Pirate apple phones hit electronic blip

Black-market versions of the new Apple iPhone could become worthless after the company today revealed updated software to bar them from unauthorised networks.

Black-market versions of the new Apple iPhone could become worthless after the company today revealed updated software to bar them from unauthorised networks.

Many of the phones have been bought in Britain and other European countries in advance of their official launch here.

And in America websites offer computer code “cracks” to allow the phones to work with any service provider.

Apple has signed an exclusive deal with AT&T in America and with O2 in Britain to operate the phones.

Apple warned earlier this week an optional iPhone software update for users could permanently disable phones running programs that unlock them.

Several gadget enthusiast Web sites, including Gizmodo and Engadget, as well as online postings from hacker communities now say that, depending on which unlocking program was used, certain modified phones no longer worked after they installed the software update.

In some cases, the phones worked, but only with the original AT&T sim card.

Some sites also reported that iPhones equipped with unofficial, third-party applications were disabled after the update.

Other hackers said Apple’s warning was “a scare tactic.”

But despite their history of playing cat-and-mouse games with hackers in the past, company officials insisted they were “not proactively” trying to make hacked iPhones useless.

It was unclear how many iPhone owners had unlocked their phones, but the programs – including several that can be downloaded for free – appeared to be particularly popular with European consumers.

The iPhone officially goes on sale in Europe in November.

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