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Apple's latest iPhone moves may have earned it a new class-action law suit--Apple's answer: purchase a new iPhone.

As reported on DailyTech, Apple Inc. disabled unlocked iPhones with its Firmware 1.1.1 update by putting them into activation limbo.  The unlocked phones could not make any calls until activated with a valid AT&T card and iTunes.  Even then, the phones would sometimes still be locked, according to preliminary reports.  Apple covered its bases, by providing a "slide for emergency" option which allows users to make 911 calls on their newly-bricked iPhone.

While many users simply are not going to install the update or are hoping for a cracked version of the patch to be released, some are seeking legal avenues to fight Apple's strike on the modding/hacking/homebrew community.

On Saturday, posts by user myndex appeared in Apple's iPhone Forums, proposing three groupings of users who could seek legal action and calling for users whose iPhones were rendered inoperable to contact the poster with answers to a list of questions detailing their iPhone situation.

The posts were taken down relatively quickly, but screenshots were posted here [1][2].  Additionally, a quick search reveals that Myndex is a tech and research group that appears to use Macintosh computers.  Whether the owner of the Apple forums handle is associated with this group is unknown.

Apple has protected itself by including a large amount of legal phrasing in its packaging, instruction manuals, and online materials, warning users against unlocking their iPhones, which they say violates their contract.

Noah Funderburg, an assistant dean at the University of Alabama School of Law, was quoted as saying. "Anyone who hacks must know that they are taking certain risks," Funderburg told the paper. "If they aren’t willing to assume the risks upfront--like a brick iPhone--then maybe they should not hack the device."

Jennifer Bowcock, an Apple spokeswoman indicated that Apple was unapologetic about the situation. "The inability to use your phone after making unauthorized modifications isn’t covered under the iPhone warranty. If the damage was due to use of an unauthorized software application, voiding their warranty, they should purchase a new iPhone,” said Bowcock

In some cases Apple appears to have not only killed unlockers, but those who simply were participating in the homebrew/3rd-party applications community.  Ross Good, a student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign had not expected to be affected as he had only installed a couple of seemingly harmless third party applications, including one for instant messaging.  After updating, he found his phone returned to the activation screen and would not activate, though he had a valid AT&T contract.  His phone is now among the growing number of phones "bricked" by the update.

No word was received from Apple on what its stance was on the damage done by its updates to non-unlocked users.

Apple is likely to face increased scrutinity, as well as possible legal assaults following its attack on unlockers.  It appears that many, including even non-unlockers were affected by the update.  Apple's is entirely unapologetic to those affected.  Their answer--get a new iPhone.

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"Certain risks?"
By killerroach on 10/1/2007 9:42:56 AM , Rating: 2
That law school professor's quote brings to mind one of the reasons why I'm glad I ended up adding an Economics major in college... had I stuck with Political Science, I'd probably also be stuck going to law school and having to deal with people like that.

Yes, there are risks to hacking. However, in most cases, when a device is successfully hacked, that's the end of the story; you don't have to worry about the product maker zapping your purchase because they don't like what you are doing with it. What ever happened to "you bought it, it's yours?" I understand the doctrine is being eroded by digital content providers, but this is a tangible device...

Finally, the third-party application developers who got froze out are probably the linchpin of such a lawsuit actually working, as courts have tended to side with independent application development in the past. That being said, this is Apple... all bets are off.

RE: "Certain risks?"
By mdogs444 on 10/1/2007 9:46:05 AM , Rating: 1
The problem is not the people who installed 3rd party IM applications on the device, and I feel bad for them.

The problem is the people who hacked it to use on other networks. Apple is doing what they need to do in order to honor their exclusive contracts with the service providers.

RE: "Certain risks?"
By clovell on 10/1/2007 11:48:20 AM , Rating: 2
Haven't thought of it like that before. I guess that puts them in a tight spot.

RE: "Certain risks?"
By gradoman on 10/1/2007 12:54:41 PM , Rating: 2

Why can't they offer phones that are already unlocked...? Like how Nokia does. So weird for them to not offer it unlocked -- in my opinion at least.

RE: "Certain risks?"
By mdogs444 on 10/1/2007 1:21:13 PM , Rating: 2
If they were unlocked, they would not be able to have exclusive contracts with service providers....

RE: "Certain risks?"
By gradoman on 10/1/2007 2:38:11 PM , Rating: 2
right, but do you see the premiums on those unlocked phones Nokia? could you explain how an exclusive contracts bring in more money vs an exorbitant premium of an unlocked phone?

(not being sarcastic here)

"A politician stumbles over himself... Then they pick it out. They edit it. He runs the clip, and then he makes a funny face, and the whole audience has a Pavlovian response." -- Joe Scarborough on John Stewart over Jim Cramer
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