iPhone hacked by Aussie using 'Turbo SIM'

An Australian iPhone hacker claims to be the first person to have successfully unlocked Apple's mobile phone so it can be used on any network.

An Australian iPhone hacker claims to be the first person to have successfully unlocked Apple's mobile phone so it can be used on any network.

Australian iPhone fan ozbimmer, already known for several attempts that have come close to unlocking the iPhone, has publicised a method that uses a small third-party device called Turbo SIM, which is a tiny SIM card "sleeve" that fits between the phone and the regular SIM card, made by an obscure Czech firm.

Unlike alternative methods of unlocking the iPhone, the Turbo SIM does not require any complicated hardware or card readers.

To unlock the iPhone, users have to copy a utility called AppleSaft on to the Turbo SIM -- using another mobile phone. Users then attach the Turbo SIM to the AT&T SIM card that is supplied with the iPhone and activate it. Once activated, the AT&T SIM should be replaced with the SIM card from the user's preferred mobile phone carrier and inserted into the iPhone with the Turbo SIM. According to ozbimmer, the iPhone should now be fully operational.

Ozbimmer claims to have carried out this process to get an iPhone to work on the Telstra network, while another Australian user named linc reported success with the same method using Vodafone. While only Telstra uses EDGE networking in Australia (central to the iPhone's e- mail and Web functions), other users have reported success with those functions under GPRS.

It is clear that while this crack requires no complicated hardware or SIM reprogramming, it still requires users to be very experienced and familiar with some relatively difficult shell commands. Also, users will have to cut off a small piece of the plastic from their chosen carrier's SIM card to allow Turbo SIM to function.

Another risk is that Apple could invalidate this hack with a firmware update.

The Turbo SIM is manufactured by a company called Bladox, which has sold the device since 1998. While it's had many legitimate uses in phone applications, this new discovery has already caused a run on the company's supplies. Bladox has temporarily shut down the manufacture and sale of all their other devices in order to concentrate solely on the Turbo SIM.

Gold Coast-based distributor Votech has been reselling the Turbo SIM in Australia but the company has already run out of supplies. A message on the company's Web site informs customers:

NOTE TO Apple iPhone owners: We are currently out of stock and awaiting a new shipment. Please e-mail us to be added to the waiting list and we will inform you the second the new stock arrives. Alternatively, you can place an order now that will get priority shipment when the stock arrives.

With the Turbo SIM device being the key to this new iPhone hack, any kind of delay in the manufacture and distribution of the product directly affects international users wishing to unlock their iPhones.

This is the latest in a long chain of attempts to hack the iPhone since its US release on 29 June. Within two weeks of its launch, hackers had already worked out how to activate the iPhone without an AT&T account, then ozbimmer came close to a full hack when he was able to make calls but not receive calls or send SMSs with his Telstra SIM card.

A US teenager interviewed by ZDNet Australia sister site Builder AU boasted of being able to hack the iPhone within two weeks, but that prediction was clearly too confident, though possibly not by a great deal.

Turbo SIM -- a look at the device

Enterprising iPhone hackers have taken the obscure Turbo SIM device (the black SIM in the image) and turned it into what could be the tool to completely open the iPhone to any network.