Chicago (IL) – Despite the fact that a group of hackers known as the iPhone DevTeam unlocked the first-generation iPhone just weeks after its June 2007 debut, the iPhone 3G is a different beast and has remained locked so far. The addition of 3G circuitry combined with an updated baseband software that talks to it has kept Apple’s money-making handset closely tied to a specific carrier, effectively putting unlockers out of business. This is about to change within days as the iPhone DevTeam announced it has finally managed to unlock the iPhone 3G, scheduling a free unlocking application for a December 31 release. It will not only allow existing iPhone 3G owners to escape firm grip of their carrier but might easily render Apple’s carefully plotted “hardware + carrier service” sales strategy obsolete.
If you have ever jailbroken or unlocked your iPhone using either the QuickPwn or PwnageTool, you know about a group of enthusiasts called the iPhone DevTeam that created the two applications. Even an average iPhone owner can run QuickPwn on their Macs (WinPwn on Windows) to open the backdoor of any iPhone and firmware version for the installation of Apple-sanctioned applications (referred to as “jailbreaking”) or unlock the handset for use with any carrier.
The latter has been particularly popular when it was possible to walk out of the Apple Store with an iPhone without having to sign the 2-year service agreement. The fact that jailbreaking and unlocking both void the Apple warranty did not discourage users from “opening” their phone. On the contrary, unlocking the iPhone has created a grey imports business that was estimated to have affected at least one third of all first-generation iPhones sold.
When the iPhone 3G came out, users thought an unlocking software would follow soon, but the handset remained locked for months. An increased complexity of the baseband code that talks to the new 3G circuitry inside the iPhone 3G and a new software protection measures made unlocking extremely difficult, albeit not entirely impossible. A new free application code-named “yellowsno0w”, dedicated solely to unlocking the iPhone 3G, will be released on December 31, the iPhone DevTeam said today.
The application will support iPhone 3G models with the baseband version 2.11.07 or earlier (you can identify your version of the baseband software in Settings > General > About > Modem Firmware). It will also require you to jailbrake the iPhone 3G firmware because “yellowsn0w” is actually the application that you will run directly on your handset, entirely bypassing the need to use the computer to unlock the handset.
The application is scheduled to automatically appear in Cydia (the App Store equivalent for unofficial applications on jailbroken iPhones) on December 31 where users will be able to pick it up free of charge. The developers claim it will be easy enough to allow an average users to unlock the handset. The iPhone DevTeam also promised a live demo of the unlock before Christmas.