iBricks will be a PR nightmare for Apple

iBricks will be a PR nightmare for Apple

Summary: It looks like Apple wasn't kidding when it said that the next firmware update for the iPhone would turn perfectly working unlocked iPhones into paperweights. However, the firmware update has a surprise for owners who haven't unlocked their iPhones.

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It looks like Apple wasn't kidding when it said that the next firmware update for the iPhone would turn perfectly working unlocked iPhones into paperweights.  However, the firmware update has a surprise for owners who haven't unlocked their iPhones.

iBricks will be a PR nightmare for AppleSome had questioned the wording of the press release issued by Apple earlier this week claiming that the update would affect unlocked iPhones.  The key word was "likely:"

Apple has discovered that many of the unauthorized iPhone unlocking programs available on the Internet cause irreparable damage to the iPhone’s software, which will likely result in the modified iPhone becoming permanently inoperable when a future Apple-supplied iPhone software update is installed.

Did "likely" mean that there was a chance that some unlocked iPhones would be trashed, all of them or was Apple just using scare tactics to try to steer people away from unlocking the iPhone?  At the time I didn't see it as an empty threat because to make a statement like that and then not turn a few unlocked iPhones into iBricks would have sent a message to the hacking community which said that Apple isn't serious about curbing unlocking, so unlock away.

The update was released yesterday (version 1.1.1) and within minutes I was coming across rumors that the firmware was responsible for bricking some unlocked phones.  Within a couple of hours those rumors were confirmed - the iPhone update was toxic to unlocked handsets.

Then something strange happened.  I started seeing reports that unlocked iPhones were being bricked by the update (Robert Scoble has a few twitter links here, Techmeme here).  Turns out that this update can be just as toxic to locked iPhones - the only difference is that people with unlocked iPhones don't have any warranty to fall back on.

Having the Internet littered with stories of iBricks isn't going to be good for Apple.  Had all the iBricks been unlocked iPhones prior to being bricked Apple might have been able to put the PR spin machine into high gear and made the hackers (and those deviant owners who wanted to unlock Apple's their iPhones) the bad guys in all this.  But even that would have been complicated.  If, when the iPhone hackers dissect the update, it's discovered that Apple had either deliberately or recklessly bricked iPhones, that's going to paint Apple as the bad guy.  If the hackers release a fix to transform iBricks back into iPhones, again Apple looks bad for having left customers out in the cold.  That all makes Apple look very bad.  What's making Apple look really bad are the stories of iPhones that haven't been tampered with being bricked.  That's going to be the nightmare part for Apple's PR department.

I would expect a statement from Apple soon ... wonder how they'll spin it? 

Any readers out there affected by Apple's toxic update?

Topics: iPhone, Apple, Browser, Mobility, Security

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95 comments
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  • Set RDF=11

    Just crank up the Jobs Reality Distortion Field to 11 and move on. There ARE no bricked iPhones, except for the illegal, evil, hacked ones. More along, folks. Nothing to see here.
    bmgoodman
    • Sarcasm filter needed

      I understand you are being sarcastic. Sadly, anyone who is willing to overpay for the privilege of leasing (NOT BUYING) an iPhone will likely miss your point.
      NoMoss
  • RE: iBricks will be a PR nightmare for Apple

    I never would have dreamed the industry would be so driven and determined toward proprietary devices and file formats. Back when proprietary devices and media formats were a genuinely physical barrier (VHS vs BETA) it was a feasible business model. But now that all devices and media are built upon an interoperable and universal digital standard, proprietary design is little more than a mental and financial construct forced upon the consumer at the cost of convienence, and dare I say, rational thought. These cynical attempts to maintain an outdated business model will ultimately fail via consumer backlash.

    ~ Whys
    Whysman
    • iPhone clone next?

      I've seen iPod clones that look similar and can play just about any MP3 file. Is an iPhone clone in the offing? That would be interesting!
      mannyamador
      • Leave it to China

        Looking for an iClone?

        Look here:

        http://www.popsci.com/popsci/technology/e7e48a137b144110vgnvcm1000004eecbccdrcrd.html

        ^"Feeling Lucky" on Google. Google "iclone" you get all kinds of references to it.

        Don't know how it works, but they are for sale on eBay and have been since early July.
        laura.b
    • Utopianism

      Utopianism fails. Invariably.

      Proprietary systems will coexist with open systems for the rest of your life. I
      suggest you get used to it. Its called an open market, and it creates open choice
      between closed systems. Yes, "closed" systems. Systems that are closed to
      monetization, systems that are closed to scrutiny, or systems that are closed to 13
      of 14 Chinese motherboards. Take your pick. Then get off your high horse.

      We're crawling out from under the yoke of a real monopoly, for those who've
      existed within it or felt its effect, everything is monopoly colored. It is not
      however, an excuse to socialize technology, nor does it represent the basis on
      which to criticize real competition, and a newly opened marketplace.

      I'm tired of you cranks finding new reasons not to buy the iPhone. The first reason
      should have been enough.
      Harry Bardal
  • RE: iBricks will be a PR nightmare for Apple

    Same way you're SPINNING this story, bubba.

    Hackers need to understand that companies are NOT going to be held hostage by them! People committed a CRIMINAL act by 'unlocking' (i.e. HACKING) their iPhones, so now they have to pay the price.

    I'm glad Apple is doing this!

    I don't own an iPhone, but even if I did, I wouldn't try to mess around with hacking it--makes for a very expensive BRICK.......
    davidcantu1970@...
    • re: glad Apple is doing this!

      [i]Same way you're SPINNING this story, bubba.[/i]

      Yes, but when even those who don't unlock their iPhones get the shaft, how will you spin that [i]bubba[/i]?

      [b][i]Turns out that this update can be just as toxic to locked iPhones[/i][/b]
      Badgered
    • It's LEAGAL In The US Bubba to unlock ANY

      Cell phone you purchase!!! No matter what contract Apple has signed with ATT. Get a clue Bubba!!!
      bka1959
      • Legal

        Perhaps, but I'm curious if Apple is required to update your phone once you've unlocked it? They're selling a phone to use with AT&T's network, if YOU choose to unlock the phone via some 3rd party app I would guess their responsibility ends? I believe their statement was very clear on the dangers of applying the updates if you have modified the phone, was it not?
        meelder
        • That's true if......

          [i]They're selling a phone to use with AT&T's network, if YOU choose to unlock the phone via some 3rd party app I would guess their responsibility ends? I believe their statement was very clear on the dangers of applying the updates if you have modified the phone, was it not?[/i]

          That's true if Apple didn't intentionally write the update specifically to disable unlocked iPhones. If they did, and anyone could prove it, that might be another story.
          Badgered
          • Obtuse

            Could you be more obtuse? Each update comes with a license agreement. To instal
            it is to agree with the terms. Its Apple prerogative to build the firmware the way
            they see fit. Its the users "intent" to accept these terms. Until this pact is made,
            and the firmware is refreshed, the phone works. They are not pushing updates,
            they gave explicit warnings.

            These imagined rights violations are making you folks look ridiculous. If you want
            this to look like something other than sublimated envy, either find a dramatically
            different line of attack, or scurry back to the trench.

            Please stop finding new reasons not to buy the iPhone. Its unseemly. The first
            reason should have been enough.
            Harry Bardal
          • Sounds like we have

            another backer of the Microsoft EULA. <br>
            Come on Harry, put your work to better use and guide the misguided in the various "stealth" update blogs. Truth is truth and you must fight for it evenly or not at all.
            xuniL_z
          • Nice, but he won't

            this should show the hypocrisy that is hiding under his guise of "Choice"
            Joeman57
          • One is an abusive monopoly, the other is not

            i.e. only one is hurting the market and choice.
            When you've figured out which one then you'll understand better.
            Mikael_z
          • Which is which?

            Can you clarify which is the abusive monopoly? The whole iphone song and dance fits perfectly... although I have never heard of Microsoft taking your money and then giving you the shaft. Have you? I mean ruining your hardware, not locking an illegit software install.

            But then, if you are a one-line zealot, you don't have the benefit of Fairness in judgement. You only get to pick on one.
            Chippolus
          • You need to learn to read

            You have a particularly difficult time with the word "IF."

            What about this tiny little word don't you understand? Or is it too small to cause any blip on your radar?

            When an author says "If....." and you reply with "YOU'RE RETARDED BECAUSE YOU SAID....." then you are the one who seems like a jittery person who jumps to conclusions.

            Debating possible causes and outcomes is no unreasonable.

            Accusing people of spewing out untrue facts when they in fact classified them with the proper word to make it not fact but speculation (this word "if" that we previously discussed) is the only unseemly act taking place here.
            laura.b
        • Pretend for a second you are listening.

          And we are not talking about responsibility to repair, but the belief that nobody has the right to break your stuff wilfully.
          It wasn't an accident. They broke people's own property. They didn't refuse to update. That would have been the moral high ground. They were the little punk bully at the sandbox that breaks the other kid's toys for spite.
          I believe the threat will turn out to be where their responsibility ... or culpability, hopefully, STARTED.
          Chippolus
      • Bubba, bubba, ba

        Isn't that a Bing Crosby song?
        YinToYourYang-22527499
      • Are you sure?

        Since you can't spell Legal, where did you read that it is legal in the US to unlock any
        phone?
        mlindl