Hacking the iPhone

Were you one of the 700,000 people across the continent that purchased an iPhone in the last two weeks? Have you been in utter digital bliss ever since? If not, or if you simply have a few things that you want added or fixed but don’t want to wait for Apple to do it, fret not, as the Internet once again comes to your rescue.

As you read this, there are countless individuals on University lines, Internet cafes and war-driven connections that are furiously working towards one goal. That goal is the eventual unlocking of the latest Apple product that is the iPhone or otherwise known in some circles as the Jesus Device, iPhoney, or just simply the “the next greatest thing”.

The goal of unlocking the phone is based on several shortcomings, perceived or not, that the iPhone has as it is currently shipped by Apple. There are some very unique, industrial individuals in this “crusade of openness” if you will call it that. Almost to be expected, the infamous DVD Jon (Jon Lech Johansen who has been a thorn in Apples side for quite some time now with regards to breaking the iTunes music stores encryption) has become a general in the first salvo of the offensive geared at smashing Apple’s software-based defenses and rendering the currently locked device wide-open. The goal is to eventually create digital telephony anarchy in that one can use AT&T as Apple had planned or even use T-Mobile or other carriers if someone so pleases. This fight is one that will take place in the depths of the Internet where the DMCA cannot reach or that Apple legal cannot easily follow.

As of this writing, the open iPhone advocacy as we will call them, has currently succeeded in a few small skirmishes to begin the battle. First the iPhone has been hacked using a sort of end-around that allows for the iPhone to be activated without requiring AT&T to do so. This allows for the operation of the iPhone’s attributes that are not phone-related such as Wi-Fi, Email, and of course the iPod functionality.

iHackers, have also figured out how to delve into the file hierarchy, by cracking the 82 MB restore image file. They’ve started dissecting the first firmware that Apple released just 24 hours after the phone’s launch and already we know several things about the device that were not widely known before.

Apple has included several applications that are not normally visible, namely Demo.app and FieldTest.app. The FieldTest application allows one to view the number of cell towers that the phone is currently seeing as well as the signal strength and which carriers are involved with those towers.

The iPhone’s finder application called “Springboard.app” lists some very interesting files that could possibly foretell the future of the phone’s relationships with cellular carriers. There are .png files inside the package contents that show icons for “Default_CARRIER_ATT” as well as “Default_CARRIER_TMOBILE”, and “Default_CARRIER_VODAPHONE”.

Some have found evidence of a DisplayOrder.plist file that adds a row of application icons for special purpose apps that include testing apparatus such as FieldTest, and MALogger as well as the SpringBoard applications and the DemoApp as well. These are presumably enabled through a debugging mode meant for developers. You can access the FieldTest application by dialing *3001#12345#*

There are supposedly references to Translator and Unit Converter widgets but as of yet these have not been verified and for now we must wait to see if these will surface in a future software update from Apple.

There is also a .plist file (the preference files for Mac OS X) that sets the default audio levels for the device. This could be the method of fixing some of the woes of those who complain that the volume is too low on the device especially in noisy environments.

Interestingly, the Ringtones that ship with the iPhone are in .m4a format and are identified as iTunes v6.05 as made in Quicktime 7.02. Just today, a proof-of-concept was posted that showed someone with the first documented custom ringtone on an iPhone. The ringtone was the famous sound of the intercom “bleep boop” from the Fox “24” television show. Everyone knows that Jack Bauer would definitely be using an iPhone to deactivate a nuclear warhead!

The file system of the device has been extracted and can be found at: http://iphone.fiveforty.net/wiki/index.php?title=SystemFileAndDirectoryList

Many will be watching the progress closely and as more things get opened up the battle will surely only intensify. Stay tuned.