From store-bought to unlocked in less than 5 minutes

Unlocked iPhone Although I’m running an iPhone as decreed by Jobs – locked to O2, non-jailbroken – I’ve also been trying, on and off, to get my mate’s US-bought iPhone jailbroken and unlocked for him for about 2 months now.

I took a couple of goes to jailbreak his phone, which was bought with 1.1.2 firmware just before people became aware that Apple had changed the bootloader from 3.9 to 4.6. This new bootloader stopped the most-used unlocking software – AnySIM – from working.

So, his phone remained locked, even when he bought a StealthSIM, which is effectively a hardware unlock. Its a small sliver of plastic that aligns with the SIM card, making the iPhone believe the SIM is valid. After a lot of trying, even that didn’t work. But the answer was just around the corner.

Last week, the original iPhone hardware unlocker, Geohot released a software unlock for phones with 4.6 bootloader. You still had to perform an upgrade to 1.1.3 (if you wanted) and then run the unlock software “Gunlock” from within the Installer application. However, it was pretty straightforward and it worked (with only a slight hitch). My mate’s iPhone was finally unlocked, and he and many others around the world were very, very happy.

Like I said though, it took a long time to get there. Even following the very detailed instructions posted on iClarified and with a masters degree in Computer Science, it was quite a detailed procedure to go from store-bought iPhone to an unlocked device. You had to ensure that you knew which bootloader and baseband you were running, firmware had to be downgraded and upgraded several times, and errors had to be worked around. Some intuition was definitely required.

But not any more.

Yesterday, Zibri released ZiPhone. This programme jailbreaks, activates and unlocks all iPhones running bootloader 4.6 – meaning all recent phones running 1.1.2 & 1.1.3 when taken out of the box (OTB). In addition, it can repair bricked iPhones – those damaged during earlier hacking attempts – and can even change the IMEI of the phone (1). iPhone Atlas reports that ZiPhone uses the “true unlock method” developed by Zibri and the iPhone-elite dev team (2).

So I downloaded the software, and went out and bought a new 16Gb iPhone from an O2 store. Got home. Unboxed the iPhone, and ran the software on my Windows machine. It’s this simple:

Type this at the command prompt:

ziphone -j -a -u

And here’s what happened:

Loading zibri.dat.
Searching for iPhone…

At this point I had to hold down the Home button and connect the iPhone to the PC using the cable.

Please wait 2’30”.

That’s right – in two minutes and thirty seconds, the iPhone had been jailbroken, activated and unlocked to any network! Incredible! Plus Installer had been loaded, giving access to all the current installable applications from the unofficial developement community. The full tutorial is available at iClarified.

Zibri is now working on compatability for older iPhones with the 3.9 bootloader, although you can now just use ZiPhone using the -j switch only, put the iPhone in airplane mode, then use AnySIM to unlock.

So what’s next?

A gui version of ZiPhone has already been released, although reports indicate it may be a little buggy. But that will improve.

Most users will want to stay within the walled garden of Apple’s device experience – that’s one of the reasons that people buy Apple. The programmers in Cupertino will surely close this loophole, and we’re in a whole new ballgame once the 3G iPhone comes out with a wholly different baseband. But in the meantime there may well be a new wave of unlocked devices hitting the streets, given that this method makes unlocking accessible to many more people.


(1) A work of caution on this for UK users relating to the Mobile Reprogramming Act (2002). It is a criminal offence to offer, change or reprogramme the IMEI of any mobile phone. It is an arrestable offence and has a maximum 5 year sentence. It may also be an offence for me to link to the software if there’s intent to change the IMEI, so I’d just like to make clear that I don’t condone in any way unbarring blocked phones. There’s some more information from Out-Law and some details on barred phones from Fone Fun Shop.

(2) It’s made possible by a ramdisk exploit – here’s the technical lowdown on what actually happens:

  • copies a new fstab for write access to system
  • runs iPatcher to patch lockdownd
  • copies installer
  • runs Geohot’s gunlock to unlock
  • Jim Callender

    this is great news, keep up the good work!

  • Gary

    Hi, I have a 1.1.4 iphone version that I have unlocked by ziphone but I cant make/recieve call from it which makes me think the IMEI is locked, is there a version of IMEI changer you could point me in the direction of or do you think something else is wrong. thanks, Gary

  • Matt Radford

    I would try a different SIM from a different provider first.

    If that doesn’t work, then you could try changing the IMEI using ZiPhone. You may have bought a blocked phone though…

  • Gary

    I have tried other sims but no luck, if I bought a blocked phone is there nothing I can do ?

  • Matt Radford

    Well, as I said in the article, ZiPhone will allow you to change the IMEI, which will get around the blocking BUT this means you have bought a blocked phone. Changing the IMEI is illegal in many countries.

    Before that, I would try a full restore, then unlock again.

  • Gary

    I understand now, I will restore then unlock again using your way, my problem is I can no longer access the jailbreak program I purchased and when I go through your guide where it says get ziphone HERE I get an error, forgive me for being a novice at this !

  • Matt Radford

    Ah, I’m afraid you’ve been a bit ripped off. Unlock tools are free.

    Go to to get the latest version of ZiPhone.


  • http://NA Pdot

    Hi mAteive just bought a iPhone. And had it unlocked to relase the phone is blocked I’m guesing it was aloat phone and barred. What would be the best thing todo I’ve hav paid alot of money for his and have been ripped off. I was reading on top something about changing the imei number would this work? And is it easy to do? I also read something abt it being illegal? Could you please email me thank you

  • Pdot

    Sorry 4gt to say it a 2.2 version iphone.

  • Matt Radford

    As I said above, ZiPhone will change the IMEI for you. But personally, I’d send the phone back. You may be handling stolen goods. There’s some good advice here: