The story behind iUnlock: the first free, open iPhone SIM unlock software

If you're like us, you're furiously unlocking every iPhone in sight at the moment, but what you might not know is the story behind the hack. It all started Monday when iPhoneSIMfree was finally released. Hackers immediately bought up licenses and started looking into how the thing ticked, and found something rather surprising: the app flashes to the baseband chip -- something the iPhone Dev Team had originally said couldn't be done at all without hardware hackery, diverting effort away from such attempts.

But instead of just swiping the iPhone Dev Team's method, hackers started looking for different ways to achieve the same results now they knew a baseband flash could be done, and a certain Zappaz finally struck gold after working on it all Monday night and well into Tuesday. But that was only the beginning. [Updated after the break]

While Zappaz was at work doing the hack from scratch, there were other efforts underway to spoof iPhoneSIMfree's software. Hexxeh was attempting to do it with an external server, while Geohot got in on the action and purpotedly managed to pull it off by tricking the software to do its thing even if the server returned a negative. However, Geohot decided to put his hack on hold and use the Zappaz method, which was decidedly less sketchy, since it wouldn't take advantage of iPhoneSIMfree's work and application to perform the hack.

When Zappaz eventually logged off due to fatigue, Geohot was preparing to build an application to wrap around the Zappaz script so it'd be ready for distribution. That's when showed up on the iPhone Dev Wiki and the iPhone hacking scene came to a standstill.

Apparently the iPhone Dev Team HaRRo (specifically including members Daeken, Darkmen, guest184, gray, iZsh, pytey, roxfan, Sam, uns, Zappaz, and Zfhad) been working on the same general method as Zappaz the whole time, but managed to finish first, and prep and post a usable solution. This same group assembled the binary from iUnlock together with a couple of other files necessary to complete the unlock, thus assembling the first easily distributable, (relatively) easily executed, and completely free and open iPhone SIM unlock software anyone laid eyes on.

After spotting the first initial release, independent documentation (and later official) documentation began sprouting up; before you could say "that's the end of the road for iPhoneSIMfree sales," there were people unlocking their iPhones in droves -- free at last, after 74 days on the market.

Update: It seems only inevitable, but we've received word from the iPhone Dev Team that credit for iUnlock doesn't rest squarely on HaRRo's shoulders, nor was he apparently responsible for the initial release of the iUnlock tool. (In similar fashion nor was Draken apparently solely responsible for the first packaged release.) We won't get into the he said she said of the tale, but the iPhone Dev Wiki has released an official statement today on the software unlock, and credit for the hack is being given to a broader core group.

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