Having read reports here and here about the volume of iPhone’s that weren’t registered to ‘official’ networks I decided to find out just how difficult it was to unlock, activate and jailbreak a UK iPhone. The answer, as it turns out, is ‘surprisingly simple’. Having performed the process, I am surprised there aren’t actually a lot more ‘unlocked/grey’ iPhones out there and I would imagine the likes of AT+T (US), Orange (France) and O2 (UK) may amend the registration process in the near future to curtail the simplicity of this process:

1. Enter 02 or Carphone warehouse shop (not an Apple store, I had an unconfirmed rumour they activate it in store before you leave), purchase iPhone of choice, stump up the £269 (I chose the 8GB model), sign the agreements and leave.
2. Download ZiPhone for your PC/Mac. You can get this as a Graphical User Interface version or as one that runs from Terminal (Mac) or Command line (Windows). Also download the standalone 1.1.3 iPhone firmware. UPDATE: There is a new graphical version which cuts out the command line business below. Head over to http://iphone.unlock.no/ for more info.
3. Put your own simcard in the iPhone (paper-clip in the top and push down until the sim card pops up). This can be done after the hack completes also.
4. Connect the iPhone, via the cable and USB cradle to the PC/Mac. Boot the iPhone into recovery mode (hold down power and home buttons on the iPhone, release power button after around 10 seconds) and iTunes will detect the phone and tell you a restore of the software is required. Hold down ‘shift’ (PC) or ‘Option’ (mac) and click the restore button in itunes to allow you to browse to the 1.1.3 firmware you previously downloaded.
5. Once the restore is complete, shut iTunes but leave the iPhone connected in the dock.
6. Run Ziphone. I opted for Command Line (Win) option, which I had extracted to the root of my laptops C: drive so it was a matter of the following in Command Line:

cd ziphone
ziphone -u -a -j -v

The parameters of the ziphone command are that -u is for ‘unlock’, -a is for ‘activate’, -j is for ‘jailbreak’ and -v is for ‘verbose’

Then anxiously sit back for 3-5 minutes whilst the hack does its thing. Once completed, I strongly recommend turning automatic updates off. Otherwise, installing a future iPhone update could potentially ‘brick’ the phone. The great thing about this software hack is that it is very simple to restore the phone back to its original state. Simply follow point 4 above and you will be able to activate the phone officially with the O2 simcard in (should you wish).

As it turns out, as incredible as the iPhone is, and besides the new found freedom of using the iPhone on my chosen network (Orange UK), practically, it just isn’t my bag. I find the dimensions inconvenient (too big for the pocket) and due to inheriting a clumsy gene from my father, I’d be sure to smash the screen within days. Furthermore, I also found it uncomfortable, morally, to use the phone in this manner. I’m not a fan of copied material/hacked programs and the like and I hated the feeling every time I connected to iTunes that somehow I was up to no good – the benefits of a morally rigid upbringing! So back to Carphone Warehouse it went.

Needless to say, it is small wonder so many iPhones are out and about on unofficial networks. If the lion’s share of revenue for the phone companies is for the network plan (almost certainly the case) I can imagine some hard negotiating before iPhone 2 is released.

Note: This may not apply to v1.1.4 of the iPhone software. For more info on software unlocks of the iPhone, head over to http://iphone.unlock.no/