iPhone hacker warns of third-party app problems

A noted iPhone hacker claims he next upgrade for Apple’s iPhone will again relock unlocked phones and disable any third-party applications installed on the device.

Citing “natetrue,” creator of the iBrickr utility, as its source, the Gizmodo blog posted a 10-second video clip that showed one of the changes purportedly included in the iPhone 1.1.3 firmware upgrade: the ability to rearrange application icons on the iPhone’s home screen.

Gizmodo said natetrue claimed that the update breaks unlocks — hacks made to allow the iPhone to work with non-authorized mobile networks — done with AnySIM, the popular for-free, open-source unlock utility. The upgrade also disables any installed third-party applications, and breaks the “jailbreak” applications used to install those unauthorized programs, said the blog.

The 1.1.3 firmware update fixes the flaws that let hackers jailbreak “1.1.2, locking us out again, as expected,” natetrue told Gizmodo.

Each time that Apple has updated the iPhone’s internal software, third-party applications have been purged from the device, and the ability to unlock the phone has been lost. Apple last upgraded the iPhone in November to version 1.1.2, when it introduced the smart phone in the U.K. and Germany.

Another gadget blog, Gear Live, followed up an earlier screenshot gallery of 1.1.3 with a series of video clips to answer allegations it had spoofed the news. Among the new features of the upgrade, said Gear Live, are multi-recipient text messaging and location tracking in Google Maps. The latter, said Gear Live’s Andru Edwards, is probably based on cell-phone tower triangulation, as opposed to GPS (global positioning system) technology.

Firmware 1.1.3 also lets users add HTML bookmarks to icons on the home screen, allowing easier access to Web-based applications — the only Apple-authorized third-party efforts thus far. In February, 2008, however, Apple will unveil an iPhone software developer’s kit (SDK), giving programmers a way to craft native applications for the iPhone.

Apple has not preannounced the release of iPhone updates in the past, and is not expected to do so in the case of 1.1.3. Some pundits and bloggers, however, have speculated that it the upgrade might roll out as part of other iPhone news during MacWorld Conference & Expo, the trade show that kicks off Jan. 14 in San Francisco.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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