iPhone Locked To Cingular, But “Bad Guys” Might Unlock It

iPhones will be sold locked to Cingular, but it’s possible “bad guys” will unlock them, says

    “While “there are bad guys out there that unlock phones,” Lurie said, Apple and Cingular are taking unspecified steps to make the phone more difficult to unlock and use on other GSM carriers in the US.”

    …That bending included allowing the phone to be locked to Cingular, just one of several restrictions on the new iPhone. Press reports today said the phone will not accept third-party applications, though Apple may allow third parties to program mini-application “widgets.”

    “If you want an iPhone, you are going to get the luxury of being on the Cingular network,” Lurie said.

    While the Cingular logo will not appear on the body of the iPhone, the word “Cingular” will appear on the screen at all times.”

Golly jenkins, when will Apple develop a DRM brain for us to buy? Though it will be capable of only one thought, that thought will be extremely well-designed. — BEN POPKEN

Cingular: We Made Apple Bend [PC World] (Thanks to Tim!)


Edit Your Comment

  1. tadiera says:

    I think what gets me the most is the line:
    “If you want an iPhone, you are going to get the luxury of being on the Cingular network,” Lurie said.

    Did they forget to document how she then turned away to begin laughing maniacally?

  2. mechanismatic says:

    So let me get this straight. It’s legal to unlock your phone now after the recent ruling or whatnot, yes? So you’re a ‘bad guy’ if you choose to do something within your legal rights?

    And that sentence should read, “If you want an iPhone, you are going to get the luxury of being screwed over on the Cingular network.”

  3. ‘bad guys’, being the label one recieves when you modify something that you bought.

    What a joke. Here is another public misperception I must point out. Equating something that is completely legal with the ‘bad guys’. There is something wrong with this way of thinking. Even worse when corporate shmucks propogate the brain hemmorrage through advertising.

  4. nweaver says:

    Easy Peasy: No changeable SIM card. Bury the Sim card deep inside so even if you do have an unlock code, it takes serious surgery to get to. Heck, put it under a drop of epoxy and bond it onto the phone.

    Anyway, unlocked it will be useless, as so much of the software that counts has to interact with Crapular’s servers (eg, voice email etc) and probably even the web browser (proxies etc)

  5. I’d like to see how they’re going to market this ANYWHERE in Asia if they insist on having it contractually locked to one carrier =P

  6. RumorsDaily says:

    Mechanismatic – it’s legal to circumvent the protection scheme on cell phones in order to use them on other networks as per the Copyright Office’s recent exemptions to the DMCA. Sadly the ruling says nothing about Cingular using the phrase “bad guys.”

    Additionally Cingular is allowed to make it impossible to actually circumvent the protection system if they are able to do so technologically.

  7. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    Is it legal for someone to sell an unlocked phone on eBay?

  8. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    I dunno. I just see this as another way for Cingular to make money. I’m sure they will be selling iphone specific ringtones, wallpaper, widgets, and so on.

    And I’m going to assume that the phone will be sold bare.. Accessories will be sold separately, with a high Apple price tag.

  9. Pelagius says:

    That sound you hear is a million high expectations from MacWorld 2007 crashing brutally to the ground.

  10. MeOhMy says:

    That’s kinda like when one of Ted Turner’s execs claimed that flipping channels during commercials was theft and violated your contract with the broadcaster.

    And no third party apps? That sounds worse than what Sidekick/Hiptop has done!

  11. spanky says:

    So, I’ve been feeling a little out of it for not really seeing the appeal the iPhone, but my shame is rapidly becoming a sense of haughty superiority.

    It’s just another overpriced, locked down, fixed functionality consumer electronic product with a pretty form factor.

    And now people are bad guys for fiddling around with a product they have legally purchased? If you want to maintain control over what users do with a device, don’t offer it for sale. (And yeah, I know about the DMCA, but a) the DMCA is horrible and stupid, and b) the recent rule clarifications specifically allow phone unlocking.)

    Eat a dick, Cingular.

  12. strider_mt2k says:

    And here come the flaws!

  13. mspaeth says:

    I already disliked Cingular for their crap customer service. Lurie’s comment totally coincides with the disrespect and arrogance I have received in every one of my interactions with this company. I am sure Jobs is going to love Cingular’s arrogant remarks in regard to them making Apple bend. Seriously, what leverage did Cingular hold in these negotiations? They have no more to offer than any of the rest.

  14. BillyShears says:

    Cingular’s copping quite the attitude with this phone. I bet they’ll have a seperate iPhone plan that will be required to use the device on their network, and it will be at least $80/month.

  15. Mike_ says:

    Apple invested a lot in the iPhone, and they came up with some really cool technology. I was a little concerned that 8GB was not enough for a video iPod. Now it’s clear the biggest drawback is that you have to sign a contract with these Cingular douchebags. No thank you. This thing was dead before it hit the ground.

    Take out the GSM and keep the WiFi. Add a flexible SIP client for VoIP. Put in an 80GB HDD. Sell it wherever iPods are sold.

  16. The Hoff says:

    I dunno. I just see this as another way for Cingular to make money.

    No, they were releasing it for the good of all mankind.

  17. gsmps says:

    I enjoy being a “bad guy” make a nice living as a result of that. Cant wait to unlock me some iphones :-)

  18. weave says:

    I was so excited about this at first, but now, forget it. Bad enough that it’s locked to Cingular, but you can’t expand it with third party software either?

    Wondering what other restrictions it has. Will it allow OBEX bluetooth file transfers, or will that be crippled as well?

    I’m sticking with Symbian phones from Nokia. I have an N90 now and will probably get an N95 next. I can add whatever app I want to it, blessed by Nokia or not. I can load any company’s SIM in it as well.

  19. RumorsDaily says:


    Is it legal for someone to sell an unlocked phone on eBay?


  20. whiskey says:

    How come they are “bad guys”? I mean wasn’t there a ruling that stipulated that you could unlock your phone?

  21. Kromem says:

    I’m most interested in the “no 3rd party apps.”

    If they are (as they are marketing) using any version of OS X, no matter how trimmed, it will be running on a modified FreeBSD kernel. This is a system very familiar to those darned “bad people,” and it will be two weeks before you can transfer some nifty 3rd party software onto the phone. The only issue I can see is how that software is set up to interact with the drivers for the touch screen.

    The coolest would be someone developing a widget that hooks the typepad interface into a modded Terminal program, and loading binaries from there.

    Of course, that’s assuming Apple isn’t lying about it really being OS X.

  22. Brian Gee says:

    I was really excited about the iPhone, until this news started to hit.

    First of all, Glenn Lurie is a douchebag. (I know it was said before, but I wanted all the pertinent info in one sentence, so Google can better understand, from the context, that Cingular’s president of national distribution, Glenn Lurie, is a douchebag of extreme magnitude.) His quotes are priceless and solidify how totally out of touch the cellcos are with their “customers”.

    Second the no-third-party thing completely blows. I’m still blown away that the most open mobile device on the market (mainstream, I’m not talking about the l33t linux hax0rz running GPE on their Tytns) is from Microsoft. Freakin Microsoft!!!

    I’m so disappointed. I’m blown away that a Cingular executive (corporate douchebag Glenn Lurie) is *excited* by the fact that they crippled Apple’s device. He’s thrilled that they are able to make the most anticipated phone in years into something totally lame.

    Why the F would I want to change my service over to a company that is excited about stifling innovation, even if they do have the prettiest phone?

    I guess 2009 will be the year of the iPhone.

  23. Brian Gee says:

    Kromem: Its not really OSX. Its more like the iPod. It kind of looks like OSX, and has an OSeXy feel to it, but its not really OSX.

  24. R2B2 says:

    Am I the only one that was excited to hear them say that Apple may allow third parties to program widgets?

  25. nexgenmax says:

    It’s a nice phone so it seems.
    I wonder if Iphone will sell more if it’s available for all networks. I was thinking that this is a breakthrough, so might as well just make it unlock. Reason? Everyone have different network contract on their neck, it will take some time before they can buy this Iphone according to their contracts. If this phone available unlocked from Apple, I wonder how will the market will react? I would guess, just like ipods… everybody can buy it and use it with their own trusted network. Except, in this case, this phone is only available in GSM.

    “Bad Guys” Does the phone created locked to one network? I don’t think so, since it’s only in few country that locked their phones to a certain particular network. Who’s making it more diffcult ;)

  26. MattyMatt says:

    “Luxury of Cingular”? That’s rich. I think I’ll wait until I can enjoy the luxury of choice before I buy an iphone.

  27. Porksickle says:

    Well, there are laws now that make it (officially) legal to unlock phones. However, I bet they will be even more expensive than buying a non-contract iPhone.

    Also, Cingular has the ability to give you (the user, that is) visual voice mail. To me, that was one of the coolest features.

    I woldnt mind an unlocked one, for sure.

  28. Oakland510 says:

    hahaha… cingular. you can’t polish a turd.

  29. untulis says:

    Brian Gee: I guess the big “OS X” slide that Apple has during the iPhone MacWorld preso is just a pretty picture.

    Kromem: OS X runs with a Mach as its kernel, not BSD. From a userland perspective, it looks (mostly) like FreeBSD, but it is a significant difference.

  30. Take out the GSM and keep the WiFi.

    Sorry, GSM is the most portable network technology upon which to base a phone.

    I really can’t complain too much about Cingular – although I wish Apple would at least allow T_Mobile to sell the phone – but Cingular gave up some significant R&D to enable some of the more interesting aspects of the phone, like visual (random access) voicemail.

    One other thing I’ll say is that the phone’s featureset isn’t set in stone. Apple hasn’t said what will or won’t be shipped with this device, including third party apps, VoIP, etc.

    My bet is that Apple will point to stories like this as rationale for including a VoIP client if one is not already in development.

    Everyone hates something about their cell phone provider. I hate Cingular’s sub-70 i.q. support staff. Some people hate Verizon for insisting on cripplephones. Based on Cingular’s overall service and my satisfaction with other Apple products, I’ll probably give this phone a try.

  31. Sorry, GSM is the most portable network technology upon which to base a phone.

    Sorry – that should be:

    Sorry, GSM is the most portable network technology upon which to base a phone which will be marketed worldwide.

    …Adding that 3G speed and modulation is a firmware upgrade away with GSM, as long as the data pump is fast enough – and if this thing is running OS X, it’ll be fast enough.

  32. I doubt they’ll bury the SIM card, more likely they just program the Cingular Network Identifier into the Software, so unless one can decode the software, then recompile it with the change parameters you’re SOL.

    Most GSM phones don’t go that far with the locks, they just have a register that needs to be changed and they are done, but I have the feeling that Apple is going to mess directly with the OS in a way that is not nice.

    Of course, that doesn’t really matter for me for a while until they decide to bring it up to Canada, but I’ll bet that they will only have it on Rogers.

    Guess I will buy the P990i after all.

  33. Micropops says:

    I work for a cell phone company and we now HAVE to unlock any cell phone for a customer. We can give them a hard time and require them to have us. But if they want it unlocked we are required BY LAW to unlock it. They made this law so that if Joe cancels Cingular his is free to take the phone to a compatible carrier. This law evens applies to Verizion & Sprint that don’t really have phone that you could take anywhere.

  34. Ikthog says:

    Cingular’s smug attitude is indeed pretty lame, but it doesn’t terribly bother me that Jobs has a little humility coming his way. The PC World article is kind of amusing, though… Jobs managed to tame the music industry, some of the biggest assheads on the planet, so something tells me this stuffed suit didn’t just “get Apple to bend” the way he tells it. It may well be that the other carriers they talked to were even less accommodating than Cingular, given the vultures that populate that industry. It also wouldn’t be shocking if a lot of this is bluster that isn’t actually based on any contractual agreement.

    Ultimately, I think the doom and gloom is unwarranted… it would certainly be better if third-party apps were fair game, and it’s not yet clear that they aren’t, but keep in mind that the features that have attracted all the buzz are the ease of use, the integration, the smooth user experience, not the promise that you can run lots and lots of applications. This is 1.0, Jobs has to have something to announce during the 2008 keynote.

  35. drewheyman says:

    i thought somebody said the sim card hole was on the side of the phone, like your typical memory card, and not like your typical sim card.

    i think more companies should berate other companies instead of being so nicey nice all the time. it makes corporations more like wrestling.

  36. drewheyman says:

    also the CARRIERS don’t give a crap about voip. they’d all be doing it if they could. there are serious technical and legislative reasons why a voip cell phone isn’t exactly right around the corner.

    the voip corporations all got legislative passes because they are small and they suck, and can minimize the issues due to a lack of constant movement of their physical locations. the cell companies, on the other hand, may also suck, but they are big, so they don’t get legislative passes.

    so basically, get used to a lack of truly authorized voip cell phones.

  37. also the CARRIERS don’t give a crap about voip. they’d all be doing it if they could. there are serious technical and legislative reasons why a voip cell phone isn’t exactly right around the corner.

    Spectrum reuse issues preclude the kind of volume that cellular phone carriers would require for VoIP on this and licensed or unlicensed spectrum.

    In other words, you’d need VoIP-capable base stations every twenty feet in a metro area to get efficient use of the bandwidth that carriers have allocated now; IP carries some serious bandwidth baggage for voice, and because IP is not guaranteed delivery, you’ll need some big margins in your bandwidth to ensure quality of service.

    This is above and beyond 802.whatever – if the iPhone included a VoIP client, it’s relative rarity would probably mean that quality of service would be usable in most places with an 802.11 basestation, but again – you can’t walk around and roam from 802.11 station to station. There’s no handof protocol in the specification, and that’s what makes cellular phones unique and again, unsuitable for VoIP right now – the handoff requires dropping and resending packets, so if you’re moving your effective bandwidth drops precipitously.

    I used to work for Metricom; we had a pretty cool network (Ricochet) that maximized spectrum reuse and which used unlicensed spectrum. In 2001, we were seeing 256kbps downloads in many metro areas, and our service was the only data connetivity that survived 9/11 in lower Manhattan. Unfortunately, the company went tits-up just before 9/11 due to atrocious management.

  38. Trai_Dep says:

    It’s amazing how BADLY cellular companies can muck up a great thing. Almost as bad as the music companies.

    I’m not sure how culpable Apple is on this. They need SOMEone’s cellular network, it’s not like they can create their own. I wonder what the economics of selling an open phone are vs. a locked down one. I can’t see Apple preferring to limit their market, so what’s the compelling reason they go exclusive with Cingular?

    And, yeah, does this mean that their Euro/Asian sales are toast since they’d be giggled at like the new kid wearing his underwear inside out at grade school for being exclusive?

  39. Mr. Black says:

    If the iPhone is a USA exclusive, which I highly doubt, it would only be for a limited period of time (like the RAZR) after which there are every version for every provider on every network. I speculate that the reality will be a much more “free” iPhone being released overseas which we’ll just have to import via a 3rd party. The only issues being with provider supplied content (ie visual voicemail).

  40. guroth says:

    “but again – you can’t walk around and roam from 802.11 station to station. There’s no handof protocol in the specification, and that’s what makes cellular phones unique and again, unsuitable for VoIP right now”

    WRONG, do a little research on WDS, it allows seamless roaming between 802.11 access points.

  41. EBW says:

    Here in the UK, with 5 large and competitive mobile carriers, I’ve never seen a major phone tied to one carrier, so I expect when we get the iPhone at the end of the year, it will be on several carriers (at least Orange, T-Mobile, Vodaphone and O2).

  42. olegna says:

    Reasons why I will never own this phone:

    – The battery, locked inside it’s shiny little box, can’t be replaced without mailing phone back to manufacturer. (This is particularly dumb since Apple doesn’t make any of the parts that go with the phone. It’s prolly a $50 Motorolla battery or something that you’ll pay $100 to have replaced by Apple — or, as Apple hopes, you’ll just throw it away and buy another one, like the MacDroids do with the iPod.)

    – Five hour battery life (which, as you know, has a diminishing charge times — in a year or two, the charge time will be a lot less than five hours). Somebody told me said five hours is normal (I’m not sure. I charge my Treo about every 3-5 days.) I’m not sure. But since the iPhone does all this other stuff (Music IM, whatevs) you’re more likely to use up the charge faster.

    – No stylus. Yeah, I know. A lot of people think that’s a plus. But wait until you dick around with your touch screen after you put your iPhone in a case with an acrylic screen cover. You’ll be pushing those buttons with the fat end of your Bic pen.

    – No QWERTY keyboard. Typing emails in a touch screen sucks, it sucks worse when you try to do it through a phone cover. Treo’s QWERTY keyboard rulez — nice elevated TicTac buttons that don’t seem to press accidentally.

    – All that shiny deliciousness. I call this the I.M. Pei phenomenon. I.M. Pei built that ugly glass pyramid in front of the Louvre. The only day it ever looked even remotely cool was the very first day it was unveiled. Today, all that glass emphasizes the layer of scum and crud that has settled on it. Your iPhone doesn’t look so sexxy covered with your greasy fingerprints and emphasizing every little scratch and ding.

    – Brushed aluminum and white shininess and rounded corners is so “2001 Space Odyssey”. I may be in a minority here, but it seems Apple is a one-trick pony when it comes to industrial design.

  43. If the iPhone is a USA exclusive

    They already announced Q4 for Europe and 2008 for Asia.

  44. stupidme says:

    I dont think iphone will be locked to 1 carrier. just like the motorola razor, iphone will eventually go to other gsm carriers and maybe even to verizon and sprint. they will need to have unlocked versions for the asian and european markets as well since those areas use pre-paid services more often. if the iphone stays with just one carrier i don’t think they will help cingular raise the number of subscribers they currently have by much. i’m sure i’ll be able to get an unlocked iphone on ebay after it has been released if i wanted an iphone but i dont!

  45. Mike_ says:

    M_: Take out the GSM and keep the WiFi.

    LC: Sorry, GSM is the most portable network technology upon which to base a phone.

    I meant for purposes of evading the Cingular exclusivity agreement. Add some storage and unbind it from Cingular, and you’ve got a pretty cool gadget. Especially if you’re regularly within reach of 802.11. I think they’d sell more of these if it wasn’t tied to Cingular, even if it wasn’t a phone. Look for some of this new technology to be part of the next-generation iPod.

  46. I couldn’t agree more with Olegna and Spanky.

    It’s appalling that the battery is impossible to replace without sending it back. I’m expecially concerned because, cellphones and iPods don’t necessarily have great battery life, combining the two cannot possibly be good.

    I’m not excited about a phone with exclusivity and service provider dependent features. If someone made a phone that was generic and standardized, worked on any network and was completely devoid of service provider lockouts like Verizon is so fond of, they’d be printing money.

  47. helio9000 says:

    >Am I the only one that was excited to hear them say that Apple may allow third parties to program widgets?

    Um, Yes. Not that it isn’t cool but really, it is such a tiny morsel compared to what could have been an incredible feast (And even that is “maybe”!) that I find it hard to be satisfied. This along with the 2 year lock and NOT removable battery make it a tough sell. iHubris anyone?



    It is trying to be the exact opposite of the closed system the iphone is looking to take from the iPod and perfect. Stuff like this needs to start getting off the ground before closed systems take root everywhere. They say the right things, I just hope that it tunrs out to be real because I have been hearing about it for 6 months and have not seen a lot of progress.

    It also uses multitouch in the same way the iPhone does. I’m curious about the patents since nothing in the way iPhone uses multitouch hasn’t been seen before. (The pinch, rotate etc.) Doesn’t mean it isn’t fantastic but also, apple hardly pulled these concepts out of thin air. Everyone from MS to Nokia has some multitouch tech at their disposal.

  48. katewrath says:

    Can we just take a minute to acknowledge the idiocy of marrying this phone exclusively to Cingular for the sake of a VOICE MAIL INTERFACE?

    What the hell? It’s voicemail. Okay, so now you can get your voicemails out of sequence. This is worth pairing up with a hosebag cellphone provider?

    I worked for a Steve Jobs-esque individual once, at a design firm that will go unnamed, and this kind of thing happened all the time. This fixation with “revolutionizing” stuff that really, works pretty good already, is exasperating.

    What if, instead of wasting all this time on the voicemail interface, you’d made a device that could easily partner with several cellphone providers, so that they would compete for customer business and be unable to rest on their shitty laurels?

  49. foxfire235 says:

    They’ll probably make it so that it uses proprietary data like the Tmobile sidekick. That way even if you unlock it, you can’t use the data portion on another network.

  50. aramedes says:

    I was so eager about buying this phone, but the fact that its basically Cingular only has destroyed my eager dreams. My girlfriend had Cingular, and she never could stay connected.
    So Ive changed there motto from the “Cingular the least dropped calls” to “Cingular the least connected calls”!!
    I wanted the I-phone but maybe my answers lie with Prada, and just get it shipped here, It releases March 22/07 do a search for it.

  51. Bix says:

    @Troy F.:

    The exec was Jamie Kellner.

    “Because of the ad skips…. It’s theft. Your contract with the network when you get the show is you’re going to watch the spots. Otherwise you couldn’t get the show on an ad-supported basis. Any time you skip a commercial or watch the button you’re actually stealing the programming.”

  52. pinkfariey says:

    They only have the damn phone locked because they need more money. If their service didn’t suck they wouldn’t have to worry about making more money. I think its unfortunate they have to buy a phone no one else can have and trick people in to singing up with them.