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. This site sucks… What kind of an idiotic pseudo-statistic is this?

    “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.”

    You guys aren’t apple fanboys, you guys are apple whores. No sense of right and wrong. Pathetic. Let the tyranny reign.

  2. Mixed feelings on this one…..

    Re: hacking it to get out of using AT&T;…. I disagree with the whole ‘carrier protection’ thing and think all phones should be forced to be ‘portable’ between carriers using like technology…. BUT since that is not the case.. and our govt allows this carrier monopolization, I think Apple/AT&T;has the right to prevent people from hacking to get around it – I am positive that the AT&T;contracts subsidize the development of future iPhones.

    BUT … and a big BUT ! … I expect Apple, if they are going to sell this iPhone as some great handheld computing device that RUNS on OS X…. that this computing device be OPEN to program development by 3rd parties…. we shouldn’t be locked in to dealing with ONLY the software apps that Apple ‘approves’.

    Apple puts out great stuff…. including software… but they are far from covering the large gap of providing software solutions for all we need.

    Come On Apple…. its OS X – let us all use it to the full advantages it can allow !!!!!!!!!!

  3. > This site sucks… What kind of an idiotic pseudo-statistic is this?

    I totally agree with the “statistic” whether the number is correct or not. The number of iPhones sold before the price drop is almost insignificant compared to the number of potential customers. While that small number of “early adopters” may have been upset, the vast majority was feeling smug and superior because they weren’t “suckers.” So they are now even more likely to buy an iPhone.

  4. Tom stated “whining development community who just want to install apps on the thing”

    OH COME ON Tom ! Tell me you are ok with buying a pc and not being able to go find OEM software to put on it…. tell me that you have never installed a non-Apple ‘approved’ program on your Mac… (if you’re smart enough to own a mac).

    Yeah, sure Tom, I spend hours and hours of my time developing software ….. JUST so I can say I put it on a given ‘machine’… forget the possibility of productivity and usefulness… I NEVER take those into consideration during development.

  5. Blah…blah…blah

    Apple can do what it likes in the US. In many EU countries phones have to be unlocked on request. For example ‘in the UK service providers are required to unlock a mobile phone if requested to do so. But they are allowed to charge a fee (usually around £30) for this service.’ If you want an unlocked iPhone Apple will not brick in the future buy one of the UK versions and insist it be unlocked. If the iPhone is ever to come to Belgium it will have to be unlocked because selling locked phones in Belgium is illegal.

  6. I think this hacker demand is far less than what people realize. By the way it’s reported you’d think 90% of iPhone users are hacking their phones when the truth is, it’s probably closer to 2%. They just make more noise than the people who are perfectly happy with the way their phone is out of the box.

  7. TJ,

    For all the screaming of productivity and usefulness apps from the dev community, what I’ve seen are Etch a Sketch, Popcorn Popping, Draw a Pirate Face apps, and similar. Please.

    You wanna write apps for the iPhone? Use the web. You think you’re too good to use the web? Sucks to be you. A hack is still a hack.

    I’ll say this much: When an SDK for the iPhone does become available (and it will eventually) there had better be some KILLER apps from the dev community for all the crying they’re doing now. Sadly, I think the first thing we’ll get is Pirate Faces 2.0.

  8. This whole “Apple should let me use the carrier of my choice” thing is kinda silly. Especially here in america where there are only 2 choices, AT&T;and T-mobile. T-mobile has a much smaller and older network. Why would anyone have such a strong attachment to T-mobile? I was on T-mobile before I bought an iPhone and after switching I got a much better signal in the places I go. (San Francisco bay area)

    Second of all, this is just the kind of thing that Apple does to differentiate itself from it’s competitors. They take responsibility for the entire user experience. I’m certain that visual voicemail will not be the last carrier specific feature that Apple will add. Also, the activation process was amazing… does anyone miss having to spend 20 mintues in a cell phone store activating your service? I certainly dont.

  9. First, I think Apple is just paying legal lipservice to protect their relationship with AT&T;. Ultimately, it does not hurt Apple too much if people unlock or jailbreak their iPhones.

    However, it’s ultimately up to the users who have hacked iPhones to make sure they can do a software restore to get any Apple updates, and then they can go and redo their hacks. That’s their risk and responsibility, not Apple’s.

  10. If you expect Apple to improve on the iPhone, then DON’T UPGRADE – Plain and simple. It’s not Apple’s job to code around your janky hacks. It’s their job to provide the best feature set possible that conforms to their hardware and sofware designs.

    It seems, to me, that the same people that bitch about the hacking are basically the same crowd as internet pirates. Same whiny crowd that bully cyberspace. ME ME ME ME ME FREE FREE FREE FREE FREE. Ugh.

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