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    Tech-heads pry apart iPhone's secrets - so they say  
    The Globe and Mail  
   

UNNATI GANDHI

 
    July 4, 2007  
   

First came the iPhone. Then came the i-business ventures.

Just days after Apple's newest tech toy went on sale south of the border, several online companies and websites have already begun to sell unlocked iPhones to Canadians, saying they can work on networks such as Rogers.

But at least one analyst warns that if the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Officially, the iPhone is not for sale outside of the U.S., and is compatible exclusively with the AT&T network.

But as has been the case with other cellphone hypes in recent years, software developers have been toiling away at cracking the code that would open the phone up for use on other networks, including foreign ones.

One company, PureMobile.com, is taking Canadian preorders for unlocked iPhones, with a $15 surcharge for shipments to Ontario and Quebec, and $20 to the rest of Canada. The company says the unlocked phone will work with Canadian network providers including Rogers and Fido.

Iphoneunlocking.com says it has unlocked 75 per cent of all iPhones it has tested and is paying people to run tests on their phone before activating it.

An Indian company is charging only $25 to unlock, while allegedly unlocked phones are selling for upward of $1,000 on eBay.

But Kevin Restivo, an analyst at telecom consultancy SeaBoard Group in Toronto, says it's unlikely that even the most hardcore software engineers have been able to crack the Apple code so fast.

After the release of Motorola's RAZR three years ago, he noted, it took 18 months before the phone was unlocked and could be used in countries including Canada. That being said, with the hype surrounding the release of the new iPhone, it will likely be no more than a few weeks before the iPhone is unlocked, he said.

Even locked iPhones can pick up signals in Canada and can browse the Internet, but they can't make or receive calls, or send data like a registered phone could, said Mr. Restivo.

Liz Hamilton, a spokeswoman for Rogers Wireless, said that, at this point in time, it's unclear whether an unlocked iPhone could even work on the company's network.

"It would be speculation for me to comment on whether the iPhone would work on our network because it's not our product. But we do believe that the iPhone is optimized to the AT&T network, and, therefore, there are some features that wouldn't work."

 


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