Apple unlocks the iPhone!

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Oh, what a saga it's been. When Apple first shipped the iPhone, it came locked up tighter than a bank vault. Of course, it wasn't long until enterprising hackers cracked the phone wide open, allowing for the two most-wanted features that Apple wouldn't allow: use on carriers other than AT&T and native third party applications. Apple wasn't having any of this however, and promptly re-locked the iPhone with firmware update v1.1.1, which made SIM-unlocked iPhones completely useless. While I fully understand that Apple may have been obliged to do this due to the nature of its agreement with AT&T, I still didn't think that it was a very consumer friendly move and most iPhone users seemed to agree.

Well, good news folks: Apple has announced that it will totally open up the iPhone, both in terms of third party apps and for use on other GSM networks...well, sort of. In an open letter posted to the Apple website this morning, Steve Jobs stated simply, "Let me just say it: We want native third party applications on the iPhone, and we plan to have an SDK in developers' hands in February." The company is clearly responding to widespread criticism of the iPhone's locked nature and they are wise to do so: enabling third party applications to run natively on the iPhone will only serve to make the device more attractive to consumers. "It will take until February to release an SDK because we're trying to do two diametrically opposed things at once-provide an advanced and open platform to developers while at the same time protect iPhone users from viruses, malware, privacy attacks, etc," Jobs writes. Though details of the SDK have yet to be released, Jobs has stated that it will also allow programmers to write applications for the iPod Touch as well.

But what about a SIM-unlocked iPhone? Due to the nature of its agreement with AT&T, Apple can't offer such an item here in the States, at least not for another five years. The company has announced, however, that it will release a completely unlocked iPhone in France, to comply with a French law that prohibits the exclusive sale of phones that are locked to a carrier. Orange (the carrier for the iPhone in France) has announced that the standard iPhone will retail for €399 and we can only assume that the unlocked iPhone will be slightly more expensive. While that's not quite the same as Apple offering an unlocked iPhone in these parts, anyone who really wants to use the iPhone on another network will now be able to do so legally, by importing an unlocked unit from France.

For more on the recent announcements:
- read the text of Steve Job's letter on the iPhone SDK
- and see this International Herald Tribune article on the French iPhone

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