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IPhones bricked after non-developers try to upgrade to 3.0 beta

March 26, 2009 |  6:17 pm
Iphone bricked
The dreaded bricked iPhone. Credit: hirotomo via Flickr

The word "brick" has many meanings. For a mason, it's the building block. For basketball players, it's used to describe the sound of a badly missed shot. And for iPhone owners who tried to sneak an early copy of the developers-only beta software, it means that their $300-smartphone has been reduced to an expensive paperweight.

Apple showed off the next version of the iPhone software last week, which was made immediately available to members of its third-party developer program.

Application coders, who pay the $99 membership fee, get access to new features, including copy-and-paste, multimedia messaging, voice note recording and text-note syncing. The idea is to give developers a few months to test the nuances of the firmware and build new features into their apps.

The software update will be available to the general public (free for the iPhone and $10 for the iPod Touch) in the summer. But some couldn't wait and decided to snatch the beta from the many piracy websites that offer it for download.

Many were shocked when they hit a brick wall.

After the update process, iTunes connects to Apple's servers and attempts to ...

...  verify whether your iPhone or iPod Touch is registered as a developer's device. If not, users are asked to join the developer program -- or else.

If you refuse, your pricey gadget is, as they say, "bricked." The error message, shown in the photo above, will be the permanent wallpaper for the iPhone. It asks you to connect to iTunes, but when you do so there's no escape. Because the firmware modifies certain files within the phone, you cannot downgrade to a previous version, third-party developers say.

Folks who hoped to get a free ticket to the early release of iPhone 3.0 are expressing remorse across the Web.

A few YouTube videos have sprung up purporting to offer solutions. One suggests that you can simply disconnect from the Internet when interfacing with iTunes to bypass the authentication process. Another involves data files and appears incredibly confusing.

But many are sounding off in the comments below the videos, saying that the troubleshooting tips are fruitless. "THIS DOES NOT WORK," wrote meisdarian1, in a fairly typical response.

The best solution seems to be to schedule a repair appointment at an Apple Store, which are accepting the bricked phones and replacing them for free under warranty. It's a small price to pay for your own impatience.

-- Mark Milian