Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Unlocking the iPhone is legal

Tim Wu has also had fun unlocking his new iPhone.

"I approached a typically chipper Apple salesman, clad in black with spiked hair. "I'm purchasing an iPhone," I began, "but I'm a T-Mobile customer, and so I was just wondering, I read that you can unlock the phone—"

"No," he cut me off.

"But I had read that it's possible to unlock the phone and use it—"

"You heard wrong," he said, his voice rising. "That's impossible." The tone was harsh; a few people looked over.

In the absence of friendly advice from Apple's employees, I handed over $432.42, took the phone home... I followed the unlocking guide prepared by Macworld's Cyrus Farivar. He took me to modmyiphone.com, the best source for detailed instructions...

As I unlocked it, I was constantly aware of the risk of turning my brand-new phone into a gleaming paperweight...None of this is for the faint of heart, but it's also exhilarating. Especially when you hit the last screen:


The good news is that my iPhone works flawlessly...

Did I do anything wrong? When you buy an iPhone, Apple might argue that you've made an implicit promise to become an AT&T customer. But I did no such thing. I told the employees at the Apple Store that I wanted to unlock it, and at no stage of the purchasing process did I explicitly agree to be an AT&T customer. There was no sneakiness; I just did something they didn't like.

Meanwhile, lest we forget, I did just throw down more than $400 for this little toy. I'm no property-rights freak, but that iPhone is now my personal property, and that ought to stand for something...

The worst thing that you can say about me is that I've messed with Apple's right to run its business exactly the way it wants. But to my mind, that's not a right you get in the free market or in our legal system."

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