New Jersey Teen Shows CNBC: How I Unlocked the iPhone


A New Jersey teenager has figured out how to make Apple's iPhone available on other wireless services besides AT&T, removing a major frustration for thousands of consumers.

And in an exclusive interview on CNBC, 17-year-old George Hotz revealed his motivation for unlocking the device: "It was fun."

"This was a good use of a summer," he said during the live interview Friday afternoon. "I became obsessed with unlocking this thing."

When Apple introduced the iPhone in July, it made the device available only on AT&T's wireless service, prompting widespread complaints among consumers. Hotz was able to unlock the device so that he can use it on his family's T-Mobile service.

U.S. Use Limited

Although T-Mobile is the only other service besides AT&T's that is compatible with the iPhone in the U.S, overseas users are likely to find their services compatible.

Hotz isn't the only one to have claimed to unlock the iPhone. A group calling itself iPhoneSimFree also says it also has hacked the multi-media device.

The teenager, who posted his achievement on his blog Thursday, said unlocking the iPhone is complicated, takes about two hours and requires skill with both soldering and software. He estimated he spent 500 hours developing his technique. Hotz is going to be freshman at the Rochester Institute of Technology this fall.

Though he could have sold the code for locking the iPhone, he posted it for free on the Internet. "I really believe that information should be free," Hotz said.

Still, Hotz is taking advantage of his success. He's posted one of the two iPhones he's hacked for auction on eBay. As of Friday afternoon, the leading bid stood at more than $3,000. Hotz started the bidding at $540--the amount Apple charges for an iPhone. He's keeping the first one he hacked for himself.

Overseas Use

While the possibility of switching from AT&T to T-Mobile may not be a major development for U.S. consumers, it opens up the iPhone for use on the networks of overseas carriers.

So far, the phone--which combines an innovative touch-screen interface with the media-playing abilities of the iPod--is sold only in the U.S.

AT&T told AP that it had no comment, and referred questions to Apple . The latter company was not immediately available.

Hotz's modification leaves the iPhone's many functions, including a built-in camera and the ability to access Wi-Fi networks, intact. The only thing that won't work is the 'visual voicemail' feature, which shows voice messages as if they were incoming e-mail.

Hotz collaborated online with four other people, two of them in Russia, to develop the unlocking process.

"Then there are two guys who I think are somewhere U.S.-side," Hotz said. He knows them only by their online handles.