Read this in the star-telegram today. I think it was worth the 500 hours it took him to unlock it.
Teen says he's first to pick iPhone's lock
HACKENSACK, N.J. -- George Hotz -- pale, skinny, shaggy-haired and brilliant -- claims that he's won the worldwide race to unlock an Apple iPhone so it can be used with a carrier other than AT&T.
The 17-year-old Glen Rock, N.J., resident posted the complicated steps on his blog Thursday.
An avid tinkerer who goes by the online name Geohot, Hotz showed off two iPhones that he'd unlocked, both of which can make and receive calls using T-Mobile's network.
The iPhone is designed to work exclusively on AT&T's network and is locked like other cellphones to prevent its use on other networks.
But ever since the phone's splashy debut in June, computer hackers around the world have been in an unofficial race to break open the device and modify it so it can work with other carriers.
"I've lived and breathed that phone for the last two months," said Hotz, who won a prestigious $20,000 Intel science-fair prize this year for a device that projects a 3-D image.
Hotz said he is aware of other so-called unlocks, but that his is the first that lets the phone work with a SIM card from any carrier without purchasing additional parts to make the unlocked phone operate.
The SIM, or subscriber identity module, is the tiny rectangular card that fits into a phone and contains phone number and account information. Phones sold by AT&T and T-Mobile, as well as most overseas carriers, use SIM cards; Verizon Wireless and Sprint use a different technology, so Hotz's fix wouldn't work.
Hotz doesn't tinker alone. He's got a Web-based group dubbed Dev Wiki, which includes one programmer based in Russia. Hotz's room has shelves of empty Red Bull cans.
Neither AT&T nor T-Mobile would comment on Hotz's claim. Apple could not be reached for comment. It's too early to tell whether unlocking the iPhone could have any effect on Apple.
"Hacks are going to happen, but I would think this would be a very small portion of the overall iPhone base," said Kurt Scherf, principal analyst at technology consultancy Parks Associates.
(Hotz's level of expertise in electrical engineering is impressive. His room is filled with lathes, soldering irons and prior projects -- a flying wing, a toaster oven converted to a reflow oven, which can perform precision soldering jobs. Out back, he has taken apart a car, which his father, also George Hotz, gently reminded him he hasn't put back together.)
Hotz took on the iPhone project the minute the phone came out, and estimates that he spent about 500 hours working on it.
"Some of my friends think I wasted my summer, but I think it was worth it," said the teen, who is off to Rochester Institute of Technology to major in neuroscience.
If someone handed him an iPhone new out of the box, he could modify it in "about an hour," he said. A person following his directions might take "a good 12 hours," the teen estimated.
Hacking for dummies
How George Hotz with the Dev Wiki crew did it (greatly simplified):
1. Take phone apart (Hotz uses guitar picks).
2. Do soldering job.
3. Modify phone software using software tool written by Hotz and company.
4. Restart the phone and tell it to use whatever SIM card you have.
Detailed instructions: iphonejtag.blogspot.com