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back to article iPhone hack bypasses AT&T

Famed reverse engineer Jon Lech Johansen claims to have discovered a way to "activate" an iPhone without signing up for a contract with AT&T. The hack allows users to use the iPod and Wi-Fi capabilities of the devices, but doesn't allow use of its phone features. DVD Jon - who's been something of a thorn in Apple's side for …

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Anonymous Coward

UNLOCK the iPhone

Apple should offer the iPhone UNLOCKED, to be able to use any SIM card from any carrier the user chooses.

Remember it is not subsidized by AT&T. They would sell like hot cakes.

This would make the iPhone truly global.

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Anonymous Coward

Why did he bother?

Can anyone tell me the point of hacking the iPhone so you can use it only as an overpriced IP phone/iPod? The man is a complete tit.

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$600ipod.

Nice job, your famous...too bad your ipod cost $600.

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Why bother?

"Apple should offer the iPhone UNLOCKED, to be able to use any SIM card from any carrier the user chooses.

Remember it is not subsidized by AT&T. They would sell like hot cakes.

This would make the iPhone truly global."

The Iphone is an over hyped hunk o junk. Therer are many many better phones out there.

Honestly a pretty interface doesn't excuse bad battery life and ugly brick like shape in your paocket.

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RE: UNLOCK the iPhone

The iPhone requires a backend server at the service provider level so even unlocked it will only work with AT&T - least from what I've been bored with the previous iPhone articles on el'reg - there is other news out there that isn't iPhlop related you know.

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Why climb a mountain?

Because it's there.

To those decrying this guys efforts in unlocking the phone - all he's doing is proving it's possible. Proving manufacturers claims about security, lockdown, etc wrong is "a good thing" for consumers, and the fact the iPhone is locked to one service provider is pretty lame anyway.

This guy also created DeCSS which makes "backing up" DVDs possible. He's a genius.

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What not unlock ?

I don't have one, and I couldn't afford one anyway even if they were available here ...

As I read it, this phone needs a certain amount of support from the phone company for some of it's functions to work - thus a certain amount of engineering on the part of the phone company. Like it or not, Apple NEEDS the phone company, and one way of sweetening the deal (bear in mind that the phone companies are used to calling the shots - like branding the phones they sell) is to give them an exclusive contract. It also means that (in the short term at least), Apple only has one set of systems to deal with.

Lets wait for a month or two and see how things settle down. If it turns out to be a big hit then we'll see the carriers lining up to have it and I'd expect there to be a choice when it arrives in other markets (not to mention EU competition issues if they stayed single-network). If there is strong demand then Apple will have the upper hand in negotiations and won't need exclusive contracts to sweeten the networks.

If it flops, well that's a different story !

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Pretty it may be, but also USEABLE

The iPhone may be hyped, and it may lack features that Blackberry users want, but it has a better interface than anything else out there, and that's the point, the whole point, and nothing but the point.

Geez people, get a clue. Interface matters. Sometimes it matters more than capability. If capability was all that mattered, Linux would be in homes.

I've played with one (extensively) and I won't be getting one simply because it does lack features that I use on far less expensive phones (voice dial for example) and because I would not be using most of its other functions enough to justify the price.

Remember though, the iPod was successful due to INTERFACE not hype or capabilities. The iPhone is the same.

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Gold badge

Don't knock Jon

He's only cracked part of the phone but he will sort out the rest.

Why does he do it? quite simply in the interests of consumers. Too many organisations use DRM, SIM locks and other restrictive technology to artificially boost their profits. His most famous hack was CSS as he couldn't play DVDs in Linux. Before the hack prices of DVDs were quite high, these days it's easy to find fairly recent films being sold for £3. You would expect prices to rise to recoup losses if deCSS was eating profits?

I just wish he would turn his attention to printer cartridges and sort those imberciles out once and for all.

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Dam

Re: Why did he bother?

Original message:

"Can anyone tell me the point of hacking the iPhone so you can use it only as an overpriced IP phone/iPod? The man is a complete tit."

Reply:

The "complete tit" is the one that managed to hack the CSS (Content Scrambling System, aka encryption) on DVDs, making ripping them possible, you retard.

PS: Posting in anonymous and making stupid claims, you'll go far, managed to ping localhost and get a reply yet?

PPS: Yes it's a BOFH joke.

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Anonymous Coward

Best you can do?

Yes he cracked CSS which has almost no legitimate use whatsoever. He did it to break the copyright of others so yes, he's still a tit. His claims that he only wanted to play DVDs on his Linux system is perhaps one of the most laughable excuses I know of. There's no moral substance to trampling on the rights of others just because you want to do something.

Your localhost joke is so cute - that's been doing the rounds for the last 20 years I know of.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Pretty it may be, but also USEABLE

By Paul FPosted Wednesday 4th July 2007 14:21 GMT

"The iPhone may be hyped, and it may lack features that Blackberry users want, but it has a better interface than anything else out there, and that's the point, the whole point, and nothing but the point.

Geez people, get a clue. Interface matters. Sometimes it matters more than capability. If capability was all that mattered, Linux would be in homes.

I've played with one (extensively) and I won't be getting one simply because it does lack features that I use on far less expensive phones (voice dial for example) and because I would not be using most of its other functions enough to justify the price.

Remember though, the iPod was successful due to INTERFACE not hype or capabilities. The iPhone is the same."

-------

So, interface matters more than capability...

...BUT, you're not getting one because it lacks features (capabilities) you need, and because it has other functions (capabilities) you don't need.

Kinda contradicted yourself there, fella.

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Anonymous Coward

just cancel the contract within 3 days,

same result, no hacking.

http://alexking.org/blog/2007/07/02/iphone-without-service

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Silver badge

DVD Jon: Robin Hood for the 21st Century

"Yes he cracked CSS which has almost no legitimate use whatsoever. He did it to break the copyright of others so yes, he's still a tit." -- Anonymous Coward

What are you smoking, or are you someone's paid shill? I would say that watching a DVD which I bought and paid for with my own money, earned by hand or by brain, is an entirely legitimate use of DeCSS. The "message" on the disc is encrypted; but, as I am the rightful owner of the disc, the message is addressed to me and I have the right to perform any necessary step to read it.

And the fact of it being encrypted doesn't stop anyone else copying it. (Do you think you could copy out a passage from a book which was written in a language you didn't understand? Someone only has to make an exact copy of the zeros and ones on the disc, without even attempting to decrypt them; the player will do all the decoding.)

DeCSS allows anyone to watch DVDs that they have bought and paid for with their own money, without polluting their systems with untrustworthy software (ANY software for which you have not seen the source code is untrustworthy).

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reply to "Best you can do"

The tit in this scenario is the one who doesn't have a clue about copyright. It's called "fair use", and DRM stops people from exercising their legal rights with works they have purchased. It also introduces perpetual copyright through the back door, especially in the USA where they've made interfering with DRM a criminal offense. Basically, it takes away copy RIGHTS (why do you think it's called copyright in the first place?) from the consumer and returns us to where we were prior to the Statute of Anne in 1710.

If you want to protect copyright, you don't do that by breaking copyright law, and that's what the RIAA, MPAA and others are doing. Daily. And getting away with it.

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WHAT -- Robin Hood for the 21st Century!??!

Now who is smoking what! DVD Jon has reverse engineered another product that he does not have legal right to do. Period. It doesn't matter if his efforts enable him to raise Mother Theresa from the dead -- or make an iPhone work -- it is still frikkin' illegal, and he is still a tit.

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strong demand

"If there is strong demand then Apple will have the upper hand in negotiations and won't need exclusive contracts to sweeten the networks."

I think the price is not a big driver for strong demand.

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Silver badge

Interface over Function? Not in phones...

The INTERFACE is COOL on an IPOD.

What is an iPod? An mp3 player. Just that. Of course you want to have a 'cool' interface! So is the case for portable gaming consoles (DS, PSP), even PC Operating Systems / Window Managers (Aqua, Aero, Beryl).

But with a cell phone... well ... you expect it to work *like a phone*. If I dial 5325-9000, I do not expect the "keyboard" to dial 5418-3208 (anyone using touch screens for more than 2 months will be familiar with this mis-readings).

You expect dialing 911 (US), 999 (UK), 112 (Europe), 080 (Mexico City) will be quick, real damn quick. I do not expect the phone to crash while calling 080 to report a hold-up in a Kwik-E-Mart; I regard in that my previous Alcatel OneTouch a lifesaver for being reliable and small enough not to be discovered by the muggers.

I expect a cell phone to send SMS, MMS maybe as an extra but then again, at such a price, I'd expect it to have all the features my $220 handset has, plus more.

So basically, cell phones do have Function as a heavy weight against Interface. And battery is another one ... ;)

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Anonymous Coward

Re : WHAT

> ... has reverse engineered another product that he does not have legal right to do.

> Period. ... it is still frikkin' illegal

Errm, perhaps you ought to consider the issue a bit more laddie. Apple is a litigious company. If something is, as you put it, "frikkin illegal" they will sue. Have they sued to stop this ? No, of course not. It is reverse engineered. It is the same basic argument that was applied to DVDs and he was acquitted of. So no, nothing illegal there. The only "tit" is you for getting out of your depth.

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Blah

A hackable piece of equiptment is always favoured because it's everyone loves to beat the man. Anywho I'll be purchasing the o2 flame when it's released over here, a much better peice of kit.

http://www.seeo2.com/flame/

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Battery life

What's with all the comments about battery life? Doesn't the iPhone have a battery life that's quite comparable to other smart phones, ie. 9 hours talk time, 10 days standby?

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reverse engineering should not be illegal.

Christopher, reverse engineer should not be illegal. It the same thing as Ford telling you you cannot take your car engine apart and welding the bonnet/hood shut because its their intellectual property.

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Function vs Interface again

Yes, I appear to contradicted myself up there, but then I do not need or want a multi-function device that includes a phone. Hence, my looking at phone features to see if they justify the purchase for me. The voce dial problem is an AT&T thing you have to pay extra to get.

The iPhone isn't a phone. It's a multi-function device that has fewer features than some other multi-function devices, but an interface that puts everyone else's multi-function device to shame. Find the same or similar features in another multi-function device that out does the iPhone interface in all areas, and you have an iPhone killer. Anyone? Beuller?

The touch screen keyboard is damn good. I've used my coworker's for a bit, just to try it out, and I have to say that the two thumb typing came to me quickly and reliably. And before anyone says "small fingers" no, at 6'3" and 250 lbs, I do not have small fingers. As for dialing, most of the time you will not be hitting numbers, but selecting a contact (which is true of most cells these days). Emergency calls are slide and press, not a keypad thing.

Will it be successful? Yes, because the interface is so easy to use anyone can figure out and use all of its features intuitively. INTUITIVELY. No arcane menus, no easily lost stylus, and absolutely the clearest screen I have ever seen on any portable device, ever.

How's it do as a phone? Meh, in my opinion, but then that's not why people will by it. They'll buy it because it's the first multi-function device that is easy to use, has a great interface, and has enough useful functions to overcome its shortcomings.

The interface is what will sell it, nothing else.

And yes, if you just want phone functions and couldn't care about anything else, it's not for you. Similarly, if you rely on a Blackberry's flexibility and third party apps, it's not for you. If you've never had a Blackberry, or like Treo, or whatever, then you could do a lot worse.

Sit down and play with one a bit if you get a chance, it's simple, easy, and really nicely put together. There are some inconsistencies, but I imagine those will be fixed in time. After all, the interface is really incredible.

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reversing

"Now who is smoking what! DVD Jon has reverse engineered another product that he does not have legal right to do. "

Is reverse engineering illegal? I was under the impression (Samba et al) it was perfectly legit to reverse engineer proprietary file types as long as no source was used.

J

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Actually

Actually, numerous groups have been hacking Iphone since it's general public release , and another group at "iphone,fiveforty.net" have develop a nifty bypass to being locked into A T & T / Cingular(an organization that does not care about it's customers privacy irrespective of the law of the land)!

Understandably , the above sites servers is suffering from a popularity hit according to the blog boing boing , as Cingular is not a well respected mobile phone service provider.

Further in Australia , under it's current Trades Practice Laws it would be considered both illegal and unconscionable to sell such a device locked to one carrier in the manner that Apple has initially chosen to do so in the US!

Now if it was powered by the more secure Linux , instead of the Apple control freak ware , it would be more useful!

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Illegal? Bull.

Exactly, there's nothing illegal here. To cover people that buy a phone that is subsidized/get a free phone, unlock the phone, and port to another phone service, US providers charge a early termination fee, typically $175-200. There's no law against unlocking any phone. The iPhone is not even subsidized so there's particularly no reason for anyone to complain about it. Companies may not like it, but reverse engineering is completely legal. Patents can cover reverse engineering a product just to make a copy of it, but I have complete rights to hack the hell out of anything I own, and companies may not like it, but they will not take these rights away from me.

Furthermore, I have used DeCSS numerous times. Legitimately. I do not own a DVD player, and in fact do watch DVDs on my Linux box, as I'm sure DVD Jon does; I will not purchase a DVD player that won't skip ads and menus when I want it to, when I already own a DVD drive in the computer. And I for damn sure don't have certain monopoly-produced OSes on my computers.

I must agree with some posters, though, I don't see the point of the iPhone. The interface looks pretty, but a giant touchscreen is pants for typing, no MMS, and AT&T is IMHO the worst phone provider in the country. You should look in howardfourms -- data outages, slowdowns, "all circuits busy" messages, garbling and dropouts in phone calls and dropped calls are the norm for them, while still being more-or-less tied with Verizon Wireless as the most expensive provider. If I were to get an iPhone I'd certainly unlock it and take it to IWireless (local T-Mobile affiliate.) I'd lose visual voicemail I guess but it'd be worth it.

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Dam

Conclusion

Conclusion: anonymous coward that called DVDjon a tit, you're the retard.

You showed total ignorance of intellectual property, copyrights, fair use, interoperability, DRM and private backup:

Sample scenario (and what happened in DVDJon's case)

---

1/ Customer buys a DVD

2/ Nowhere on the fucking DVD is it written: warning: microlol windows only

3/ Customer tries to play DVD on linux, fails due to CSS, which is not written on the DVD box either, so the customer can't know at the time of the purchase.

4/ Customer reverse engineers to be able to play his DVD

5/ Perfectly legal, perfectly legitimate

Now fuck off, I don't know, go read up on interop and copyright?

PS: How's that localhost ping going?

PPS: You win the Internet (r)

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Reverse engineering

Yes, you're allowed to take a car engine apart, but data is a bit different. Reverse engineering almost certainly involves making a modified copy, and that breaches copyight (plus there's the DMCA and its equivalents elsewhere to worry about).

You're allowed to "reverse engineer" a book by tearing pages out or sticking a photo of your girlfriend on the cover, but you're NOT allowed to "reverse engineer" it by photocopying all the pages and sticking them in a ring binder. Not even if you bought a copy and it makes it easier for you to annotate a course study text.

Or what about software? Do you claim that reverse engineering a program and removing a 30 day trial limitation, or unlocking optional features that you haven't paid for, counts as "fair use"?

Likewise the bits on a DVD or the firmware in an iPhone. You're allowed to physically do anything you want with the DVD or iPhone itself, but not to copy and alter the data just because it's easy or convenient for you to do so. Shoplifting is easy and convenient too. Doesn't mean that's right either.

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its a bloody phone

it sits in your pocket, get scratched and you hold it up to your ear to make phone calls....

quite why people are going mad for this i dont know.

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"Illegal"?!?

As for what is illegal, and what isn't, I have just one question.

Even if United Retards of America likes to think American law is the same as international law, the rest of the world looks in mild amusement at the itiots from over the pond sayin "illegal" on things they don't know anything about.

Maybe it's time american schools started educating people who learn that "international'" does not mean "50 states".

//Svein

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RE: reverse engineering should not be illegal.

@William:

I dare you to stand in a court room full of Apple's finest legal minds and try to use that argument. They will vaporize you. Home spun half-baked analogies won't save you there.

The agreements that you 'accept' or 'decline' are legal and binding. Be my guest -- play around at your own risk. The same goes for that tit.

/rant

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Anonymous Coward

Reverse engineering

"but you're NOT allowed to "reverse engineer" it by photocopying all the pages and sticking them in a ring binder."

In the eu you are allowed to do it, as long as you do it for backup purposes, never use the copy and the original at the same time and never give either away.

"Do you claim that reverse engineering a program and removing a 30 day trial limitation, or unlocking optional features that you haven't paid for, counts as "fair use""

No, but you can write a program that does the same, reads the same data formats and doesn't have any limitations. All you have to do is write it from scratch.

"Shoplifting is easy and convenient too. Doesn't mean that's right either."

But you are allowed to plant your own wheat and make bread out of it. The fact that some company makes bread too is not enough to forbid you to do the same. Reverse engineering is a way to copy the knowhow of something and knowledge can not be limited by contracts and license agreements. At leat currently that's the oppinion of the eu. However in the us, it can be made illegal to know how to do addition or use a wheeled vehicle if someone gets a patent on it and you didn't pay.

ps: The current program is an activation server for the iphone, it doesn't break the sim lock, but the user can disable the monthly fee based subscription service of the phone. Looking from this aspect the iphone is a subscription service where the provider gives out free hardware for every new customer. The entry price of the service is 500 or 600 usd with montly fees to be paid regularly. Since the network operator controls the iphone they own the hardware, users are just allowed to access it as long as they pay.

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Anonymous Coward

Welcome to the flamewar!

Well, All things considered, the iPhone is nothing more than bling. I doesn't run any of the big 4 embedded OSes (Linux, Symbian, PalmOS or any version of microsoft wince) so getting software for it would be an ass, it lacks 3G, it lacks a front video camera, it lacks a memory card slot (I don't care if it has a hard disk. I want a way to transfer files to it from a PC without connecting the phone to it), and well, I'm a real geek. If it doesn't have a QWERTY keyboard, it's not worthy of my time.

As for copying DVDs, I believe people should have the right to copy/convert the movie into other formats for the purpose of personal use. I personally "convert" my DVDs, VHS tapes and VideoCDs into a format my Zen Vision:M accepts, and for a good reason too - I'm probably the only other person in the world without an iPod. Why? Apparently my money is not good enough for Apple and thus I can't buy anything off iTunes.

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@Rolf

You'd be allowed to reverse engineer a book (that is the construction / layout) by dismantling or copying a few pages, and wouldn't need to copy the whole thing.

Likewise with DeCSS - you wouldn't need to copy a single DVD to write DeCSS, you only need read access to the disk.

The point of DeCSS isn't to copy DVDs, you can make a bitwise copy of a DVD with blissful ignorance of the actual contents.

The point of DeCSS is to enjoy the contents of the DVD which you paid a license to access. Your DVD player uses the exact same algorithm everytime you play a disk.

Making your own DVD playing software is an entirely legitimate task.

I'm sitting here in Australia and can't watch my own DVDs, bought and paid for, because of Region Coding. What the fuck? Thank goodness for all those illegal DVD players that let me enjoy my own DVDs by ignoring region coding.

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Too bad

Too bad there are so many people who are so eager to punish someone for having a sense of curiosity, the determination to investigate their world, and a desire to share information, instead of punishing people who are actually taking advantage of other people.

Sure, people will find a way to abuse this, but experience leads me to believe that the vast majority of people will only take advantage of something like this if they feel they've been slighted in the first place. $600 for a cell phone that only works if you're locked into a two year agreement with a single provider? One has to wonder how apple and at&t thought people would just shrug and accept those terms. On the other hand, it's not like anyone's putting a gun to your head forcing you to agree to that, either.

So, they might not like what Jon does for a hobby, but it's not like they didn't set the precedent, either.

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Dear Register

Instead of more iPhone stories, please can we have some stories about the exciting Microsoft Phune with one-to-one squirting? I've heard it has Windows Mobile 9 and Microsoft plans to give away more in just the first year than Apple sold iPhones in a whole weekend. Why is MS treated so unfairly by the media?

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now now

come on ladies, youre turning this into a bitch fest more than anything!

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reverse engineering a book?

I can photocopy and clip them in a ring binder... it's part of NZ copyright law that if for study or personal use I can... i can't sell copies or distribute copies, but I can use my bought book to make copies to annote or otherwise utilise for my own use or in order to do an assignment...

it's just like quotes in an essay, so long as they are attributed correctly and acknowledged as being not my work, it's all fine and dandy.

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Silver badge

You still don't get it, Christopher

"Now who is smoking what! DVD Jon has reverse engineered another product that he does not have legal right to do. Period. It doesn't matter if his efforts enable him to raise Mother Theresa from the dead -- or make an iPhone work -- it is still frikkin' illegal, and he is still a tit." -- Christopher

No, Jon has EVERY right to reverse-engineer the iPhone. He bought it, with his own money; by sole virtue of which, he is privy to any secret which may be embodied in it. That is just part of his common-law property rights.

And just because something is illegal, does not make it wrong. Sometimes it's the law itself that is wrong! Sometimes it is even necessary to disobey an unjust law.

PS. The iPhone runs Mac OS X. That's unix underneath, just like BSD or Linux. It should be possible to compile your own apps for it with a fully Open Source toolchain.

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Rob

Just one final comment

The main complaint about reverse engineering here seems to be that the EULA normally says that reverse engineering the product is breaking the EULA and means you lose all rights to use it.

The big problem here is that in most countries, the EULA wouldn't pass legal scrutiny and often try and include important sounding phrases to scare people off. Often there is no legal basis for these restrictions and even if the user "agrees" to them, they were not legally binding in the first place and the user cannot be bound by something that doesn't confirm to the law.

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Going mad...

By The Mighty Spang: "it sits in your pocket, get scratched and you hold it up to your ear to make phone calls....

quite why people are going mad for this i dont know."

Because they have small reproductive organs?

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Interface reply, and Battery Life reply

An early poster, Paul F, stated that interface alone will sell it. It is certainly true that the interface and stylings of the iPod sold it in droves, despite it being inferior to alternatives, more expensive, limited to iTunes DRM, and having battery life problems. I'll reserve judgement though on the iPhone, as mobile markets are more established, especially in the East and in Europe, and people are fussier about looks and interface versus content. Also, a number of people have mentioned tha lack of tactile return on typing is offputting, so I'd have to use one before I comment fully, but my early guess is that no, it will sell well based on style and interface, but because it's a more technical device (a phoen and multimedia) it will NOT sell anything like the iPod. Apple have spent that one.

Battery Life - someone asked about the complaints on this, so I'll explain as noone else has. The early iPod was heavily criticised as battery life was limited - not only was it much shorter than most players (possibly the drain caused by the touchwheel), but atfer a lot of charges, your battery dies. Unlike other devices, apple priced the replacement battery so high that buying a new iPod was necessary. So after 2 years, your iPod would have to be rebought. Batteries have improved since, and since then thrid parties have fouind ways to provide replacements - although opening it invalidates any remaining warranty.

With the iPhone, the same issue is resurrected. Almost every mobile phone has a battery compartment, which is easily accessed allowing you to replace the battery, and the likes of Nokia, Sony Ericsson, etc sell batteries seperately at a fair-ish price. This allows travelling users to swap batteries rather than wait for a recharge as well. Apple have gone down the same old road as the iPod, with an interface that drains power, meaning lots of charges fast, and no way to swap out the battery, so once it's capacity is diminished, you would have to buy a new phone.

So if you buy a new phone every 2 years, not too big a deal, otherwise, limiting. Bad design.

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Battery life

"So if you buy a new phone every 2 years, not too big a deal, otherwise, limiting. Bad design."

Well, isn't that *precisely* what people do in fact do, replace their phone every 2 years?? (Actually, I thought it was more like every 18 months.) You get to the end of a contract or think your phone is no longer as fashionable as it was so you get out and get a new model for next to nothing at its subsidised price.

I don't think I've ever come close to needing to replace the battery on a phone before the phone itself has stopped working, certainly not on my last 3 or 4 phones.

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scratching and value

I was concerned about scratching, but I was impressed by the knife test.

<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m-sRbeBehNs&eurl=>

Apple says the screen is made of "optical-quality glass", and doesn't seem to scratch easily (unless you're carrying diamonds in your pocket). Not that I can find out what "optical-quality" means, but it could be an almost pure quartz. Being the perfectionist that he is, I'm surprised that SJ hadn't demanded scratch-resistance for the ipods.

Every portable piece of electronic equipment I have that has a screen has a scratch, and I'm not gung-ho about these things. I just wonder why people only complain about scratching when it comes to Apple products.

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RE: You still don't get it, Christopher

@A J Stiles:

"No, Jon has EVERY right to reverse-engineer the iPhone. He bought it, with his own money; by sole virtue of which, he is privy to any secret which may be embodied in it. That is just part of his common-law property rights."

He can jerk around with it all he wants, but when he starts making his 'discoveries' public, well, I'd be surprised if he DOESN'T get contacted by Apple (or AT&T).

Now AJ Stiles -- I am bored with this and will respond no more. Meanwhile I suggest you do some reading on the subject. Start at a legal library.

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