This post will put all of the rumors to rest: you will not see an unlock for the Verizon iPhone.

We’re sorry to be the bearer of bad news but the complication involved with the Verizon iPhone unlock is two-fold: it’s completely illegal, and every unlock would require carrier-specific adjustments to succeed.

If you were to follow @MuscleNerd and @pytey on Twitter, you too would have come across this information. The conversation started with MuscleNerd tweeting this:

An “unlock” of next week’s iPhoneVZW is more than just custom code exec… it involves per-carrier CDMA adjustments.

Pytey chimed in right away to explain that this is outright illegal:

A non-sanctioned iP4VZ ‘unlock’ would require an ESN/MEID from a donor phone with service. This technique is a US federal crime.

That’s not awesome. We don’t assume that everyone will understand that, s0 let us break it down for you.

We can unlock AT&T iPhones because they are GSM — they use a SIM card to talk to the carrier. The AT&T SIM card can be removed and replaced with a T-Mobile (or an international carrier’s) SIM card. The current unlock only changes how the phone can communicate with the SIM card… it doesn’t actually change your phone number or modify any of the network-specific communication.

The Verizon iPhone 4 is a CDMA phone. CDMA technology uses a chip that is built into the phone itself and the ESN is hard-coded with your phone’s information so it can communicate with the network. Modifying that chip would be like modifying your SIM card’s IMEI number and — according to pytey — is completely illegal.

“I’ve had my Verizon phone flashed by another carrier like Cricket, I’ll be able to do the same thing with my iPhone.” Are you sure about that?

Cricket (like other companies) is a Mobile Virtual Network Operator — MVNO — and is actually using Verizon’s network for their service. They are authorized by Verizon to flash certain phones so they can be ported over to Cricket. Unless carriers like Cricket work out a deal with Verizon to carry the iPhone themselves, we won’t be seeing our local Cricket outlets flashing iPhones any time soon. It is also highly unlikely that Verizon will want to give up their control of the iPhone for quite some time. We suspect that it will be at least 2 years before we see VZW allow their MVNOs to flash the iPhone… they want to get their money back over the course of your 2-year contract.

To recap, you’re not going to see a Verizon iPhone unlock from the Dev Team or Chronic Dev… ever. Could someone else step in and unlock the Verizon iPhone? Sure, but that hacker and even you could get into some serious trouble for flashing a non-sanctioned ESN to your iPhone.

Let’s be realistic. AT&T and Verizon are the biggest wireless carriers in the US… we should be fine with those two choices. If you still want to use T-Mobile, buy an unlocked iPhone off craigslist. Sprint users, you’re kind of S.O.L. but you’ve been there for a long time anyways. International customers, you can assume that you’d be able to purchase the CDMA iPhone in the near future. There have already be conversations with the few international CDMA carriers to bring this new iPhone to their networks. Patience is a virtue, right?

Editor’s Note — Please do not confuse “unlock” with “jailbreak.” Quick difference: unlock means you can use the phone on another carrier… jailbreak means you can install unauthorized software on your phone. We may see Cydia on the Verizon iPhone soon via jailbreak, but we definitely won’t see the Verizon iPhone on Sprint via unlock.

**Update**

Cricket is flashing the Verizon iPhone 4 over to their network. Getting data and MMS working is a completely different story. Unlike other carriers, Cricket will allow you to transfer your ESN to their network. Sprint, Virgin Mobile, etc. don’t not transfer the ESN and that process would make the whole thing completely illegal.

Please note that our original article was meant to convey the news that there will not be an blanket-unlock for the iPhone 4 via the Dev Teams. You may, however, find some dude outside a Cricket store willing to flash your phone.

There are several areas across the US that will be crippled by such actions:

  • Baltimore, MD
  • Beaumont, TX
  • Brownsville, TX
  • Chicago, IL
  • Corpus Christi, TX
  • Laredo, TX
  • Las Vegas, NV
  • Madison, WI
  • McAllen, TX
  • Milwaukee, WI
  • Oklahoma City, OK
  • Philadelphia, PA
  • St. Louis, MO
  • Washington, D.C.

These areas may have Cricket, but their networks are not compatible with data or MMS. If you’re cool with an iPod touch that makes phone calls… knock yourself out. The AT&T iPhone remains the only “unlock-able” iPhone on the market. If you consider the fact that 90% of the world uses GSM, that may be the better way to go.

Josh Carr
Josh founded eciov in 2008 and has overseen it's evolution into a lifestyle site. He enjoys all things digital, art, music, creativity -- anything that can evoke emotion. If he's not working on this site or at his day job as a UX Engineer, he's out riding his motorcycle or jumping his truck on trails in the mountains.
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