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Steve Jobs Ends iPhone SDK Panic

Daniel Eran Dilger
Apple officially announced plans to release a software development kit for the iPhone and iPod Touch in February. That pulls the rug from under the harping wags who have tried to conflate Apple’s security efforts with the persecution of third party developers.

In Chinese 中文
Steve Jobs结束iPhone缺乏软件开发包的慌乱
: Xavier Yang

The potential market for iPhone software was immediately obvious to every Mac developer after the iPhone’s unveiling at the beginning of the year. Since its release at the end of June, hackers have literally broken down the iPhone’s door to in order to release new software for it.

However, a disgruntled selection of critics have furiously worked to vilify both Apple and its product, using a series of absurd and often contradictory pronouncements to attack everything about it.

It Can’t Be OS X!
Among the first was the refusal to believe that Apple was actually using software based upon Mac OS X in its new mobile, in part because the iPhone was found to be using ARM processors.

Slashdot | iPhone Not Running OS X

They insisted that Apple was only trotting out the “OS X” name as a branding effort, as Microsoft did when it associated WinCE with its desktop Windows a decade ago. Of course, if it were really a branding effort, it might make sense to call it Mac OS X, as I suggested back in January.

I also noted that NeXT had a history of processor portability, and that Apple had just last year ported the entire Mac lineup from PowerPC to Intel. Why would it be impossible to port to ARM, a processor architecture Apple helped develop back in the early 90s, pioneered the use of in the Newton MessagePads, and has been using since 2001 in the iPods?

It turned out they were wrong; when we got the iPhone, it was very much running a system based on Apple’s Mac OS X, although the company referred to it as “OS X 1.0.”

Inside the iPhone: Mac OS X, ARM, and iPod OS X
Origins: Why the iPhone is ARM, and isn’t Symbian
Leopard, Vista and the iPhone OS X Architecture

Leopard, Vista and the iPhone OS X Architecture

It Can’t Be Secured!
Wags next attacked the iPhone’s potential for security problems. Gartner’s Ken Dulaney embarked on an anti-iPhone tirade that–among other silly things–insisted that the iPhone lacked a necessary firewall.

Dulaney doesn’t know if the iPhone has a firewall, has no reason to suggest that its installation of OS X wouldn’t offer a firewall, and offers no reasons why a mobile device would need a firewall anyway.

Does Windows Mobile provide a firewall? Does it do anything? Has it prevented Windows Mobile phones from crashing? Is it the reason Windows Mobile takes so long to boot?

Secret iPhone Details Lost in a Sea of Hype and Hate

Secret iPhone Details Lost in a Sea of Hype and Hate

It Must Be Secured!
Other security panic experts chimed in to note that the iPhone did indeed have security issues that would require patching, just like every other computer system in the Universe.

The first flaws found were discovered by searching through the code of the open source software that the iPhone uses. Conveniently, this also allowed security researchers to recommend fixes, and Apple released updated to patch those vulnerabilities within a month of the iPhone’s debut.

Rather than being taken as proof that open software contributes toward transparent, verifiable security, pundits tried to spin the rapid patching of discovered flaws as a problem. Clearly, these people get paid by the word.

10 FAS: 10 – Apple’s Mac and iPhone Security Crisis

It Can’t Be Broken Into!
Many of the same wags complaining about theoretical security problems of the iPhone were quick to feign outrage after Apple patched its security flaws. That’s because the patches Apple issued defeated attempts to copy third party software onto the iPhone.

Apparently, the pundits expected Apple to issue magical security patches which only blocked vulnerabilities to certified malware, while letting unauthorized applications slip onto the iPhone to perform what they had determined to be legitimate tasks.

The problem with Apple’s most recent security update was that it was not guaranteed to work on systems with tampered firmware.

Computerworld’s Mike Elgan insisted that Apple should have figured out a way to accommodate every permutation of hacked firmware that might be found on an iPhone, and because it couldn’t, the company was “arrogant.”

Uninformed journalists everywhere have since taken it upon themselves to chatter about how Apple “bricked” iPhones of users, when that never happened. No product can open the door to wide open to hacking and yet still provide managed security for its users.

Arrogance Unleashed: The Foul Stench of Computerworld’s Mike Elgan

Arrogance Unleashed: The Foul Stench of Computerworld’s Mike Elgan

Open Isn’t Magic.
If you install Linux on your own server, you are free to hack and modify anything you want, but neither Linus Torvalds–nor any Linux distributor–warrants that your system will remain secured as you do so.

Modifying software also makes you responsible for merging the changes you make into newer builds of the software. If I install Apache and rewrite my own hacks to the web server, I can’t expect the next version to cleanly install over the top and just work. I have to figure out how to make my hacks work with the updates written by others in the community.

Similarly, there is no magical world outside of Apple’s iPhone where users can modify their devices’ firmware and expect vendor updates to slide new features over the top without any issues.

That automatically makes anyone who writes about “Apple bricking iPhones” either a disingenuous fraud or woefully ignorant of reality.

The Sorry State of Mobile Software.
Rival mobile makers and mobile service providers have jumped on the hubris of wags spouting about Apple’s “hating our freedom” by touting their phones’ ability to run third party mobile software.

This benefit would be more attractive if mobile software had any reputation for stability practical functionality. As I like to point out, the vast majority of mobile software either:

  • solves problems in Windows Mobile that shouldn’t exist.
  • fills voids left by Windows Mobile that Microsoft should have covered.
  • exists without reason as frivolous garbage-ware.
  • is overpriced trash.
  • or will work on the iPhone already.

More Absurd iPhone Myths: Third Party Software Panic

Flip Flopping?
Nick Wingfield wrote in the Wall Street Journal that Apple “reversed its position on iPhone Software,” a headline that suggests that Apple never considered it before the critics began making a stink.

In reality however, it wasn’t Apple that stated it probably wouldn’t ever open the iPhone to development; it was me.

In a series of articles, I presented six reasons Apple had for not opening the iPhone to unrestricted development, along with ideas for how Apple could gradually open the market for iPhone apps. I’m happy to see the possibility I raised isn’t a permanent issue.

Six Reasons Why Apple May Never Open the iPhone
How Closed Is the iPhone?
How Open will the iPhone Get?

Six Reasons Why Apple May Never Open the iPhone

What Jobs Really Said.
At the same time, it’s useful to point out that Jobs didn’t ever say that Apple didn’t want third party developers. In January interview in the New York Times, John Markoff quoted Jobs as saying:

“We define everything that is on the phone. You don’t want your phone to be like a PC. The last thing you want is to have loaded three apps on your phone and then you go to make a call and it doesn’t work anymore. These are more like iPods than they are like computers.”

However, Jobs also noted, “These are devices that need to work, and you can’t do that if you load any software on them. That doesn’t mean there’s not going to be software to buy that you can load on them coming from us. It doesn’t mean we have to write it all, but it means it has to be more of a controlled environment.”

Jobs certainly knows that, as Sun luminary Bill Joy noted, “Most of the smart people in the world don’t work for your organization.”

Give Me Something To Work With Here.
Back in May when I asked Jobs about the potential for third party and custom corporate development in front of the press and his shareholders, his answer was that Apple was “wrestling” with how to balance the needs of security and openness.

In June at the All Things Digital conference, Jobs repeated the same answer. “We’re working through a way [to support third-party development],” he said. “We’ve got some pretty good ideas that we’re working through, and I think sometime later this year we will find a way to let third parties write apps and still preserve security.”

“Nobody’s perfect, but we sure don’t want our phone to crash. We would like to solve this problem, if you could be just a little more patient with us, I think everyone can get what they want.”

The immediate answer was web apps. The security context of Safari is well known, and the market for building web apps using JavaScript is wide open. Several developers replied in outrage that Apple’s solution was a “slap in the face.”

Paul Thurrott gleefully ran with those comments as proof Apple was doomed. And Evil. And a Monopoly. At some point, I expect Thurrott to start complaining that Apple is headquartered in Redmond, Washington.

Steve Jobs Walks the Tightrope Again – New York Times
Developers see possibilities in iPhone apps – Macworld
Answers from Steve Jobs at Apple’s Shareholder Meeting
An iPhone SDK? Predictions for WWDC 2007!

Answers from Steve Jobs at Apple's Shareholder Meeting

Adjusted Expectations.
What some people seem to forget is that even though Apple now has a $150 billion market cap, it still only has 18,000 employees. Similarly valued Intel has 88,000 employees. Apple is worth more than HP or IBM, but those companies both have far more people working for them: 150,000 and 350,000, respectively. Microsoft’s operations are valued at twice Apple’s, but it has four times the employees: 79,000.

That means Apple is creating a lot of value with far fewer people. It also suggests that Apple’s employees can’t be expected to pull off the things much larger companies might be able to do. Even so, Apple is running circles around its peers, delivering a wide range of products that expand every year, with an astonishing success to failure ratio.

Between now and February, Apple will have time to solve some of the issues that stood in the way of open iPhone development in the past. How exactly Apple will open the market remains to be seen.

Less Than Totally Open.
Jobs remarked that Nokia–which has been trying to capitalize on its “openness” and portray the competing iPhone as locked–is “not allowing any applications to be loaded onto some of their newest phones unless they have a digital signature that can be traced back to a known developer.”

“While this makes such a phone less than ‘totally open,’” Jobs said, “we believe it is a step in the right direction. We are working on an advanced system which will offer developers broad access to natively program the iPhone’s amazing software platform while at the same time protecting users from malicious programs.”

Jobs also noted that mobile malware is real issue and noted that mobiles have been infected with viruses before, without actually pointing out that the most famous virus infected Symbian phones. That would have been embarrassing to Nokia.

Third Party Applications on the iPhone – Apple

iTunes Store for Developers.
Jobs’ comments suggest that Apple will be delivering an “advanced system” that probably shares a lot in common with the iPod’s games distribution system, as I have been repeating since last fall.

That will not only make it easier to track and manage the legitimacy of software being installed, but also allows developers to charge low shareware-like prices for their work and still receive enough money to cover their work.

If that’s the case, it helps to explain why Jobs has long insisted since its release that the iPhone wouldn’t be another PC platform with software installation problems, spyware, and malware issues, and would instead be more like the iPod.

Inside the iPhone: Third Party Software

Apple is likely to roll out a mechanism for software developers that does for them what iTunes did for music: offer a market that sells their work at low prices but high volumes, returning them fair profits and wider distribution than they could manage on their own.

That would take my Finder Store idea and wrap it up together with my iPod/iPhone shared software platform software ideas. Since independent developers now commonly struggle to get fair payment for their work–torn between charging low prices and getting little return, or high prices that only the honest pay–and suffer from the same casual piracy as musicians, an annex to the iTunes Store for iPhone/iPod Touch applications makes a lot of sense.

I can’t imagine it will stifle the professional complainers however.

What do you think? I really like to hear from readers. Comment in the Forum or email me with your ideas.

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  • http://thesmallwave.com treestman

    Only two weeks ago — in a blog entry titled “Apple’s Thinking Is Just Fine, Thank you” — I wrote the following:

    “Does anyone really think no third-party apps will ever be allowed on the iPhone? That’s just silly. The iPhone runs OS X, Apple is going to open it up. This is why I say the development community lacks patience. When third-parties (beyond web developers) are allowed to write for the iPhone they’ll probably pat themselves on the back for thinking they had a hand in it, but it’s obvious to anyone with a half-dozen brain cells that Apple will allow this in time.”

    Today I’ve seen numerous comments on various boards to the effect that “Apple finally listened to us”, etc. Just like I predicted there are some taking credit for this. It’s pretty nauseating to me.

    Oh well, those are probably the types who won’t write the good iPhone software anyway. :)

    Between the SDK and iTunes price-drop and addition of more DRM-free tunes, this is a good day for Apple news.

  • elppa

    Good, that’s the third party SDK down, now there are only 49 reasons left not to buy an iPhone.

    The Times Newspaper points has a story today on the front page of its online edition. (No 3rd party apps was issue number 18 on an extensive list**)

    “50 Reasons not to buy an iPhone
    From feeble battery life to embarrassing celebrity endorsements is the endlessly hyped iPhone really worth £1.259?”


    ** Amazingly the 50 doesn’t cover GPS, MMS, Cut & Paste or sending Text Messages to multiple recipients, but does include such great insights as “Apple’s engineers are misogynists (number 10)”.

  • sebastianlewis

    Heh, I absolutely love that image at the top of the article. It just made the wait for Leopard a whole lot easier :D

    Anyways, Steve mentioned signed applications and a controlled environment for security reasons, you think Apple will use that to block email apps, instant messengers, VoIP clients, and video chat? I mean I guess it’s possible and Apple does have an obligation to AT&T… but… well I guess we’ll see when it’s released.


  • http://www.roughlydrafted.com danieleran

    Yeah I saw the Times Online article; it was worthless, not even worthy of using as a model of what’s wrong with iPhone analysis. A photo of a celebrity with an iPhone is a reason not to get one? Why do I care what phone Paris Hilton or George Bush uses?

    There are plenty of valid complains to be loading up a steaming plate of crap and calling it an opinion.

  • reinharden

    Apple’s 18,000 employee count is even more constrained if you figure that the now 200 Apple stores probably account for at least 4,000 of those and probably more.

    Then subtract out sales, marketing, regulatory, manufacturing, HR, technical support, developer support, quality assurance, documentation, packaging, executive, legal, IT, and all those other non-engineering functions. Apple’d be lucky to have 4,000 real engineers…and probably is closer to 2,000.


  • roz

    great news – glad to see this happening. iTunes store makes perfect sense. Also maybe a way for enterprise to register, get a signature and deploy on their own. Apple gets security and accountabilty against unpermitted uses like torrents.

  • UrbanBard

    Nice overview, Daniel.

    I feel vindicated. I have been saying endlessly that Leopard had to get out the door before Apple had the resources to fix the iPhone’s security. I always believed in an Apple SDK and in the iTunes Software Store, too. It just made sense. I didn’t put any time on it, but I though early next year.

    elppa, there are starting to be “realworld tests” of the iPhone and its competitors. The EDGE network isn’t as bad as people are making out. Bandwidth doesn’t matter as much as latency does. You can have all the bandwidth in the warld, but if the system intentionally slows you down, your goose is cooked.

    The mobile phone networks are a mess. I believe Apple is trying to straighen it out. If Apple can produce an excellent user experience, then it will gain huge market share. How it will do this, I don’t know.

    Broadcom just put out a new HSDPA chip that might get put into an iPhone. But the real problem must be extending the HSDPA network to every where in AT&T.

  • http://www.roughlydrafted.com danieleran

    @roz – re: corporate iTunes – that makes me think of iTunes U, which acts like an personalized iTunes Store for individual universities to publish podcast content to their users (and the public in many cases).

    Imagine using that same system to roll out custom corporate software applications. iTunes for software.

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  • roz

    Interesting, is there anyway to see iTunesU? I have heard about it but never seen it in action.

    I was thinking that an even more open system would be possible, that iPhone at time of installation or first run would check the app for digital signature, then check a whitelist/blacklist of developer codes it keeps online. So in effect Apple could shut down a developer or app that it finds does not conform.

  • OlivierL

    My only comment about the Native SDK (except “I told you so” as anyone here) will be :
    “How open will the application process be ?”

    As you said, Apple only has 18,000 employees. How will the native application be validated ? If this process has to be done by real humans, the resource will be limited. I’mm sure that bug name companies like EA will get full attention but will a small time home worker shareware dev get any attention ?
    I won’t say that shareware dev are the best one and the only ones to get the most brilliant ideas but some might.

  • Tilneys

    Love the bit about the value of Apple in relation to number of employees. Made me go and do a chart of it all, sent it to you Dan..

    Apple is in a league of its own.

  • Rich

    Hi Daniel,

    I thought I’d fill you in on how Nokia’s system (technically, Symbian’s system) works, in-case you or your readers didn’t already know. I’ve done a bit of Symbian development so here’s my experiences:

    Symbian categorises all of their APIs. Some are completely open but others are restricted. The restricted APIs are grouped by capability. An application given rights to access SMS functionality won’t be able to access hidden folders on the phone’s flash memory.

    Nokia S60 devices (based on Symbian) have two settings – allow only signed applications or allow all. The default is only to allow signed applications. Even when set to allow all, unsigned applications that use restricted APIs will not run.

    Signing freeware is free, but takes a very long time. In the past, signing commercial software was very expensive but recently it has come down to $20 for small developers. Considering that the basic development tools are free, $20 isn’t a bad price. If you wish to test your application before sending it off to be signed then you can sign it yourself. However the application will be restricted to a few IMEIs (device IDs).

    Once the application is signed, you can do what you like with it. You can sell it direct to the customer yourself, go through an online store such as Handago or sell it to a carrier.

    Nokia also supports a number of sandboxed languages too, such as Java and Python. A developer can write software in these languages and avoid the signing process completely.

    I assume Apple’s approach will be slightly different. My guess is that they will require all applications to be signed and then only sold through the iTunes store. This would be similar to the very controlled and safe way that Microsoft use for their Xbox Live Arcade system.

  • mattrad

    Come on Daniel – your computing comments are generally spot on, but I think your mobile knowledge is too blinkered by the poor state of the US market and Nokia’s lack of marketshare with sophisticated S60 devices. You said:

    “As I like to point out, the vast majority of mobile software either:

    * solves problems in Windows Mobile that shouldn’t exist.
    * fills voids left by Windows Mobile that Microsoft should have covered.
    * exists without reason as frivolous garbage-ware.
    * is overpriced trash.
    * or will work on the iPhone already.”

    Relating this to S60, there are a few gaps in the software, but where there are, developers have stepped in with generally excellent stuff. I have great email on my N70 (using Profimail) which blows away the iPhone’s “baby’s first email client” and read/write of all Office docs with QuickOffice, plus a few others which massively extend the usability of the device.

    Should excellent email be built in? Of course. But I would expect this in the iPhone as well? Yes, and it just doesn’t have it yet.

    Given the passionate developer community, I fully expect superb approved 3rd party apps to turn up for the iPhone (as I have on my Mac), but don’t fall into the trap of thinking that there is no decent mobile software out there at the moment.

    N.B. Not trolling. Will be buying the iPhone on Nov 9th…

  • sebastianlewis


    It’s on the left hand navigation menu in iTunes Store below iTunes Latino.


    Copying the main link doesn’t work for some reason, but that link should take you right to the UC Berkeley section and you can click the top navigation to take you to the iTunes U home page.

    It’s not really that exciting (other than the great courses you can find) in “action” since it’s just like the Podcast section.


  • gus2000

    Dan, your picture needs a proper caption:


    I. The iPhone is thy JesusPhone. Thou shalt not have other phones.
    II. Thou shalt not use FUD against the iPhone.
    III. Remember thy iPhone launch date.
    IV. Honor thy Woz and thy Jobs.
    V. Thou shalt not blend thy iPhone.
    VI. Thou shalt not unlock thy iPhone, lest ye be Bricked.
    VII. Thou shalt not steal an iPhone.
    VIII. Thou shalt not bear false witness to your iPhone.
    IX. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s HTC.
    X. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s Blackberry.

  • Marian

    The most absurd reason in the Times article: #12: don’t buy an iPhone because it’s scratch resistant!

    (I didn’t read more than the first 14 or so…)

  • http://homepage.mac.com/johnnyapple johnnyapple

    Thou shalt not crack iPhone open with hammer and nail just to get hits on YouTube (I nearly cried)

  • coffeego

    To echo johnnyapple, I would include not cracking the iPhone open with a hammer and nail as an essential commandment. To someone who lives in Canada, where the iPhone isn’t even a rumour yet, it is quite painful to see people take the iPhone for granted. Use my crummy Motorola V220 for a month and THEN try to write a list of reasons not to buy an iPhone.

  • gus2000

    I dunno, the video makes the iPhone look pretty darn sturdy. I used to like some of the Nokia phones for their style, but none of them lasted me more than a year.

    If it makes you feel any better, all the people that broke apart their iPhones are going to die from PVC poisoning (according to Greenpeace, anyway).

  • http://homepage.mac.com/johnnyapple johnnyapple

    Ya, it took quite a few whacks. Impressive but still sad :(

  • http://homepage.mac.com/johnnyapple johnnyapple

    The SDK is also for iPod touch. How much more attractive will touch be in large foreign markets where personal income is limited? It’s basically a tiny $299 computer with a real web browser (and at some point, an email client). I wonder if iPod touch can actually dig into entry level PC territory in places like China and India. Hmmmm, something new to ponder.

  • behroze

    Not to change the subject but it is “Linus” Torvalds.

  • gus2000

    How about:


    1. More expensive than reading tea-leaves.
    2. Lifetime subscription will cost in the thousands!
    3. Every bum in the street has one. (For a pillow).
    4. Fingers could get trapped in a paper box.
    5. Writing is not as good as other papers.
    6. They argue that it’s viewable under thousands of light bulbs around the city, when in fact MOST OF THE CITY ISN’T EVEN LIT.
    7. “Talking-points” Time is low. By the next day, the news you just bought is worthless.
    8. When your new paper does become worthless, you must return to the Times for a new one!
    9. If you can’t be without news, there are people that can show you how to write your own.
    10. Impossible to read the text on their low-power display technology (ink).
    11. Can’t be properly held by small hands.
    12. Fragile! Tears easily!
    13. The pathetic 2MP photos are a disappointment.
    14. Most “standard” papers have facts.
    15. No Bluetooth. Must look directly at the paper to read it.
    16. Limited Storage! 100 Pages at most, with no expandability.
    17. You can get news online.
    18. You can’t add your own news without “hacking” your paper.
    19. You’re stuck with one paperboy.
    20. No that I encourage anyone to do so, but you can steal the paper from your neighbor.
    21. The Times will try to stop you from stealing their newspaper.
    22. No future updates to your paper.
    23. There are alternative papers.
    24. The paper has alternative uses (i.e., lining a birdcage, soaking up vomit, etc.)
    25. Other ideas are probably better.
    26. China makes a fake “Times”.
    27. Some “Times” fakes are lousy.
    28. The paper is huge compared to magazines.
    29. Magazines are even bigger than “TV Guide.”
    30. Pocket Guides are too small, though.
    31. It can be rendered unusable by blending.
    32. It is unreadable when frozen.
    33. The Queen reads it.
    34. Victoria Beckham reads it.
    35. George Bush reads it. (Well, he would if he could read)
    36. The BBC reads it.
    37. The paper won’t connect to your laptop.
    38. It’s dangerous to read while on a treadmill.
    39. It doesn’t look as good as the papers shown in the advertising.
    40. You can get all the same news from other papers for less money.
    41. It encourages people to make news.
    42. It even promotes singing and dancing.
    43. The price is lower for subscribers. There will be lawsuits.
    44. If you talk to it, it won’t talk back.
    45. If you show it to people, they may mug you for it.
    46. You can’t read the whole paper if it catches fire.
    47. Some can’t read it without additional equipment (eyeglasses).
    48. Most people throw their papers away, even after only 1 day.
    49. Some destroy the paper without reading it at all.
    50. It might not make you happy.

  • guomo

    “If you install Linux on your own server, you are free to hack and modify anything you want, but Linux Torvalds–nor any Linux distributor–warrants that your system will remain secured as you do so.”

    Did you mean to say that “but *neither* Linux [sic] Torvalds…” Otherwise you are implying that Linus warrants his OS, which he doesn’t. Not even if I don’t modify it, let alone if/when I do.

  • http://homepage.mac.com/johnnyapple johnnyapple

    One small correction Daniel.
    “Apple is worth more than HP or IBM”
    Not quite yet. Today in mid day trading.
    Apple $150.7 billion
    IBM $154.4 billion
    Intel $155.5 billion
    – and
    HP $134.8 billion
    DELL $63.6 billion
    Gateway – gone. They used be be more valuable than Apple.

    Who would have thought this was possible even a few years ago? History will soon be made.

    The employee to market cap analysis is dead on. It still holds true when comparing revenue.

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  • jfatz

    I would just like to toss gus2000 the win for this thread. ;-)


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  • starkruzr

    There is only one thing regarding the SDK I am concerned about — whether or not Free Software will be enabled by it. I want the existing suite of third-party applications in addition to whatever Apple wants to sell me on the iTMS. If I can have that, I’m pretty much good to go.

    This could be accomplished pretty easily by having one package on the iTMS that contains a jailbreak, and labeling it with all kinds of warnings — WARNING! THIS SOFTWARE IS VERY LIKELY TO *PERMANENTLY DAMAGE* YOUR IPHONE. They can stretch the truth a little if they really want to in order to scare away the curious.

    That package should also include a firewall and other software to ensure the phone stays secure — software that probably wouldn’t be needed on an Apple-only-software phone.

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