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Apple May Be Breaking the Law With Policy On iPhone Unlocks 385

Posted by Zonk
from the read-the-fine-print dept.
an anonymous reader writes "Apple's recent decision to void warranties for folks that unlocked their iPhones may wind them up in legal hot water. The site Phone News points out that Apple appears to have broken a key warranty law relevant to SIM unlocks. The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, a law decades old, would seem to prevent Apple from voiding warranties in the way it is threatening to do with the iPhone, or so the site argues. 'The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act states that Apple cannot void a warranty for a product with third-party enhancements or modifications to their product. The only exception to this rule is if Apple can determine that the modification or enhancement is responsible [for] damaging the product in question ... The legal [questions are]: Is the SIM Unlock process that has become mainstream doing damage to iPhone? And, also, is Apple designing future software updates to do damage to iPhone when said SIM Unlock code is present?'"
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Apple May Be Breaking the Law With Policy On iPhone Unlocks

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  • by daveschroeder (516195) * on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @10:42AM (#20743221)
    It's not about unlocking phones.

    It's about the radio firmware being altered in an unknown way, or even damaged. (Note: this is DIFFERENT from jailbreaking, OS hacking, and installing third party apps.)

    Why should that be covered under warranty?

    [...] is Apple designing future software updates to do damage to iPhone when said SIM Unlock code is present?

    NO!

    Absolutely not.

    Apple has already explicitly stated that they are not going to intentionally or proactively do anything to unlocked phones. Even a small amount of logic would reveal that when the baseband radio firmware is in an unknown state (this is different from the OS on the phone, and doing the "hacking" to install third party applications, and so on), future updates, either to the firmware or the OS or both, may break things. Even a software update that expects the radio to accept commands or interact with the OS in a particular way could end up breaking things.

    Oh, I know a lot of you really want to believe Apple is actually going to intentionally damage phones that are unlocked. Sorry to disappoint, but that is simply not the case.

    If there is any legal issue that erupts over this, Apple will very easily be able to prove that there is no way for it to predict the state of the hardware when it does updates when it has been altered, perhaps irreparably depending on the method, in an unknown fashion by the user.

    Further, I think it's funny that some seem to carp about how Apple will be "fixing" the mechanism via which phones are currently unlocked, as if it's evil. Of course they will! It's a general buffer overflow that happens to be used in the unlock process. Should Apple not fix an exploitable buffer overflow in the OS just so people can continue to unlock phones? The arguments on this topic are laughable.

    Moreover, while end-user unlocking of handsets is legal in the US under the current DMCA exemption, the vendor is under NO OBLIGATION to support the phones in such a state with future software/firmware updates. I can hear all the "But what about the UK?" people chiming in now. Apple will do whatever is required by law in any jurisdiction. If a certain jurisdiction REQUIRES unlocked phones, Apple may skip that market entirely (for now). Even in the UK it isn't as clear as some people like to think it is, because the phone technically isn't subsidized, meaning that it may not have to be unlocked after the subsidy is repaid - because there is no subsidy. And a large part of Apple's iPhone strategy with carriers is tight integration for things like the activation process: things that simply aren't supported with anyone but the partner carrier.

    Remember: it's "legal" to do a lot of things which also might end up voiding the warranty of a particular product. Something being "legal" doesn't imply all of these things people seem to think it does. A lot of odd arguments appeared in the last story about this, saying that since the DMCA exemption allows handset unlocking, somehow, Apple must actively enable it. Wrong.

    Customers have a choice:

    - Don't ever apply a software update after unlocking (unless applying said update to a phone unlocked using your exact mechanism has been confirmed to work by others), and your phone will stay unlocked

    - Don't buy an iPhone

    Don't act like Apple is somehow bound to support all unlocked phones via any mechanism, some which may damage the phone, in any and all future software updates, especially when it can't possibly predict all iterations. You don't have to buy an iPhone.

    And if you want to argue about simlocking in general, it's a very common practice the world over, and your beef isn't with Apple. If Apple just sold all iPhones unlocked, like some people think they should, there would be nowhere near the tight integration with any and all carriers, the pleasant do-it-yourself activation process that is part of what makes the iPhone genius, not to mention the economic arguments, where
    • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @10:51AM (#20743361)
      Apple knows that the best course is to protect their exclusive contract, not to leave the phones as-is, and certainly not to shrug off people hacking their iPhones. Apple isn't doing this because they dislike their customers; they are doing it because they don't respect their customers. They also happen to be thwarting attempts to sync iPods with software other than iTunes -- I suppose this is also a completely normal, acceptable practice, to prevent people who use Amarok or Rhythmbox from syncing up their iPod?

      Maybe they didn't tell their developers to find a way to cause hacked iPhones to stop functioning. But I doubt that when one of their developers said at a meeting, "...and this update will cause unlocked iPhones to stop functioning..." they thought anything other than, "Good!"

      • by svendsen (1029716) on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @10:56AM (#20743451)
        Except your statement assumes that Apple hacked a few iPods into the exact same state as all the hacked iPhones and already ran a patch to see what would happen.

        My feeling is why waste that time and moeny? THey will build a patch that will work with a non hacked iPhone 100%. They won't spend a single dime testing it on a hacked one (why should they the ROI on that is a negative). Simply say we can;t guarantee what it will do on a system with a changed state not done by Apple.

        From what some posters are posting on here (not the parent just what I have read) is that Apple should somehow make sure the patch will work with every combination of a hacked iPhone. Hmm wonder what that would cost.
        • Oh no, certainly not. But a developer could probably tell what effect his code will have on the hacked iPhones (developers should be sitting down and carefully designing code before writing it). The developers would probably mention it as a footnote or afterthought, but I doubt they would simply skip over it when their manager says, "OK, tell us what this update does and how it will affect the customers."
          • by mstone (8523) on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @12:22PM (#20744775)
            You haven't spent much time working with real-time signal processing systems, have you?

            By way of analogy, think about juggling: You don't throw the ball to where your hand is right now. You throw it to the correct spot in the pattern -- 12" off center, and 36" off the ground -- then make sure your hand is in the right place by the time the ball comes down. It requires some prediction and timing, but it's basically doable.

            Now try doing it in an earthquake. The 'correct spot in the pattern' is no longer a simple location. You have to predict where the ground will be when the ball comes down, and adjust your throw accordingly. That's a lot more complicated, and there's always a chance that something will happen between the throw and the catch that you didn't predict.

            The number of possible states and unpredictable events is more or less infinite, so there's no way you can possibly cover them all. The best you can do is try to keep everything within a range where you can spot the failures early enough to recover before they trigger a train wreck.

            Systems like that are delicate. Screw with the timing just a little, and you can bump a few 'recoverable' cases over into the 'train wreck' category. They won't show up right away, though.. you have to get just the right combination of events before the thing will hang.

            And with embedded systems, there's no option to shut down, reload the program, and start from a fresh, known state.

            And, of course, the job is just that much harder when someone else has fiddled with the system in ways you don't know about.

            Apple's announcement is just their way of saying they can't be positive they've hit every possible edge case that might cause this next update to interact badly with any unknown, unauthorized, and unsupported firmware tinkering people might have chosen to do on their own.

            Honestly, I don't know why there's so much fuss about this. Hacking the firmware is very much an "at your own risk" procedure, and anyone who pretends not to know that is being deliberately stupid.

            And why is everybody dumping this problem on Apple? Why aren't people yelling at the guys who released the unlocking software, demanding a "100% guaranteed or we'll replace your iPhone for free" reversion kit? If anyone should know how to return a hacked iPhone to its factory state, it would be the guys who hacked it in the first place.

        • by garyrich (30652) on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @11:33AM (#20744053) Homepage Journal
          "Except your statement assumes that Apple hacked a few iPods into the exact same state as all the hacked iPhones and already ran a patch to see what would happen."

          IF you think they haven't already, I'd have to say you are barking mad.

          "My feeling is why waste that time and moeny?"

          What does it cost to have some junior level dev guy hack one and play around with it for a day and write up a report? Basically nothing.

          "THey will build a patch that will work with a non hacked iPhone 100%. They won't spend a single dime testing it on a hacked one (why should they the ROI on that is a negative). "

          OF course this is true, but you are answering a different question. Real testing and "validation" would be very expensive. Particularly since that validation would have to meet the standards of AT&T, which obviously has a vested interest in having any such thing fail validation testing.

          "Simply say we can;t guarantee what it will do on a system with a changed state not done by Apple."

          Unofficially, they will know perfectly well what it will do. If there are two roughly equal ways to implement a desired feature and and they know one of them breaks on the hacked phone -- that is the one that will be used. Apple would reverse engineer an unrelated reason for why they picked that implementation.

          "From what some posters are posting on here (not the parent just what I have read) is that Apple should somehow make sure the patch will work with every combination of a hacked iPhone. Hmm wonder what that would cost."

          They have no such obligation, totally agree. What they do have is a contract with AT&T to ensure and protect their exclusive carrier rights. If they don't do everything legally possible to make sure people can't switch carriers - they will sure Apple for everything they can.
        • by walt-sjc (145127) on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @11:40AM (#20744171)
          Except your statement assumes that Apple hacked a few iPods into the exact same state as all the hacked iPhones and already ran a patch to see what would happen.

          That's a pretty damn safe assumption to make. Any COMPETENT product engineering team / product management team would ABSOLUTELY do so.

          You KNOW that they have at LEAST applied the unlock hack to phones to see exactly what it does and how it works. You also know that they are working on (and surely finished by now) a patch that "undoes" the unlock hack.

          It would be ridiculous to think that they would make the statement that their updates will brick a phone without knowing for sure.

          It would also be ridiculous to think that any information on this at Apple would remain secret during a court case and the resulting subpoenas / depositions.

          Come on. We, and Apple, just are not that stupid.
      • by djh101010 (656795) * on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @11:43AM (#20744217) Homepage Journal

        Apple knows that the best course is to protect their exclusive contract, not to leave the phones as-is, and certainly not to shrug off people hacking their iPhones. Apple isn't doing this because they dislike their customers; they are doing it because they don't respect their customers.

        No, Apple is "doing this" (I assume you mean, discouraging unlocking of iPhones) so AT&T doesn't have any reason to claim Apple is violating a contractual agreement. Could Apple make sure nobody can unlock the phones? Probably, yes. Have they done so? Nope. Just like every other time they've changed something to make some mega-corp happy, they make it so joe-user has to go out of their way, and that way Apple is covered. Want to copy a CD? Can't do it with drag & drop, sorry. Download a tool to do it? Well, it's not Apple's fault, they didn't give you the tool. Want to get around the DRM? You need to use a tool that isn't from Apple to do it. Want to unlock your iPhone? Same story. They can't just give you a way to do it, or they'd be in trouble with AT&T's lawyers. But, if they put up a token effort to keep people from doing it, and someone smart bypasses that (my bet is at 2 hours after the release being the time to workaround), well, (shrug) we tried, AT&T, I guess they're just too smart.

        They also happen to be thwarting attempts to sync iPods with software other than iTunes -- I suppose this is also a completely normal, acceptable practice, to prevent people who use Amarok or Rhythmbox from syncing up their iPod?

        I don't disagree that a recent update broke that function. I don't think we agree on why the change was made though. And, how long did it stay broken? If Apple really wanted to lock people out, I'm pretty sure they could have. The fact that they haven't tells me something.

        Maybe they didn't tell their developers to find a way to cause hacked iPhones to stop functioning. But I doubt that when one of their developers said at a meeting, "...and this update will cause unlocked iPhones to stop functioning..." they thought anything other than, "Good!"
        Yup, "Good"...followed by a chuckle, and a thought of "That'll keep AT&T off our ass, and the mods community will have it licked in an hour or three".
    • by PeterBrett (780946) on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @10:51AM (#20743365) Homepage

      Moreover, while end-user unlocking of handsets is legal in the US under the current DMCA exemption, the vendor is under NO OBLIGATION to support the phones in such a state with future software/firmware updates. I can hear all the "But what about the UK?" people chiming in now. Apple will do whatever is required by law in any jurisdiction. If a certain jurisdiction REQUIRES unlocked phones, Apple may skip that market entirely (for now). Even in the UK it isn't as clear as some people like to think it is, because the phone technically isn't subsidized, meaning that it may not have to be unlocked after the subsidy is repaid - because there is no subsidy. And a large part of Apple's iPhone strategy with carriers is tight integration for things like the activation process: things that simply aren't supported with anyone but the partner carrier.

      I think you'll find that locking phones in the UK is only permitted because the carrier subsidises the cost of the phone.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Applekid (993327)
        It's pretty well known that Apple gets a kickback of the charges collected by AT&T within the two year contract with an iPhone.
    • All the people posting here that, somehow, the warranty defines your rights or a manufacturer's responsibilities are absolutely 100% wrong.

      Federal, state, and local statutes trump warranties every time.

      If Apple knew, or should have known, that its firmware will destroy an iPhone regardless of after market modification, it *MUST* exercise care to prevent this from happening.

      Any defense of Apple that does not account for law or relevant legal precedent are, at best, flawed.
      • by falcon5768 (629591) <Falcon5768 AT comcast DOT net> on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @11:08AM (#20743669) Journal

        If Apple knew, or should have known, that its firmware will destroy an iPhone regardless of after market modification, it *MUST* exercise care to prevent this from happening.
        Nope. State and Federal courts are quite clear on the fact that the manufacturer is in no way obligate to support a item if the user manipulates said item so as it is not covered under the agreed to contract or warranty. Since hacking your phone to allow it to use other carriers SIM card both voids your AT&T contract AND your warranty with Apple, Apple legally has no obligation to support it at that point. And if your wondering how they came to know this courts wise, ask your local cable company. This is why its completely legal for them to burn out all the tuners in your house with a firmware upgrade to kick off people who are hacking the boxes to steal cable. A least in this case Apple isnt knowingly doing it unlike the cable companies who actually flat out broadcasted that you WILL get your equipment burned out if you put illegal stuff on their system.
        • by mlwmohawk (801821)
          Since hacking your phone to allow it to use other carriers SIM card both voids your AT&T contract AND your warranty with Apple, Apple legally has no obligation to support it at that point.

          Only in so far as the modifications affect "supportable" operation. For instance, if the modifications keep it from connecting to the AT&T network, they don't have to fix that, but that does not free them of further responsibility.

          • since the software for the iPhones whole purpose is based around the AT&T network, yet it does mean they do not have to support it.
            • by mlwmohawk (801821)
              since the software for the iPhones whole purpose is based around the AT&T network, yet it does mean they do not have to support it.

              This would have to be an assertion for the defense, but ....., seeing as the same basic software with a few small modifications works with other phone companies, it doesn't seem all to promising.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Dun Malg (230075)

              since the software for the iPhones whole purpose is based around the AT&T network, yet it does mean they do not have to support it.
              AT&T's network bis essentially a bog-standard GSM system. There is nothing special about it the iPhone can be "based around".
            • by pthisis (27352)
              since the software for the iPhones whole purpose is based around the AT&T network, yet it does mean they do not have to support it.

              Hmmm. Even if the "whole purpose" is based around a service, the only way to avoid fulfilling the warranty terms when the product is used with something other than that service is to explicitly apply for an FTC waiver (which requires convincing the FTC that the item only works properly with the service and that the waiver is in the public interest). But you have to actuall
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by drcagn (715012)
      Apple has already explicitly stated that they are not going to intentionally or proactively do anything to unlocked phones.

      No, Apple has said that they are not going to intentionally or proactively do anything to people who write third party applications.
      On the other hand, Apple has said that they are going to do what they can to stop unlockers.
      • ...and the misinformation begins.

        No. Apple said [yahoo.com]:

        Apple has discovered that many of the unauthorized iPhone unlocking programs available on the Internet cause irreparable damage to the iPhone's software, which will likely result in the modified iPhone becoming permanently inoperable when a future Apple-supplied iPhone software update is installed. [...] Apple strongly discourages users from installing unauthorized unlocking programs on their iPhones. Users who make unauthorized modifications to the software o

        • by walt-sjc (145127)
          Your right. Misinformation began already... But it was with the original and subsequent Apple statements.

          Apple has discovered that many of the unauthorized iPhone unlocking programs available on the Internet cause irreparable damage to the iPhone's software

          This is bullshit by definition. The phones still work, so the software is not "damaged." Yes, the firmware values may now be "different" but "different" does not automatically equal "damaged." In fact, one may go so far as to conclude that the software wa
    • by toleraen (831634)
      Ruh roh, for once I actually agree with you.

      I don't see how this is huge news, it's pretty much the same for hacked HTC (running WM) phones...of course they've been hacked quite a bit more. After applying custom firmwares to the phone, if you want to go back to an official release there are several downgrading steps that need to be done. Directly applying an official update can seriously screw it up, but that's not HTC's fault.

      Welcome to the world of custom firmware Apple fans!
    • by p0tat03 (985078) on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @10:58AM (#20743501)
      Except, AFAIK, the burden of proof is upon Apple to show that the SIM unlock process being employed by the customer is bricking the phone. I have an unlocked iPhone, and as far as I can tell the only tricky part about the unlock process is the buffer overflow to get into the phone in the first place - certainly not something that will damage hardware. The firmware modifications are not real modifications, so much as it appears to be flipping a switch - literally a setting that Apple had placed in there in the first place. The phone supports unlocked mode, and no custom firmware code is being written, just settings, AFAIK. Correct me if I'm wrong here.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by 644bd346996 (1012333)
      See my post here [slashdot.org]. Firmware shouldn't be able to cause permanent damage to the hardware, and the user should be able to recover the device from a botched firmware upgrade (or a bad hack job), without a JTAG. Not ensuring those two things will cause problems for Apple, even if they can discourage people from trying to hack the iPhone.

      Have you ever used a PDA or graphing calculator that required a JTAG to un-brick after a failed update? It's simply unacceptable in those markets. Why should Apple get away with
      • "Why should Apple get away with it in the iPhone?"

        Because the iPhone is cool.

        • Because the iPhone is cool.
          The new iPhone is much cooler because it has DTT [washingtonpost.com]*.

          *Digital Turnip Twaddling (I'm quoting what I think you will agree, or not, is an authoritative technical authority. Opus threw his obsolete iPhone in the trash.)
    • by Aurisor (932566) on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @11:08AM (#20743661) Homepage
      I don't know if you've written any software yourself, but the first rule about deploying patches to consumer software is that you are NOT allowed to make any assumptions about the state of the hardware or software.

      The reason people are up in arms is because apple has raised the possibility of this update permanently bricking your iPhone. That possibility is unacceptable. Any decent programmer would just have the update checksum the software and firmware and overwrite any hacked copies with the new version. None of your arguments about altered radio firmware and so on have any bearing on the issue...what does it matter which piece of firmware we're talking about? If an update requires consistency on the part of other elements of the phone, it needs to ensure that they are consistent, and if they are not, either fix them or fail gracefully.

      The bottom line is that there is a lot of precedent for hardware warranties being unaffected by the actions a consumer takes with his software. Any manufacturer who causes users 4-600$ dollars worth of hardware loss via a software update would be liable. End of story.

      Believe me, if PC manufacturers could have voided your warranty for installing a different operating system (as they would be able to according to your arguments), they would have years ago.
      • by daveschroeder (516195) * on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @11:30AM (#20744015)
        Apple is doing this with iPhone OS updates; that is, checking to see if it is in an expected state, and if it's not, requiring the iPhone to go through a "restore".

        However, for the radio firmware, Apple is alleging that some unlock mechanisms may have irreparably damaged the hardware of the phone. If that is correct - if the iPhone hardware has been permanently damaged - then I don't think Apple is to blame. If, however, it is all software-only and reversible, then I agree with you completely, and expect Apple to try to follow exactly that path.
      • by WidescreenFreak (830043) on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @11:46AM (#20744247) Homepage Journal
        Believe me, if PC manufacturers could have voided your warranty for installing a different operating system (as they would be able to according to your arguments), they would have years ago.

        They do try! Years ago, I made the mistake of buying an HP PC that came with a very new XP (pre-SP1). Before I even turned the PC on, I took the hard drive out, installed a new one, and installed a fresh copy of Windows 2000. Less than a year later (still within warranty), the optical drive died. Sure enough, HP's outsourced, "have to follow the checklist" tech people tried their best to tell me that I was not entitled to a DVD drive replacement because I didn't have the "correct" operating system installed. Anyone of a less stubborn nature than me would have given up, but I fought through several days' worth of phone calls and demands to talk to managers. At that point it became a matter of principle. But I finally got the replacement sent to me. They might not have been "voiding" the warranty by initially denying my warranty claim, but I don't see any difference between voiding and trying to not honor a warranty. Either way, you're not getting the service that you're entitled to.

        Just because we know that trying to blame software for hardware failures is ridiculous, there are even more people out there who have no clue that they're separate issues and will just give up.
    • You are plugging a radio device into a regulated liscenced network. You have a responsibility not to screw with the emissions of the device or misuse it. More than a responsibily--a legal obligation. But Apple also has a responsibility to try to prevent misuse of the device since it can't be expected that every user knows what they are doing and can weigh the ramifications of software installation. They need to make it reasonably safe but beyond that it's the end user that commits the crime.

      It's also re
      • by aaarrrgggh (9205)
        Beyond the immediate iPhone issues, the Video DRM is actually more emblematic of my complaint with how Apple is dealing with this. The iPod and consequently iTMS would have never caught hold if it wasn't for the whole "rip, mix, burn" campaign-- the fact that it was possible and legal, and not the marketing. The same is required for the success of video sales long-term-- things need to be opened up sufficiently to allow unintended uses that expand the market.

        When taking this argument to the iPhone, people
    • by msauve (701917) on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @11:16AM (#20743799)
      In the US, a warrantor can say the whole warranty is nullified for just about anything they can define. The only thing they need to do is state so in plain terms. Read the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act [house.gov], if you want to know.

      Most of the "they can't do X" crap, stems from a misinterpretation of one specific part of the act:

      No warrantor of a consumer product may condition his written or implied warranty of such product on the consumer's using, in connection with such product, any article or service (other than article or service provided without charge under the terms of the warranty) which is identified by brand, trade, or corporate name; except that the prohibition of this subsection may be waived by the Commission if -
      (1) the warrantor satisfies the Commission that the warranted product will function properly only if the article or service so identified is used in connection with the warranted product, and (2) the Commission finds that such a waiver is in the public interest.

      The clause is to prevent, say, a vacuum cleaner company from requiring used of their own brand of bags (unless they provide them free). It doesn't mean you can modify your car for more horsepower, and expect the manufacturer to cover the engine under warranty when it breaks. It also doesn't mean a manufacturer can't put a clause in the warranty which says the car's warranty is voided if you hang fuzzy dice from the mirror. It means that they can't put a clause which says "Use of any brand fuzzy dice other than ACME brand fuzzy dice will void the engine warranty."

      Specific to the case at hand, since Apple provides firmware "without charge" during the warranty period, Magnuson-Moss does not require that they allow third party or modified firmware to be used under the warranty terms, and Apple is within the law if they require that only their firmware be used to maintain a valid warranty.
      • by suv4x4 (956391)
        It means that they can't put a clause which says "Use of any brand fuzzy dice other than ACME brand fuzzy dice will void the engine warranty."

        Funny how this doesn't apply to ink printer cartridges, doesn't it.

        I interpret the law a bit differently, since the law says it's not illegal to unlock a phone, but this doesn't mean it's illegal to void warranty on unlocked phones.

        You won't end up in jail, but you'll have no warranty..
      • by XenoPhage (242134) on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @11:57AM (#20744419) Homepage
        I read through some of the information on this Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act and it seems that the purpose here was to ensure that manufacturers provided the consumer with a document that is both easy to understand, and not ambiguous. However, it does not put any stipulation on that manufacturer to prevent them from invalidating the warranty if you don't use the device correctly.

        However, this act falls a little short in the realm of electronics and firmware. Sure, Apple can't go around saying that your warranty will be void if you use a Motorolla bluetooth headset instead of an Apple one. But, can they say that the warranty is void if you use a different firmware? It seems to me that there's a gray area there. Firmware is required to make the device work, but it's provided by the manufacturer. So, can the manufacturer prevent you from using someone else's firmware by invalidating the warranty?

        I suppose the underlying question is, what does the warranty cover? If it's merely electronics, then perhaps the manufacturer cannot dictate the firmware used, but, in the event of a failure, they can surely attempt to load the device with "official" firmware in an effort to determine the problem. Of course, if the unit is completely dead, that won't help. In that instance, the question becomes more of a "what caused the failure" type of question.

        That's where 3rd party firmware can become a problem. How do you prove that the firmware was the cause and not the hardware? I'm sure it can be done, but to the satisfaction of the customer? And is it really Apple's responsibility to determine if the firmware was the cause? In the end, it may cost Apple quite a lot of money to make that determination, only to turn back to the customer and refuse the warranty claim. It's sort of a lose-lose situation.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by homer_ca (144738)
        Let's use your fuzzy dice example. What happens if an unlocked iPhone has a completely unrelated hardware failure, like the touchscreen or button? Apple would say the warranty is void, but the way I understand it, you can't void a warranty unless an unauthorized modification directly contributed to the failure.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by MobyDisk (75490)

        It doesn't mean you can modify your car for more horsepower, and expect the manufacturer to cover the engine under warranty when it breaks.
        The issue is that people are modifying the engine and the warranty says that Apple will is thus to support the seat belts. It's like the guy who installed Linux on his laptop and HP refused to fix the broken keyboard.
    • Even in the UK it isn't as clear as some people like to think it is, because the phone technically isn't subsidized, meaning that it may not have to be unlocked after the subsidy is repaid - because there is no subsidy.

      Maybe Apple's brilliant line of reasoning will catch on in other industries.

      You: I want to buy this house! *hands realtor a check for the full price of the property*

      Realtor: Thanks.

      You: Can I have the deed to my new property?

      Realtor: Nope. See, we have to give you the title to the land after you pay off the mortgage.

      You: Um, but I didn't take out a mortgage?

      Realtor: Right, so I get to keep your money and never have to give you the deed! Ha ha ha you sure are a moron! *walks off, sticking

    • by suggsjc (726146)
      Considering how authoritative and absolute this post is, I'm going to have to assume (only for discussion purposes) that daveschroeder is an Apple employee who is *very* highly in "the know" about their corporate politics. Because if not, then this is just an Apple fanboi rant trying to save some face from what is a corporation knowingly reducing functionality of a device to (questionably) boost their own profits.

      That said, I do agree that since the unlock process does take advantage of a buffer overflow
      • by djh101010 (656795) *

        Considering how authoritative and absolute this post is, I'm going to have to assume (only for discussion purposes) that daveschroeder is an Apple employee who is *very* highly in "the know" about their corporate politics. Because if not, then this is just an Apple fanboi rant trying to save some face from what is a corporation knowingly reducing functionality of a device to (questionably) boost their own profits.

        Some day, when/if you grow up, you'll learn that not all people who correct wrong information, are doing it for financial gain. Sometimes people do it because it's the right thing to do. A few seconds of investigation would show you that Dave doesn't hide his contact information, that he's at the University of Wisconsin, and provides his email address, right with every post he makes on Slashdot. Now, I suppose it's possible that Apple pays him to defend them on slashdot, but, if that's true, I'd love to

  • by mjpaci (33725) * on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @10:45AM (#20743257) Homepage Journal
    ...from a few days ago is a better lithmus test for this act, don't you think?
  • I think Apple is simply going about it wrong. Rather than being all vocal and tolling hell's bells, it could just release updates that make the current method not work. Once the new update is cracked, release another. It's a motivation to deliver something new in every update (*cough*flash*cough*).

    Yeah, it's might be like brushing it under the rug, and AT&T wouldn't like that. A policy of "We are not responsible and we do not support the unlock and will not repair the software of unlocked phones--only
  • All this sounds like griping from people who hacked their phone to unlock it.

    What did you expect? Now that Apple will probably brick your hacked phone you are pissed off. You took the risk.
  • Modchips? (Score:3, Informative)

    by fishybell (516991) <fishybell@@@hotmail...com> on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @10:53AM (#20743399) Homepage Journal
    It's not illegal to unlock a phone because of an excemption in the DMCA, but the DMCA says nothing about requiring warranties remain invalid. If this law were used to force Apple into maintaining warranties on unlocked iPhones, then wouldn't Microsoft be also obliged to maintain warranties on 'chipped Xbox's. Right now they're merely banning them from Xbox live, but shouldn't the inability to get online with a product which heralds its online capabilities be a warranty issue?
  • by steveo777 (183629) on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @10:54AM (#20743423) Homepage Journal
    Any car reseller, big or small, will tell you that installing 3rd party stuff in your car voids the warranty, and if you're not willing to fight, they'll walk all over you. Usually it's things like turbos and aftermarket brake systems, but sometimes they'll try to get away with little stuff. I have an aunt who had a new stereo installed to replace the factory tape deck (about 5 years ago) and when there was an ABS problem they tried to say that the CD player voided all warranties. Until I called them...

    iPhones can probably play the same crap. As long as they warn you that 3rd party software or hardware may brick the system, they're fine. Nintendo just did that with Metroid Prime 3. There is a warning saying that upgrading the firmware will most likely brick machines with mods, and even gave instructions on how to circumvent the installation. You couldn't play the game, but at least you don't have a brick.

    • by LWATCDR (28044)
      That is exactly what the law is supposed to prevent.
      If you fry a piston and have an aftermarket turbo yea your warranty is void. But if your ABS has issues you are covered.
      So yea they might try to tell you that but it is baloney.

      • by tgd (2822)
        No, thats not what its supposed to prevent, the aftermarket associations wishful thinking aside.

        MM is meant to do one thing and really one thing only -- prevent a warranty to be dependent on the use of manufacturer provided service and parts in lieu of *equivalent* OEM parts and service.

        It has *nothing* to do with modifications. They *can* void your warranty for changing one part of a car to an out of spec part, and its up to you to prove in the court that the change could not have caused a seemingly unrela
        • by steveo777 (183629)
          Try reading the example given again. The piston wasn't replaced with aftermarket parts. The situation is, if you were to install a turbo and you fried a piston due to the new turbo the warranty would not cover the damage. These parts are not directly related. As to another post about airbag circuitry included in the radio makes absolutely no sense. Not because it isn't true, but because factory radios are known to be very faulty...

          This relates to the iPhone ordeal because a third party application cert

      • No, if the ABS has issues and he added a turbo he WOULDN'T be covered, because the ABS is tested and calibrated based on the horsepower output of the engine in it's stock configuration. If you add more horsepower to a car, it goes faster, and the brakes have to work harder to stop. This is why companies have the right to void warranties, because consumers fail to see the cause-and-effect consequences of their actions.
    • The problem with your car analogy is that car companies test brakes, tires, engine power, etc. and then choose legal and safe combinations based on those tests. If the consumer wants to mess up those equations and make their car unsafe, impractical, whatever, then the car company doesn't need to be liable for what happens. Any reasonable person would know that adding an aftermarket seat cover or stereo doesn't harm the engine, so laws like the one this article talks about are in place. But I fail to see
  • Huh? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by IANAAC (692242) on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @10:57AM (#20743477)

    Is the SIM Unlock process that has become mainstream doing damage to iPhone?

    Who said it's mainstream? I know of no one that has actualy unlocked their iphone.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Winckle (870180)
      I think he means SIM unlocking in general, which is fairly mainstream in the UK. If a friend asks me whether he can give his phone to his mum or it needs unlocking he would certainly understand my reply.
      • No, it means, "among the unlocking mechanisms for then iPhone, the one which is the most popular". This does not imply that iPhone unlocking is mainstream, and is not referring to SIM unlocking in general. It is referring to the most common unlock for iPhone, and "mainstream" was far from a suitable choice of words.
  • My question is... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by IwarkChocobos (881084)
    Why should apple care? Doesn't unlocking a phone only take customers away from the carrier? Apple already got the profit from the phone when it was purchased, who gives a shit if someone wants to use it on a different network. If anyone should be pissed, it's Cingular/ATT. Also, this practice of voiding warranties for "hacking phones" is not new. I've hacked my Verizon Razr V3c because it just works way better with the hacks (all it does it enable features that are normally disabled, I dont change the
    • Apple has a exclusive contract with AT&T. When the exclusiveness of said contract is being threatened, I think the carrier is going to bitch to you to lock your fucking phone better.

    • Apple makes money monthly [news.com] for every iPhone on the AT&T network. Apple probably doesn't care about the profit on the phone, considering the $3/month they make for every AT&T subscriber with an iPhone. And an additional $8 for every non-AT&T subscriber that switches over to an AT&T iPhone. Sell 3 million iPhones, you're making $108,000,000 a year.

      Note that this is pure profit for Apple; they have zero costs in receiving this revenue! AT&T pays for the wireless network and its mainten

      • Note that this is pure profit for Apple; they have zero costs in receiving this revenue!

        Not true. Apple will be dipping into the coffers to cover the initial and ongoing R&D expenses for the iPhone for years to come. Not to mention, they just opened a huge new section of the Austin campus to handle iPhone customer service and training. That staff of hundreds of people aren't making minimum wage either. One trainer job I applied for paid $75,000 per year, and there were three or four of them open s

  • This entire problem occurred because Apple partnered with AT&T. It was a sink-the-company idea for Apple, in my opinion, guaranteed to get Apple some VERY bad press.

    People have a legitimate need to use other SIM cards in their phones. For example, if you travel to Europe or Asia or South America, it is common to buy a SIM card there (GSM phones only) because then you get a local number, making it much cheaper for local people to call you and for you to call them.

    Locking the iPhone while charging the full price for it was an attempt to squeeze more money from buyers, most of whom don't fully understand all the ways cellular phone companies, and now Apple, can abuse them, in my opinion.

    AT&T is no longer the old AT&T, because the name was sold [att.com] to SBC. My understanding is that the SBC trademark was worse than useless because the company is so abusive. So, the managers decided to use another name. Those interested in how that happened can watch Stephen Colbert explain in a 1 minute 14 second video: The New AT&T [google.com].

    SBC taking the name AT&T is, in my opinion, a kind of legal fraud, but fraud nevertheless. People are bound to be confused and misled. AT&T had a very good reputation. SBC-AT&T is a completely different company, and has no connection in its culture with the old AT&T. At the very least, the SEC should require the company to disclose in the first sentence of any prospectus for its stock that there is no connection whatsoever.
    • by Electrawn (321224)

      AT&T is no longer the old AT&T, because the name was sold to SBC.

      SBC taking the name AT&T is, in my opinion, a kind of legal fraud, but fraud nevertheless. People are bound to be confused and misled. AT&T had a very good reputation.

      I have no clue how the parent post is informative when they obviously are too young or too ignorant to know about AT&T's 1982 monopoly breakup.

      1982: AT&T->7 baby bells + AT&T long distance.

      1990s:Ameritech, Southwestern bell, Bell South, Pacific Bell merge over the years to form SBC.

      2005: SBC (a bunch of former baby bells) and AT&T (former monopoly) merge again to create...AT&T. And the death star is rebuilt again in shiny Web 2.0.

      Wikipedia link (remember to fact check):

      http://en.wi [wikipedia.org]

  • ...I believe there's a good chance that other corporations are monitoring this case very carefully, then will dispatch fleets of lobbyists in Washington to push legislation to repeal the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, with Harry Reid more than willing to comply. It cannot be understated that both major political parties in Congress have made it very clear, in the last ten years or so, that they are for the most part sympathetic towards Big Business.

    Think copyright laws and the virtual demise of public domain.
  • by Overzeetop (214511) on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @11:13AM (#20743761) Journal
    You can hack your Tivo, and there has been some (backhanded) help from Tivo insiders to do so. You can make it do all sorts of wonderful things that Tivo did not intend, or were to litigation averse to embed in the system. Thing is, when Tivo updates the boxes you lose all your hacks. The community realized this and created a workaround that prevented automatic updates. Then they get the new software update, sifted through it, and either provided new hacks or a customized update to work with existing hacks.

    I don't own an iPhone - I have a cingy 8525. I have flashed it to a not-quite-released WM6 firmware. If I want the latest and greatest approved stuff from AT&T, I need to load their software (though it does not appear to affect my unlock status...but it could). If I don't want the updated goodness, I don't update. My DTivo is about 3-4 minor updates behind, and before the last update I was a major upgrade behind. I'm not willing to lose my TiVo hacks for a couple bells and whistles (proper DST...which could be an issue coming up here...and folders).

    If the firmware upgrades are "forced", those with hacked phones need to either code a workaround to avoid the updates or just suck it up.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @11:13AM (#20743767)
    The author is no doubt referring to 15 USC 2302(c): "No [company] may condition [a] ... warranty ... on the consumer's using ... an[] article or service ... which is identified by brand ... or corporate name; except ... if the [company can show] that the warranted product will function properly only if the ... service ... is used in connection with the warranted product."

    What this literally means is that Apple's warranty cannot say "This warranty is void if you use the iPhone with a company other than AT&T." However, Apple's warranty doesn't say that. It says that the warranty is void if you mess with the firmware. It HAPPENS TO BE that the only way to make it POSSIBLE to use another company's service requires doing something else that will void your warranty, but the warranty terms themselves aren't anti-competitive, the firmware is.

    Even if the terms of the warranty did say this, Apple is probably still safe because it wouldn't be hard to argue that the iPhone isn't "function[ing] properly" if Visual Voicemail is broken.

    Any case brought under this law would be without merit and would probably be dismissed for failure to state a claim.
  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @11:21AM (#20743881) Homepage
    ...like the printer instruction books that warn you that third-party ink cartridges may damage your machine.

    It could even be just what Apple says: they've found that there really is an innocent, unintended incompatibility between their updates and the hack. Certainly, there are perennial conflicts between Apple OS updates and software tweaks like Unsanity's "Haxies," and I don't think Apple is doing it deliberately.

    I think Apple is using scare tactics, both to keep AT&T happy and to keep them out of the nightmare scenario of being forced to provide support for hacked iPhones.

    I could be wrong, of course, but I'm curious to wait and see whether iPhones actually do get bricked... and whether a smoking-gun memo will emerge--"The job's not complete 'till unlocked phones are dead meat"
    • What does getting "bricked" mean? I've seen it mentioned several times on this thread. Thanks.
      • by dpbsmith (263124)
        To be transformed in such a way as to have the same computing functionality as a brick.

        To become completely disabled. Gronked. Smoked. Kaput. Dead. Discombobulated. Gone kerplooie.
      • by compro01 (777531)
        rendering the phone unbootable or equivalent with no way to make it bootable again.
  • Simple question.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by scubamage (727538) on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @11:30AM (#20744005)
    Ok, if you buy a brand new car with a warranty, and you then perform a bunch of aftermarket mods to it, including modifying the computer, should the manufacturer support it? No. You performed modification to a device which is meant to function in a specific way. You assume whenever you hack something you're voiding your warranty. There are books entitled, "How to have fun while voiding your warranty" about hardware hacks. You're just pissed because you bought a 500$ device, and now you face bricking it because you rushed out of the gate to mod it. You have implemented things from a 3rd party, not apple. Why should apple support things that aren't theirs? It is no longer the device they sold you. Turn to the 3rd party hack vendors to update. Seriously, you can't have the best of both worlds. Get the hell over it. The most important thing is that apple informed you. Imagine if they released the update and said nothing? At least now you can continue using your iphone as is. So really, you haven't lost anything.
    • by compro01 (777531)
      bullshit. if you install an aftermarket turbo on the car, the warranty on the engine is almost definitely void (which is fine), but if the stock sound system stops working later, the warranty on that is still good, as it had nothing at all to do with the modification.

      anyone who is telling differently is full of shit (most dealerships are like this).

      of course, you'll likely have to go through the 8 circles of court to get them to follow the law.
  • Duh. Would you like to pay monopoly prices, which are twice as much or more?

    In the wild west of free-market capitalism, a few companies dominate most big industries, the way Carlos Slim took over the Mexican phone industry.

    In the U.S., this got so bad that we passed antitrust laws to prevent businesses from doing this. IBM used to sell computers, and make you buy the punch cards from them. Those were the most expensive punch cards ever sold. If you bought a Chevrolet, you had to buy GM parts at twice the pr
  • > Is the SIM Unlock process that has become mainstream doing damage to iPhone?

    Mainstream? I really wonder what percentage of iPhone owners have messed with SIM unlock crap. I bet it's some fraction of 1 percent. Mainstream? I seriously doubt it.
  • by MrCrassic (994046) <deprecated AT ema DOT il> on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @01:24PM (#20745749) Journal

    While many might be hoping that there would be some kind of barrier to prevent Apple from deploying such a limitation, it is everything but illegal to do so. The writer of the original article, while providing persuasive evidence that there might have been a warranty violation breach, does not analyze the full letter of that law nor does any sort of comparison with Apple's own legal warranty claims.

    If you take a look at the official Apple warranty [apple.com] for the iPhone, there are a couple of points in their exclusions that make clear that they are within legal bounds to do this:

    "...to damage caused by service (including upgrades and expansions) performed by anyone who is not a representative of Apple or an Apple Authorized Service Provider ("AASP")..."

    "(a) to damage caused by use with non-Apple products;..."

    "(e) to a product or part that has been modified to alter functionality or capability without the written permission of Apple"

    If these rules were illegal, they would have been contested before their publication, thus before the release of the device. Apple needs to have these rules in place so that they do not have to pay costs for repairing devices that were broken by people who bought phones to intentionally harm them by all sorts of means. The company made a deal with AT&T, and in that deal there was an implicit demand that the phones stay locked to only their service provider, hence making them an exclusive carrier. Altering this would alter the functionality of the phone against Apple's policy, thus proving a legal voiding of warranty.

    We can even take this a step further. Even if Apple had no EULA and only went by the letter of the Magnuson-Moss law, the clause in defense only applies for full warranties, for which Apple's product comes only with a limited warranty. This makes a significant difference, as those provisions no longer apply. This is clearly stated in the Wikipedia article linked to this article.

    While I do not defend this decision entirely, it is obvious that if you are a user of an unlocked iPhone, and the firmware update only serves to remedy this "flaw," then the solution is easily to avoid the upgrade. There are no new features or enhancements being introduced in this update, so why is this even a concern?

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