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Apple says not intentionally disabling unlocked iPhones

Apple, which on Monday warned customers against using iPhone unlocking tools because they may permanently damage the handsets, has since defended its stance on the matter but said the company is not taking any special measures to intentionally cripple the devices.

"This has nothing to do with proactively disabling a phone that is unlocked or hacked," Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide product marketing, told the Associated Press in an interview. "It's unfortunate that some of these programs have caused damage to the iPhone software, but Apple cannot be responsible for ... those consequences."

The programs, some of which are available for free, are particularly popular abroad where Apple has yet to begin offering the sleek, touchscreen-based mobile phone. Although the company has tied deals with wireless carriers in the UK, Germany and France, it will not begin selling iPhone in those regions until the second week of November. Official offerings for other countries are not expected until 2008.

In speaking to the AP, Schiller said he was unaware of how many iPhones may be operating on carriers other than U.S.-based AT&T, the only carrier currently qualified to engage in sale and service of the device.

As part of its warning on Monday, Apple said it plans to issue a software update later this week that will add a slew of new iPhone software features, include an application that will let users access the iTunes Wi-Fi Music Store. The company added, however, that user who apply that update to unlocked iPhones may render those phones "completely inoperable."

Those claims, as well as the comments by Schiller, have already been met with intense scrutiny, as most people trained in the art of software development can attest that there is no such thing as "permanent damage to software." Instead they believe Apple's warning is no more than a "scare tactic" and a promise that it will not bear the burden of assuring its future iPhone software revisions work properly on hacked versions of the phone.

"We have reviewed the source code of a number of these applications and to the best of our knowledge any changes made to the software can easily be reversed," John McLaughlin, a developer who has made unsubstantiated claims of developing his own unlocking solution, told the AP. "After unlocking the iPhone, minimal effort is required to get it in to its previously locked state."

Apple also said Monday that customers who hack their iPhones to run on unauthorized wireless carriers are also voiding the handset's warranty.