US, T-Mobile is the only major carrier on a GSM network. And there is no guarantee Apple will not lock down the phones again in a future firmware update through the iPhone synchronisation process, or create a new way to unlock the next wave of iPhones they put on the market.

That is, in fact, exactly what one analyst said will happen. "I assume that someone will succeed in unlocking the iPhone," said Avi Greengart, principal analyst, mobile devices at Current Analysis. "I also assume Apple will close whatever loophole is open the next time they synchronise [the software]."

It's also likely there will be complications with special features of the phone that are designed to work only on AT&T's network, such as the visual voicemail feature, he said.

Greengart said he sympathises with those that might want to use an iPhone with another carrier but "that's not the way the product was designed."

"Exclusive agreements are not that unusual in this industry at all," he said.

In the UK and Europe third parties have been unlocking handsets for several years, although there is no law that specifically protects them, McLaughlin said. However, in the US it is legal to unlock mobile handsets under an amendment to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that was passed in November 2006.

McLaughlin said that even though it's legal in the US to unlock phones, he anticipates that if his team is successful, Apple may take legal action against them based on their tinkering with the firmware. "They'll probably come after us for copyright infringement," he said.

Apple did not reply to requests for comment.

McLaughlin plans to charge customers about $49.99 (£25) for software to unlock iPhones. Even if UniquePhones is not the first to offer unlocking capability, it won't be hard for them to replicate what others have done once the encryption is cracked, he added.

www.computerworld.com


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