That's it then, the 57 days of AT&T’s exclusivity over the iPhone gone in a flash.
With the announcement today reported that software programmers from iPhoneSIMfree.com have cracked the iPhone’s operating system to allow users to connect to any mobile phone network, is it the end of the mobile phone exclusive?
Has Apple been wrong to force Americans and soon to be us Brits to only sign up with the one operator that was going to give them the most money? It seems, according to the company’s fan base, that they were.
Apple fanboys might be happy with the company’s iconic products, the swish metal casing, the touchscreen and the Safari browser, but it was clear from the start from comments on blogs and forums across the US that they were far from happy about the forced AT&T connection.
Now that a crack has been found, there are likely to be two outcomes:
The first is that Apple rushes to include a patch that blocks the crack, and then forces its iPhone customers to download it by including some really cool must have software feature.
It’s something that Sony has continued to do with its PSP handheld console firmware after cracker after cracker found ways to bypass certain features.
In that case, in my mind, Sony were valid to do so, as the cracks on the whole did nothing more than allow you to play copied illegal games, however with the Apple iPhone the move is considerably greyer territory.
Could you argue that Apple is working against your human rights in stopping you choose which operator you want to connect to?
Is installing the third party app, which Apple allows you to do anyway with widgets that to tell you the weather or stock reports breaking the agreement with AT&T?
We aren’t sure, but as they say with evolution, "Where there is a will, there is a way".
It’s what disgruntled users did with region coding for DVD players. While the industry still region codes DVD films, the majority of manufacturers from Samsung to Toshiba openly sell and promote region-free DVD players, or certainly allow people to find the remote control function to unlock the player on the Internet.
The second outcome, is that contrary to Apple’s possible business plan, sales of the device actually go up as consumers who have resisted the iPhone because of the AT&T connection move to get the handset and enjoy it on their current mobile operator’s tariff.
The move over the exclusivity break is likely to affect Apple hard either way. Apple’s profit on the device is not only gained by the sale of the handset, but also what is expected a large chunk of voice and data calls made on the phone for the life of the contract.
The Piper Jaffray analyst, Gene Munster, has suggested that AT&T gives Apple $11 per month for every new subsciber and $3 per month for existing customers switching to an iPhone contract.
In Europe and the FT reported this week that Apple’s contract with Orange in France, O2 in the UK and T-Mobile in Germany requires that the operators hand over 10% of the revenues made from calls and data transfers by customers over iPhones.
If successful the software crack will allow people to move away from that business model and means that Apple’s grip on the operator will weaken, with its business model for the device destroyed – hey, where will the extra revenue come from?
Then there is the worry for Apple that whoever is bidding for the contract in the UK, is this news likely to affect any negations?
If I was in charge of the purse strings trying to secure the deal with the Californian company I certainly would be wary about paying over the top for to get exclusivity if I knew that the more tech savvy of my customers are likely to bail ship as soon as the crack is installed.
So as we said at the beginning, is this the end of the exclusive? Judging by the reaction and bad vibe from American AT&T customers we’ve spoken to here at Pocket-lint I think it is certainly the start.
We want choice, not to be stifled by restrictions, whether that's a Vodafone BlackBerry Curve or no Paramount Blu-ray disks. Moves like this in my mind only fail to appeal to consumers rather than embrace them.
The amount of gadget fans I know personally that want certain products but don’t want to be exclusive with one operator, or one type of technology be it a memory card or games console, is huge.
This is a case of the consumer has spoken and hopefully the operators and manufacturers will listen.