Why Legal iPhone Unlocking and Jailbreaking Doesn't Matter That Much

People are excited about new US Government rules that say that unlocking and jailbreaking the iPhone or any other cellphone is now legal. I'm happy about it, but it really doesn't matter much to you or me. Here is why.

Unlocking allows you to make a cellphone work with any wireless provider you want, freeing you from abusing policies like insane international roaming charges. Jailbreaking lets you install any application you want, even if it has Apple-censored content or provides with tethering, all without having to go through the iTunes App Store or pay Apple a single cent.

Both techniques break the artificial technical barriers that prevent the use of devices and media in any other way than those designated by the manufacturer. They will also break the warranty, although you shouldn't worry about that (more on this later).

Before, with the original 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act law, bypassing those barriers was illegal. Thus, those techniques were also illegal. Now, the new rules change this completely.

Why this change doesn't matter much?

The fact that unlocking and jailbreaking is now legal doesn't mean that Apple would be obliged to let you do it or ease the way for anyone to do it. It just means that the people developing unlocking and jailbreaking software can now do it without the fear of being sued by any company.

This is good for them, but it's not going to change things much. The usual hackers will continue to work on their unlocks and jailbreaks, just like they were working on them before. Sure, now you would be able to find commercial unlocking solutions and probably alternative App Stores for your iPhone. But why pay for unlock software when you can use the free one? And why use a third-party App Store when you already have Cydia, the open application store already working on jailbroken iPhones?

For consumers, things won't change at all. People will continue to unlock their iPhones and install any applications they want. Nobody was chasing anyone doing this before.

For Apple, things won't change either. Unlocking and jailbreaking would still be considered a breaching of the product warranty, just like before. It may be legal now, but that doesn't mean that it can't void the warranty, just like opening a toaster with a screwdriver and making a modification on it is legal, but it voids the warranty anyway.

So when you go to the Apple Store because your unlocked or jailbroken iPhone has a problem, they will continue to treat you in the same way. If a wipeout of the iPhone software is required, they would do it and that's that. Actually, that's what they usually do. And you can do the same at home before going to the Apple Store, leaving your iPhone in its original factory condition.

So, legal or not legal, keep unlocking and keep jailbreaking. It's the only way to fully enjoy your digital device. [Yahoo News]