Hacked Phone = No Genius Bar

September 21, 2007

The one-year warranty of your iPhone is voided if you install third-party applications or otherwise “hack” the phone to run on another carriers network. That simple fact is being made clear to those who bring a misbehaving iPhone to the Genius Bar of Apple’s retail stores, even if the iPhone suffers from a problem that otherwise would be covered by the warranty. At least one person reports the Genius also blacklisted a hacked iPhone for future service or return, but was finally able to arrange to return the iPhone under the 14-day policy after paying the 10 percent restocking fee.

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Harvey September 21, 2007 at 0359

This is an appropriate policy. Imagine you’re the genius, and someone brings in a hacked iPhone for service. You’re dealing with a completely unknown entity with completely unknown ramifications. You have no assurance that you can diagnose the problem, let alone fix it. You can’t guarantee to the customer that anything you do will succeed, and in fact, normal service might make it worse. Even if you can successfully isolate the problem as being in the software, there’s no guarantee that you won’t have an argument with the customer about the line between the software and the hardware–and in customer service, having an argument with the customer is the same as losing it.

Now imagine you are Apple. How could you possibly train your geniuses in all possible undocumented ever-changing software hacks? It’s a lose-lose situation for Apple, and if I were them, I’d void the warranty too.


Randy September 21, 2007 at 0701

Completely reasonable. Can’t expect to cover a product that’s been altered from it’s original design . If I threw a chevy engine into my BMW I wouldn’t expect BMW to uphold the warranty on the car.


Joogabah September 21, 2007 at 0742

I don’t understand why the warranty should be voided or the iPhone blacklisted from future service.

Apple should tell the customer that the only way they will service a hacked iPhone is if they first restore it.

I see no reason for Apple to punish curious users. Can software hacks damage the hardware? If so, Apple needs to make a public statement to this effect and make it clear to users that installing third party apps damages their iPhones.

Apple should posture as reasonable, especially toward tech enthusiasts, not authoritarian and vindictive.


Larry Tidwell September 21, 2007 at 0802

Why is it “hacking” when it comes to the iPhone, but yet we are free to install anything we like on our Macs? The Geniuses are expected to factor those things in when troubleshooting a Mac.

Seems odd.


Mark Wilson September 21, 2007 at 0946

There should still be tests for hardware that they could run. If you change the tires on your car the repair shop should still look at the radiator, not a “its your problem now.” attitude.”


James Katt September 21, 2007 at 0949

This is a good policy.

Hacking an iPhone should void the warranty.

If a person wants to hack their iPhone, then they should be prepared to buy another one. If they are too poor to buy another iPhone, then they should get a better job.


Former MG September 21, 2007 at 1030

I agree with Harvey 100%. Customers can’t or won’t understand that there things that they can do that will void their warranty, even if they buy AppleCare.

I’ve had dozens and dozens of “conversations” with customers that brought in iPods or computers that they damaged themselves in some way. They just didn’t get the concept that accidental damage is not covered no more than intentional tampering.

Hacking your iPhone is intentional tampering and thus voids your warranty.


Peter September 21, 2007 at 1040

Somebody call the lawyers. Time to slap Apple down.

There is an applicable law–I wish I could find it–related to cars but basically saying that the manufacturer cannot void a warranty if you modify the device unless they can prove that the modification caused the problem. And then they can only void the warranty for that problem.

For example, I have a mod chip in my car that adjusts the settings of turbocharger, giving my engine more power. If my engine explodes, the manufacturer may have reason to say that the mod chip was the problem. But they cannot completely void my warranty. So if I have a problem with the steering wheel, Audi can’t say, “Oh, you modded the turbo controller, so your warranty is void and we won’t fix it.” They would have to prove that the mod chip affected the steering wheel somehow.

So call in the lawyers. Apple legally has to prove that your modifications have damaged the iPhone before they can void the contract.


Former MG September 21, 2007 at 1503

The iPhone is designed to be used in the US with AT&T’s system.

That’s the deal, the way it is. No ifs ands or buts.

To hack the iPhone to use another carrier is tampering with the basic function of the device as the customer bought it, agreed to use it by buying it.

So hacking the iPhone is tampering with it’s basic function as it is sold, as the customer agreed to use it and thus voids the warranty.

What’s so hard to understand about that?

We all have to live with things that we don’t like to some degree.

If you don’t like AT&T for whatever reason, hack your iPhone to use another carrier but be prepared to buy another if your phone needs serviced.


Jayrow September 21, 2007 at 1603

As I understand it, Apple’s warranty covers any failings on its own product. Hardware or software. I think that’s great. I pay for a good product I want to know it’s covered. Why should I expect a company to even consider looking at something that could potentially be my fault?

The iPhone is two things. It is Apple’s hardware but it is also Apple’s OS. If you alter the OS, it is no longer the OS Apple promised to cover. It is now your own customized OS. And since you know enough about the OS to alter it and make it your own, why can’t you fix it yourself?

I’m pretty sure if anyone out there actually reads the terms of their AppleCare that the company has all their bases covered. When was the last time any of us consumers took the time to do that?


Former MG September 21, 2007 at 1636

Jayrow, the iPhone is really three things: the iPhone, the OS and the agreement between Apple and AT&T that AT&T will be the sole carrier for the iPhone’s service here in the US.

So the big deal is that hacking the iPhone to use another carrier negates the deal between Apple and AT&T that was made before the phone hit the market.

To service an iPhone that has another carrier than AT&T at the Apple Store or an Apple Authorized Reseller is a violation between Apple and AT&T as I understand it.


Chris September 21, 2007 at 1740

RE: Larry Tidwell

Quote: “Why is it “hacking” when it comes to the iPhone, but yet we are free to install anything we like on our Macs? The Geniuses are expected to factor those things in when troubleshooting a Mac.

Seems odd.”

Check your Mac’s warranty Larry, and if you have it, AppleCare Agreement. Apple specifically states that software and data on your Apple device is 100% your responsibility and in no way will be covered by apple nor is data guaranteed to remain on the device during/after service.

This translates to either a Mac, iPhone, iPod etc HARDWARE being the part that Apple will fix for you, but if Apple finds that additional software is causing a problem, you may get your computer back wiped clean with the original OS restored, and if you haven’t backed up, well sorry, that’s technology. (Apple will of course offer support on their own software, but the resolution may be the same, wiped clean.)

The way the Mac differs from the iPod is the Mac is designed to be used like a computer. We download and install software, store our data on it, and our lives are made easier. If there’s a problem with your SuperDrive, Apple will fix it under warranty. But if there’s a problem with your SuperDrive because you decided to upload hacked/prerelease/anything-but-official firmware to that same SuperDrive, or you altered the Mac’s firmware to change the chime or the startup Apple logo, or basically altered anything that goes beyond intended use of the computer, you’re out of luck.

The same goes for the iPhone. Since there’s no official way to load applications, and you have to overwrite firmware to do the unlock, you’re going beyond the intended use of the iPhone and you’re not going to be able to get it serviced. It may sound unfair, but it’s Apple just covering their assets like any good business would.

If for example, Apple allowed unofficial software to be loaded to the iPhone, and someone wrote software that made the iPhone’s battery overheat and explode, Apple is liable, so they won’t do that, at least not without an SDK. An SDK, and the ADC, and all the tools that Apple makes for developers is why you CAN do that on Macs. Apple sets guidelines and rules about writing software and what you can expect that software to do. They haven’t done that for the iPhone, so the results can be unpredictable and Apple cannot be liable for injury, damage to the iPhone, or otherwise.

At least that’s how I see it.


LGgeek September 21, 2007 at 2124

I think Apple may want to take note of the Magnuson-Moss Act. Auto manufactures tried to void warranties based on folks adding after-market parts (radios, security systems ,etc) courts say manufacturer has to prove after-market item caused the malfunction of item under warranty and then they can only exclude that item.

Besides Apple better wise up the only hope they have of selling a few million more is for the iphone to get exciting. You’re not going to get folks excited over surfing over a slow network.

If apple prevents third party apps in the future I will not buy another iphone, I like my iphone and yes I’ve hacked it.

If you must take your iphone to apple for repair be smart enough to wipe it clean then restore to factory.

[IFO — Check this Web site for info.]


FRMRApple September 22, 2007 at 1021

LGgeek… and all,

The car analogy does not work here. A car does not have a “user agreement” like computer software/hardware does (and you know damn well car makers wish they could!)

You know that long, boring looking dialog box that pops up when you install software- or in this case first plugged in the iPhone? The people who are having trouble with their hacked iPhone clicked on the “agree” button. They had to in order to begin using the phone. Don’t like it? Don’t click agree and return the phone.

This is a pet peeve of mine. People who don’t like rules. licensing agreements or laws and instead of trying to change them, they just break them and expect it all to be okay.


Peter September 22, 2007 at 2350

“The car analogy does not work here. A car does not have a ‘user agreement’ like computer software/hardware does (and you know damn well car makers wish they could!)”

Bzzt. Wrong answer. Thanks for playing.

First, if you read end-user license agreements, the only way they can work is that the company retains ownership of the software and licenses it’s use to you. Apple does not own my hardware once I have purchased it, therefore I can do whatever I want to it.

Second, an end-user license does not supersede laws. Steve can’t put in an end-user license that I am his indentured slave if I agree to use his product.

So, again, Magnuson-Moss is applicable in this case (thanks LGgeek for finding it–I couldn’t remember). So, again, Apple would have to prove that the modification broke the iPhone.

That said, you’d definitely have to take Apple to court in order to force them to prove it. And, I’d imagine, the most you’d be able to get out of them would be a new iPhone. You might be able to get them to pay attorney fees.


SomeoneWhoKnowsBetter September 30, 2007 at 1246

>Apple does not own my hardware once I have purchased it, therefore I can do whatever I want to it.

Yes, you can, but Apple doesn’t have to support that. The real catch is that you’re also using Apple’s software. The software part you don’t own, but license. Now, if part of the terms for using the iPhone software dictate that the iPhone be used solely with AT&T service, and you’re modifying the phone to work with other service, you’ve voided your license to the iPhone software. Better install Linux on it now, because Apple’s not going to support your modifications.

In addition, the hacks for the iPhone that make it work with any SIM card also happen to involve modifying the “baseband firmware.” Basically, the firmware for the cellular modem. An above poster mentioned that if you break your computer by flashing unsupported firmware to the SuperDrive, Apple’s warranty doesn’t cover that. Your modifications broke the device.

Finally, as the iPhone is considered a monolithic device, if part of it’s broken, it’s all broken. And breaking the firmware, even if it’s in a way you intended, is still breaking the firmware. It’s not acting the way it was designed, and it’s by your intentional modifications, so it’s outside Apple’s warranty/guarantee.

Don’t tell me that if you use an after-market steering wheel GM can’t void your powertrain warranty – of course they can’t. But you’re modifying the cellular network interface of a blasted PHONE. You’re changing an essential portion of it’s function. It’s akin to boring out the cylinders and changing the pistons of that same GM car, which would surely void the warranty.


anonymous October 1, 2007 at 2128


Bzzzt, wrong.

Let me put it in terms you could have explained to you by a 12 year old. You buy a car. That car has a satellite radio in it. You hack that radio to play other services it was not intended to be used with. The car manufacturer signed a deal, and exclusive agreement with that radio company, and manufacturer of the radio device in the car. With me so far?

Ok, now to the good part. It updates via satellite feed, and unfortunately it is now rednered useless. Do you think the car manufacturer or the radio manufacturer are going to support your claims and do service on the unit?

You know what? You would be buying a new unit to put in your car. That’s what. There is the car analogy, there is the user agreement, and where you are proven incorrect in your assertions.

You fail.


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