Philippine hackers 'unlock' iPhone, sources say

Local hackers have unlocked the Apple iPhone, allowing the mobile device--currently available only in the United States--to operate in the Philippines.

PHILIPPINES--Local hackers have unlocked Apple's popular iPhone, allowing the unit to be used in the Philippines, according to industry sources.

Speaking to ZDNet Asia on the condition of anonymity, industry sources also revealed that an unlocked iPhone can operate on the GSM networks of local wireless carriers.

The sources said the phone was unlocked by hackers working for small cellular phone dealers and repair shops scattered across Metro Manila. The sources noted that hackers can use a variety of software and hardware tools to unlock the iPhone, though it is not clear which method local hackers used and whether the hack will remain effective if the iPhone is updated with the 10 patches Apple released today.

When contacted, Philippine wireless carriers Smart Telecommunications and Globe Telecom declined to comment on the issue. Apple's Asia-Pacific office also declined comment.

Over 1 million iPhones have been sold since its U.S. launch in end-June. The moblie phone is expected to be commercially available in the United Kingdom in November.

Not an unusual practice
The unlocking of phones is a common practice in the Philippines, and is a major revenue contributor to these small shops. Cellular phones that have been deactivated are often "unlocked" so they can reused under a different carrier.

In fact, one local repair shop disclosed that the business of unlocking phone is "thriving" because of the "convenience and speed" at which a user can change carriers by paying only a minimal fee.

Apple has yet to announce an iPhone launch date for Asia, though the company has said it is likely to be next year.

The iPhone was initially "locked" to work exclusively for customers of U.S. giant AT&T, but hackers in the United States were eventually able to unlock the mobile device.

Apple recently released a statement cautioning users that unlocking the iPhone is risky and can cause permanent damage to the unit. The company also warned that warranties will no longer be valid if iPhones are unlocked.

Joel D. Pinaroc is a freelance IT writer based in the Philippines.

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