Rhodri Marsden: Should I use an online hack to unlock my iPhone 3G?

Cyberclinic
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The Independent Tech

If you're thinking of investing in the chic, sleek piece of kit that is an iPhone 3G, but are an Orange, T-Mobile or Vodafone customer, you will no doubt be aware of the fact that using your new telecommunications toy will require you to wrench yourself away from your beloved mobile-phone network and move to O2. Frustratingly, such a feat can require untold reserves of patience, Houdini-like dexterity, and a further wad of cash.

The success of the iPhone since its launch in August 2007 has proved that people are willing to jump through such hoops, but many others believe that the tethering of a device to one particular phone network is just plain wrong, and are put off the iPhone as a result. Of course, if talented software programmers get the hump over this issue, they have the power to do something about it – and, sure enough, a group called iphone-dev has just released a free-of-charge hack for the iPhone 3G named "yellowsn0w", which finally enables the device to run on any UK mobile network.

It's hard for us to comprehend quite how monumental this achievement is. The iPhone is the most locked-down, impregnable device ever manufactured; this brain-frying hour-long video presentation (is.gd/eAVB) gives some idea of the problems iphone-dev encountered while writing their hack. But their hard work is highly appreciated: their website receives more than 60,000 visitors a day – and, apparently, at least 180 Apple employees use the hack (for research purposes only, I'm sure). But does this give you carte blanche to try it yourself?

Well, the iPhone pay-as-you-go terms and conditions don't seem to outlaw it explicitly – they merely warn you that it may render your £350 gadget permanently unusable. If you do take the plunge, bear in mind that yellowsn0w is still in beta, there are teething troubles, and not everyone has got it working perfectly.

And make sure you don't line the pockets of companies who are offering illegally repackaged versions of iphone-dev's software for £20. You and your hacked iPhone will, with the help of iphone-dev, be forever keeping one step ahead of Apple's software updates. But at least you'll have the satisfaction of not being ordered about by a multinational corporation.



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