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Monday, October 01, 2007, 11:00 am PT (02:00 pm ET)

Nokia launches anti-iPhone campaign amid controversy

Bloggers and hackers aren't the only ones sticking it to iPhone maker Apple Inc. for its closed minded approach to user-customization of the touch-screen handsets — Nokia has taken advantage of the situation by launching a print and web campaign dubbed "Open to anything."

"We believe the best devices have no limits. That's why we've left the Nokia Nseries open," the Finland-based handset maker wrote on its new "Open to anything" website. "Open to applications. Open to widgets. Open to anything. So go ahead and load it up. What it does is up to you."

The campaign, which was accompanied by the posting of similarly-worded bills in New York City this past weekend, is an obvious response to the latest iPhone update on Thursday. As Apple had warned, the software patch disabled versions of the Apple handset that had been "unlocked" to operate on wireless carries other than AT&T, while adding a couple of new features like the Wi-Fi iTunes Music Store.

In addition, however, the update wreaked havoc on a number unmodified iPhones and those iPhones which had been only modified to run third-party software applications but had otherwise remained locked to the Apple-approved carrier. Users who reached out to Apple for help in reactivating those phones were turned away (video) in the same manner as those users who had unlocked the devices against Apple's stated policy.

The Cupertino-based firm's harsh stance was met with considerable outrage because, unlike unlocking, users who had installed third-party applications simply to increase the usefulness of their pricey handsets — in addition to those who had done nothing at all — were suddenly being informed that they had voided their warranty on the handset as a whole and were on their own in attempting to somehow reactivate those phones.

The matter is complicated by a number of factors, primarily what is now being perceived by some as a poor job on Apple's part to convey its stance on third-party applications to iPhone users earlier in the handset's lifecycle. Recent comments from an Apple executive even made it appear as if the company was taking an indifferent stance to the development and installation such third-party apps. Additionally, Apple's public warning seemed only to target unlockers rather than those installing applications.

What's more, third-party iPhone apps and simple point-and-click applications to easily install them had become as commonplace on the Internet in recent weeks as shareware applications. Therefore, some iPhone owners may have used such applications without a full understanding of the consequences.

As a result of these and other gripes with Apple's iPhone policies, users are now banding together in an attempt to drum up support for a class-action lawsuit against the company under three theoretical classes.

The first class would contain iPhone owners who have used third-party software to access the flash storage on an iPhone, without having altered firmware or installed a program on the device. A second would include owners who had installed third-party apps in the past, but who have since restored their phones to factory defaults but are still suffering from hardware problems such as bad touchscreens.

A third and final class would challenge the whole unlocking issues, which is reportedly legal under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act but discouraged by Apple, which states on the iPhone's packaging and marketing material that an AT&T contract is required for usage.

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Nokia bills posted in New York City and shown in the MacRumors forum.


In the meantime, the whole iPhone mess is garnering national recognition from the the mainstream media and slowly snowballing into a public relations nightmare for Apple. The New York Times recently ran a piece that quotes Apple spokesperson Jennifer Bowcock as saying those iPhone owners who are experiencing problems following the recent iPhone update should "purchase a new iPhone." And overseas, the Guardian syndicated Gizmodo's updated recommendation to its readers, which is "Don't Buy" an iPhone:

"Screw the unlock for a second. Let's talk about the those third-party apps," wrote Brian Lam, an editor at the widely read and Apple "approved" gadget blog. "While my 4GB iPhone is a brick, and the 8GB phone, which I kept on a totally legit AT&T contract, is now stripped down. Programs like the faux-GPS, IM clients, Flickr Upload, and NES emulator — what did they ever do but make the iPhone far better than the stock original? They made it far more competitive with open-platform superphones like the Nokia N95, to which I will now be switching."

While Apple likely mulls a response, Nokia and other would-be rivals are sure to be having a field day with this one.