ZDNet’s Dignan: Apple’s unwinnable war with iPhone unlockers puts reputation at risk

“Apple is clearly in a war with hackers over the iPhone and its most loyal fans could take a few hits,” Larry Dignan blgos for ZDNet. “Today’s angst over iPhones becoming iBricks because they were modified is really just the beginning. There are a few reports of non-hacked iPhones going dark following Apple’s latest firmware update.”

MacDailyNews Take: Why is there any “angst” at all for modded iPhones becoming iBricks when Apple warned users ahead of time (and during the update process)? Is it logical to expect any company to support unsupported hacks? Of course, not.

Dignan continues, “The iPhone update is just the latest example. Consider the following moving parts:”

• Apple cut the price of the premium iPhone by $200 just weeks after die-hards waited in line to pay $599 for it. Steve Jobs met these early adopters half way and gave them a $100 store credit. Where’s the other $100? If Steve really cared about you perhaps Apple would have made you better than whole, say a $250 credit.

MacDailyNews Take: Some portion of 0.33% of the U.S was upset that they paid the price on the box and then it changed. The other 99.67% of the U.S. population only sees a much better price. How many other companies offer $100 store credits when they change prices. Take your time, we’ll wait…

• The iPhone sticks you with one carrier–AT&T–that few people want. Why? Apple got the best deal from AT&T. We aren’t privy to the math behind the AT&T and Apple deal, but we do know none of these hacks to unlock the iPhone would be necessary if we had carrier choice. What’s the cost differential between adding a few carriers to the iPhone and wasting time developing software to outflank hackers?

MacDailyNews Take: Interesting question. However, assuming that Apple didn’t use Excel to do the math, one would tend to believe that the differential was great enough to have to sit through half-witted online petitions calling for Apple to change their product and nix their business deals, the fulminations of so-called tech reporters, etc. This is the way Apple has chosen to market the product they developed. AT&T in the U.S. is currently part of the product’s specs. If you don’t like it, there are other (lesser) so-called “smartphones.” It is not an unalienable right that everyone has an iPhone. If you want to deal with what unlocking the iPhone entails, then more power to you. But you shouldn’t complain when unsupported mods go unsupported.

• Apple has the best tech support in the business and could put it at risk over the iPhone. According to Consumer Reports June 2007 rankings Apple had a reader score of 81 out of a possible 100 when servicing desktops and laptops. On laptops the next best score was Lenovo’s 66 and Dell’s 60. One theory behind Apple’s score: Apple owners are an elite–some would say elitist–club. These folks will get whatever Apple pumps out of the product pipeline. Consumer Reports bases its scores on reader surveys. In these surveys perception matters. With the iPhone Apple is going mass market scores for Apple are only going to decline based on the laws of large numbers.

MacDailyNews Take: Another, more logical theory: Apple’s products are more reliable than other companies and Apple offers better tech support than other companies. Radical ideas, we know.

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: The more customers a company gets, the more complaints it will receive, as the percentage of “unsatisfied” customers is likely to remain constant despite growth. Apple should do whatever they can to improve support, quality, and their business decisions as they grow in order to protect their good reputation. Apple is not without fault – and can do better with some things – but the worries presented by Digan strike us as more than a bit overwrought.


  1. Yesterday I reported the iPhone update caused the phone to do a complete re-install of the OS. I was without my iPhone from noon until 5 when I got back home from work. I got back, all was fine, and 1.1.1 was installed as expected.

    My iPhone was not bricked as I initially thought.

  2. So are we to expect that Apple should engineer around iPhone hacks for the iPhone so that they don’t alienate their “loyal” hacker fans? I dont’ think so. Apple must be Apple and keep developing for their real consumers (the one’s buying the phone to actually use). Hackers are free to keep breaking into the iPhone all they want, just don’t polute the rest of us with their sour logic of Apple not playing nice with them. Companies that are trying to sell software to open up the iPhone are just trying to make a quick buck. They don’t care about the end-user experience that they are creating. It’s fun to hack into something, but that doesn’t mean it’s a viable business model.

  3. @shlumdaily news take:

    How did MDN make it so that “no one is allowed to criticize the God of Gods”? Seems to me that Dignan criticized and MDN responded. Isn’t that what reasoned discourse is about?

    Or is name calling the best that you’re able to do?


  4. I believe that reporters and many others like to pick hot topics that stir up feels from the large audience.

    But, these issues rarely affect, but a very small number of people.

    The number of people with an iPhone is a very small number.

    The number of people with a modified iPhone is an extremely small number.

    But, the story of Apple causing this very small number of people a problem is crazy. We know that all of these people are world travelers or live in an area without AT&T;service. And, they are just trying to use their phone. I feel so sorry for them. Able we should change some federal law to force Apple to correct this wrong and provide free service to the poor.

  5. And iDiots who spend $600 (before the price cut) or $400 for a fabulous, value-for-money device and then proceed to tinker around with it deserve their fate.

    As for this writer, same old, same old. The new line is:

    1) Apple is suddenly making “mistakes.”
    2) The “mistakes” are pissing off “loyal” customers (whatever that means).
    3) More and more “loyal” customers are abandoning the Apple ship.
    4) Therefore, Apple has started to sink.

    This calculation too seems to have been done on Excel!

  6. Well, Apple has no choice. They are walking a tight rope and doing pretty good at it. They had to team up with a carrier in order to do things like visual voice mail. If they had made the iPhone really easy to unlock, how would they ever establish any future relationships with other companies. However, if they made the iPhone completely unlockable, they would be alienating part of their user base. So, they didn’t turn it into an iBrick on purpose, but if it happened, well, we told you it might and that you should do it at your own risk.

  7. The product is what it is. As a manufacturer, I release a product and if you don’t like it, get an alternative!

    If you buy a Ford to put a Chevy engine on it, you do it at your own risk! Don’t expect Ford to make parts for your modified car or to fix your engine.

    If you want something you can hack at your leisure, get Linux! Linux was made for that.

    As Andrew Dice Clay said: “If you don’/t speak the language, get the F$%& out of the country!” (cound be read as “if you don’t agree with the terms, get another device!”)

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