As if Apple doesn’t have enough problems with iPhone and iPad piracy here, China Unicom’s latest stunt is just a little bit ridiculous. The telecoms giant is now offering an in-store jailbreaking service for iPhones, meaning that devices that are locked to a particular service provider can be used with a Unicom SIM.
According to this first hand report (Google translated), the stores are also offering to help you download the top 10 paid apps for free, and they’ll trim down your SIM card so it will fit inside the iPhone 4’s micro-SIM slot. Since the iPhone 4 isn’t available in China until next month, unless you want to buy a knock-off or a super-expensive grey market model, this service is only of any use if you’ve brought your iPhone 4 back from overseas.
Apple is yet to release a statement. We think they’ll be less than pleased.
I don’t see what Apple has much to be displeased about. Firstly, let’s clarify CW’s blog post: jailbreaking is not the same as unlocking, it just opens the phone to run 3rd party apps. Of course, jailbreaking is a requirement for unlocking, which is undoubtedly what all these phones are going through at these Unicom stores. However, jailbreaking is undoubtedly a market driver Apple and not something they should be preventing. Being locked makes an iPhone less attractive as it ties the owner to one provider. Apple is making their margin off the hardware, after all, and so it should make no difference whether the phone is unlocked or not, or whether it’s been purchased overseas or not; the gold’s in them there damn parts! Unless, of course, they’re majorly marking up their phones to China Unicom, which would have an incentive to install as many of their SIM cards into anyone’s phones. I doubt that is happening though, as Apple should know how prohibitively expensive the Unicom iPhone package already is. The smart money is that they’re happily looking the other way while this stuff happens. And yes, they’re losing a some money on the whole 10 app thing, but it’s a pittance compared to the insane margins they’re making off of Foxconn’s back. And us purchasers, of course.