A band of independent programmers says it has "unlocked" the latest generation of Apple Inc.'s iPhones so the devices can be used on unauthorized wireless networks in a move that could threaten Apple's carrier partners.
Since the original iPhone was launched in June 2007, Apple has struck partnerships with wireless carriers world-wide, such as AT&T Inc. in the U.S. and France Telecom SA's Orange unit. Under the agreements, the iPhone can generally be used only by subscribers to those carriers.
But last Wednesday, a group called the iPhone Dev Team released a free piece of software called "yellowsn0w" that unlocks the iPhone 3G. The software lets users reprogram the phones so they can work on any wireless network based on the same technical standard.
Several users said they successfully installed the software on their iPhone 3Gs and were able to make calls on non-authorized networks.
An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment on the iPhone Dev Team's work, only saying that Apple doesn't support unlocked iPhones in the U.S.
Apple offers such phones in Germany and Hong Kong "where government regulation requires it," but they usually come at a steep price.