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iPhone Hacker Politics Behind the Scenes

The iPhone Dev Team has been able to both unlock and jailbreak the OS X iPhone 2.0 software on an iPhone 2G. However, the iPhone 3G poses tougher challenges, especially with regard to unlocking, and the personalities and politics of the hackers working on these problems are bubbling up according to Alex Zaharov-Reutt at ITWire on Monday.

Mr. Zaharov-Reutt reflected on the history of the iPhone unlocking work, launched by George Hotz. Mr. Hotz was the first to unlock an iPhone with a hardware (and solder) technique that landed him a new sports car, prize money and a job with Google. Subsequently, others figured out how to break into the iPhone baseband system in software.

Along the way, iPhone hackers, some working in remote, virtual teams, have borrowed or outright appropriated each other’s techniques, had philosophical differences, and have even taken to goading each other into releasing their work prematurely.

One of the key issues is the poker game with Apple. Customers who aren’t technically savvy about the iPhone internals want a simple unlock technique. Unfortunately, if that were supplied, Apple would easily see how to close the door on that particular technique. As a result, hackers keep their code and techniques close to the vest to remain one step ahead of Apple. Jailbreaking and/or unlocking remains a minefield for the average user.

All this is leading to the histrionics and one-upmanship going on behind the scenes with various hackers. The story was well told by Mr. Zaharov-Reutt.

The bottom line aside from the politics, is that while jailbreaking the iPhone 3G might be possible, the unlocking is going to pose a new, tough challenge. Regarding the iPhone 2G, the iPhone Dev Team is going to take its time before releasing techniques for the iPhone 2G with the 2.0 software for their own reasons.

Understanding the politics won’t make these delicate operations on an iPhone any easier, but do provide a fascinating look into the personalities and technologies in the high stakes poker game with Apple.

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