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.

106 Comments

  1. There is no “war” with hackers. Please… What happened when hackers hacked iTunes’ DRM or hacked Mac OS X to run on generic Intel hardware? Did Apple “lose” those wars. Nope, Apple just made a few adjustments, and those hackers where defeated. Yes, they could have come back with another hack, but apparently, it wasn’t worth their effort. I guess even hackers these days have to make money too.

  2. @Grifterus-

    Your analogy is flawed. I don’t think that anyone who physically modifies their iPhone expects Apple to support it. Changing software, though, is reversible. If Apple were to release an update that breaks unlocked iPhones, and then doesn’t allow folks a way to reset the software back to factory stock, then I’d call that a problem. Apple doesn’t put this requirement on the desktops or laptops, and since the iPhone runs a variant of OS X, there’s no reason why some one who’s clever enough to do it shouldn’t be able to change the software. They should, however, be able to reset the software, just as you can do on a desktop or laptop from Apple. Besides which, even everyone’s “favorite” law, the DMCA, has an exception for unlocking phones so that they’ll be able to work on other than the original network. If the morons who passed the DMCA even see the ability to change networks as worthwhile and something that should be legally protected, why do have an issue with folks who want to buy an iPhone but don’t want AT&T;’s service?
    The iPhone is a great device, but there are plenty of ways it could be better. I’d love to own one, except that I’m not willing to change service plans (no one’s been able to beat my current monthly price), and I’m not willing to pay nearly double what I do now every month just to get an iPhone. Besides which, with an iPhone, I’d lose some capabilities that my current phone has (save, view, and edit Office docs, save and view PDF’s, run 3rd party apps), and it’s not a good trade for me even with the features that are exclusive to the iPhone.
    And before any fanboys pipe up accusing me of being a Microsoft hack, I’ve been a Mac user for the last 14 years. I only use Windows at work, and then only when necessary.

  3. Thanks Brian
    “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.”
    Agree Andrew
    ” 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”

    If you want an iPhone, you have 2 choices,
    choice 1/ abide by the terms with your Countries carrier,
    choice 2/ unlock/ hack what ever, but do at your own risk, and do not go bitching if they get one up on you

    I live in Mexico, have an unlocked iPhone, LOVE IT
    I am happy with the original version of software, no need to update, until the hackers have a fix
    If it is permanently turned into a brick, I will buy a new one as soon as that is unlocked, I figure if I have to buy 3 iPhones a year, so be it, well worth $100.00 per month just to have one.

    Any way, love having a reason to fly to Miami

  4. You would think after reading this and similar articles, that everyone and their brother were unlocking their iPhones. I seriously doubt that anywhere near 1% of iPhone owners have even thought about doing it. So it is unlikely that this is going to have any impact, one way or another, on Apple’s reputation.

  5. anyone that wants to hack an iphone is prolly the type to d/l pirated music. you hacks just dont get it. its not your right to hack someones product and demand they support your lame ass hack. now stfu and go back to your rooms/basement/garage. the VAST majority of actual consumers dont care for your lame ass hacks and are buying the iphone cause they want one. only idiots buy iphones to hack em. i mean wtf get a life. go play wow or something….noobs i swear. ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”raspberry” style=”border:0;” />

  6. My first Mac was the 128k version in 1984. And for the first time in the personal history of that relation between me and Apple, I fondamentaly disagreeing with Apple about their deals with IT&T;and all others exclusive foreign networks about the iPhone.

    Why?:
    – Because Apple make a greedy deal with a non computer enterprise (AT&T;);
    – Because this deal with IT&T;impeach an international usage of their GSM product (SIM card locked to AT&T;). I f ican use a MacBook everywhere in the World. Why not with an iPhone, at least as a phone?;
    – Because Apple want to impose this same IT&T;deal in foreign countries, when albeit laws in those places prohibite the obligation of joint sale of service (phones networks) and hardware (iPhone). And that prohibition explains perhaps the the problem now with Orange Network in France ;
    -Because the relation between Apple and IT&T;have a very strange similitary with the harm job between M$ and all those pc product enterprises, but in reverse…;

  7. I think that they should get a developer kit up and running asap. I don’t care about unlockers, but the energy focused on this technology is precious. Resisting or letting it travel unguided is dangerous and sad. A developer kit would take the ire out of it and channel the efforts toward good, not evil.

  8. I have to agree with the business on this one. Anyone that modifies a product knows that they will eventually be assed out when an update comes along. Or that maybe a certain item won’t work. It’s not Apple’s fault. They told people what was going to happen. Do people get all up in arms when they modify they car to the extent that it voids the factory warranty? No, they understand the risk involved.

    The people that are mad are the ones that went out of their way to try and be cool and have the newest gadget possible. They unlocked their phones and showed that it worked with T-Mobile. Good for them. Now what? They should’ve known that eventually something would come along and possible render it useless.

    The people making a big deal about this are the ones that feel like they’ve been cheated because they just got screwed. They shouldn’t have tried to be part of the cool crowd and hacking their iPhone for some assinine reason like “I hate AT&T;” or “It doesn’t have something I want on it.” Well, look at you now.

    MDN Word – gone. Kind of appropriate.

  9. Plenty of these “hacks” have nothing to do with AT&T;, but come from the whining development community who just want to install apps on the thing. Presumably they’d want to do this regardless of carrier.

  10. The lack of clear logic regarding Apple’s high Consumer Reports ratings is incredible.

    Apple is tied for 3rd place with Gateway in units sold in the U.S. (See link below) Therefore, they actually have more customers than Lenovo. This “Apple gets high marks from consumers because they are just a tiny fraction of Steve jobs cultists” refrain is way past getting old. Come on ZDNet! You guys do this for a living! And this is the best reasoning you can come up with?

    Might it be that Apple really does have stellar customer service? Is that *so* hard to imagine?

    http://www.computerworld.com/action/article.do?command=viewArticleBasic&articleId=9027527

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