Tech Check

iPhone: Hack It And You Might Go Blind??

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Apple Inc.'s warning Monday about the dangers of downloading software to unlock the iPhone had a strange ring to it. Kinda like parents warning coming-of-age kids that if they spend too much time enjoying a certain 'pastime,' they risk going blind.

Of course that isn't true and many kids kept doing it until they really did need glasses. And then they got scared and might have stopped. Seems like Apple is employing the same strategy. Download unlocking software and you risk turning your $400 iPhone into a non-working piece of art for the coffee table. A worthless brick that no longer does anything.

Except for the fact that several tech experts I've talked to doubt Apple's claim, at least right now, and say if you read between the lines of the warning, Apple is essentially confirming the effectiveness of the software downloads. That's not to say Apple isn't busily developing software updates that in fact will disable your phone if you download them and also have unlocking software already loaded.

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Which all puts Apple in a tricky spot. When word of these unlocked phones began to circulate, it was likely Apple couldn't care less; happy consumers were buying the company's hardware and not troubling itself which network on which they were ultimately used.

At some point AT&T had to ask Apple for some help since it risked becoming a big-time victim from all this. And Apple obliged. But the tricky part is this: Apple may find itself in the weird position of offering up software that purposely disables customer phones, in an effort to support its iPhone partner AT&T so it doesn't lose subscribers. Admirable that Apple would step up; but nefarious in that Apple would be essentially attacking the very people who plunked down big money for an iPhone.

I mean wasn't it Apple that made a name for itself by fighting back against 'Big Brother' and IBM lo those many years ago; bringing technology to the masses and letting us come up with creative and cool ways to use it? Isn't "unlocking" an iPhone following in that very rich history?

Maybe Apple had to issue the warning. Maybe AT&T was angry that it was so easy to unravel the exclusivity and demanded Apple step up. Maybe Apple just felt like it had to give the appearance of protecting its AT&T arrangement. Either way, consumers have a decision to make: roll the dice and risk disabling their phones; or not bother in the first place.

Experts I'm talking to doubt Apple's claims of an immediate--or even long term--risk. But even the specter of that risk might be enough to nip this unlocking thing in the bud. Or not. Forewarned is forearmed. Maybe I'll just keep downloading the software until I need glasses.

Questions?  Comments?