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.
Some 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?