Apple, Inc appears to be ready, once again, to respond to the times on the iPhone. After users broke protections that protected the device from running third-party software, Apple announced a full Software Development Kit (SDK) and AppStore.
However, even more discussed in the drive-by mass media, is the unlocking of iPhone. Oddly enough however, the greatest improvements to make unlocking simple, such as ZiPhone, came long after media coverage dwindled. ZiPhone took the arduous process of unlocking and made it a one-click process.
But, Apple has realized after seeing millions of iPhones not on their intended networks, that there is clear room for profits in the unlocked phone space. Adding a premium to the existing iPhone, would be difficult to price in the current market. Unlocking is usually offered for free by carriers after a customer has met (or is locked into) a contract.
Additional calls found in iPhone’s SDK appear to point to much clearer walls of separation between iPhones on carriers, and unlocked iPhone units. Currently there are only a handful of unlocked iPhones, as required by law in some European countries. However, after the initial release, Apple legally maneuvered to raise the price of those iPhone units to over $1,000, to prevent their sale.
The new SDK improvements appear to allow for many more iPhone units to be sold, unlocked, from the factory. They also appear to add support for iPhone units to be provisioned as unlocked from the factory.
The latest versions of the iPhone SDK contain additional reference calls in 2.0 firmware (the same firmware which adds support for 3G iPhone units) that contain SIM locked-and-activated as well as SIM unlocked-and-activated calls. For a more technical explanation, iPhone 2.0 software can check with portions of the baseband and bypass a PrivateActivation.pem, or retrieve an unlocked version from iTunes.
This all appears to culminate in the next-generation iPhone following a pleasant trend; turning existing technology into new news for Apple. The upcoming third-generation iPhone now has support for both locked and officially unlocked iPhones.
The question still does remain if Apple will release third-generation iPhones in both retail, and unlocked retail prices. With some willing to pay upwards of $100 for iPhone unlocks at release, Apple is poised to profit significantly from such an option. In addition, this would allow Apple to target carriers such as T-Mobile, without breaking Apple’s carrier-exclusivity agreements.
Apple executives have made public statements in recent months indicating that iPhone is not necessarily tied to any single carrier in a country.