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. 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!

  2. 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.

  3. 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!”)

  4. When did Apple Computer become open season for hackers. Why should Apple have to placate a group that represents the smallest fraction of the minority of the customer base. These hackers act like it is their right to do what ever they want with the phone. Apple has certain legal obligations to ATT. Thats why the phone is built the way it was. If the hackers want to hack let them do it, at their own risk. Hackers, a bunch of cry babies.

  5. Apple, learning from Micro$oft, has to protect their stuff, protect it early, and protect it often. Micro$oft is getting a bad trying desperately to protect their stuff too much, way too late. The volume of sign ons is way greater than those complaining about Apple’s monopolization tactics. Again, you can monopolize as long as you have the best product and best product cycle and best product upgrade path. Micro$oft never had the best product, and look at them now…desperate. Go ahead, buy Facebook, Yahoo, and whoever else to try and compete, but the four horsemen have a long term plan and will stay strong. AAPL, GOOG, AMZN, and yes, RIM. Later, AAPL and RIM are going to compete head to head and Apple will win, but, for now, they are on the same page against the spiraling Micro$oft.

  6. I have a recording of my grandmother’s voice saying, “Boy, answer that damn phone!”

    It was my ringtone.

    I’m not stealing anyone’s stupid pathetic who cares crappy ass music. I just liked Lucy’s voice on my phone. My $600 phone. Or is it my phone? Maybe I didn’t read the docs properly. Apparently Apple still OWNS my phone and will direct what I do with it.

    To say that I am disillusioned with Apple is an understatement.

  7. @Jim –

    I had the same problem as you — an error during the updating process required a “restore” on the iPhone, and resyncing all the data. Why in the world would you think your phone was dead?

    The whole process was completely straightforward (if a bit annoying), and on-screen directions made it perfectly clear that this was no big deal. It took about two hours to reload about six gigs of data on my phone. Your iPhone was no doubt waiting for you ready to go long before you showed up after work.

    Considering what a pain reinstalling an OS can be (even the Mac OS), I thought this was a relatively painful process.

    I wonder if you are who the dumb-ass over at ZDNet was referring to as unhacked customers reporting their phones were “bricked”?

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