As with most semi-illegal hardware hacking, the saga to unlock and/or install third party apps on the iPhone unfolds mostly in the scattered forums and wikis that constitute the back alleys of the Web where regular folks (rightfully) fear to tread. As a result, there is no single place to go for easily-digestible instructions on how to carry out the various hacks available. Making matters more complicated, with each firmware upgrade, a whole new set of instructions and processes is usually necessary, which means the procedure for hacking your phone is likely to change every few weeks. Here, though, we've attempted to provide as clear a guide as possible (as of November 13, 2007) to what can be a fairly intense process.
Before proceeding, it's helpful to know what version of the iPhone firmware you're running. This can be found in Settings -> General -> About on your iPhone.
Firmware 1.0.0, 1.0.1, 1.0.2
Despite all the fury after the 1.1.1 firmware update made it much more difficult (some thought impossible) to run third-party applications on the iPhone, it sure didn't take long for hackers to find perfectly acceptable workarounds. In fact, they've come so far since then that it's now even easier to unlock your phone or run third-party apps while running firmware version 1.1.1 than it ever was with 1.0.0-2. So if you're still holding out with one of the older versions, it's recommended that you upgrade to 1.1.1 via iTunes—you'll get the Wi-Fi iTunes store and have fewer headaches unlocking and running apps. Just be sure to "re-virginize" your phone before upgrading if you used any of the earlier software unlocking methods:
If you unlocked your phone under firmware version 1.0.2 or lower, you'll need to "re-virginize" your baseband chip (the component that communicates with your SIM card) before upgrading to 1.1.1, or else your phone may stop working. This is pretty easy, though.
- Download the AppTapp installer for firmware versions 1.0.2 and earlier from Nullriver and follow the instructions to load the Installer on your phone (works for both Mac and Windows).
- Launch the installer from the home screen, and under "Sources" click "Edit" and then "Add," and type in the URL "http://i.unlock.no" (more on this step here).
- Click the "Done" button and relaunch the Installer. You should now see a folder called "Unlocking Tools" in the list of installable packages.
- Under the "Unlocking Tools" folder, install "The Virginizer (03.x)" and follow the instructions.
Firmware version 1.1.1
After "re-virginizing" (if necessary), you can safely upgrade to 1.1.1 via iTunes. After the upgrade, your Installer icon will be gone, but it's easy to get it back:
To get the Installer application back onto your version 1.1.1 iPhone, simply navigate to jailbreakme.com with your iPhone's Safari browser and follow the instructions. Piece of cake.
After using jailbreakme.com, unlocking the iPhone is a snap, and it can be done without a computer. Start by re-adding the "i.unlock.no" source (above), and then simply install and run "AnySIM" to unlock your phone. See a complete tutorial here. And if you want to bypass AT&T activation altogether, see instructions here.
Firmware version 1.1.2
Firmware version 1.1.2 was just released this week, and as expected, it rendered many of the processes for version 1.1.1 unusable. Although there are already ways to unlock and install third-party apps on version 1.1.2, they're pretty ugly. It will probably take another week or so for thoroughly tested and easy-to-use unlock and jailbreak methods to surface for version 1.1.2, so for now we'd recommend holding off on the upgrade, especially if you've tinkered with your iPhone previously. You won't be missing much, as the 1.1.2 update provides only a few minor tweaks and bug fixes.
Check here first for the latest in iPhone hacking news.
- iPhone Dev Team Wiki: This wiki is the home base for an advanced community of iPhone hackers. Lots of how-tos and links but can get pretty techie.
- iPhone Elite Dev Team: Apparently an offshoot of the original dev team, these guys have the re-virginizer tool and many others for download.
- Modmyifone.com: Lots of breaking news and step-by-step guides on the forums.
Now with the info you need, go forth! —John Mahoney