A patent application doesn't necessarily mean such an idea will ever see the light of day, but iPhone
jailbreakers should take note of this news, anyway. Apple has reportedly applied for patent for methodology of not just detecting jailbroken or unlocked iPhones, but also killing them, if necessary.
It's true that if you read carefully through this patent application
, it seems a lot of it is focused on security: detecting unauthorized users through various means, and sending an alert to a device or restricting its use. However, jailbreaking and unlocking are mentioned as part of the patent application which along with some of the measures Apple
proposes, has to raise eyebrows.
Now, it should be noted that a patent application, or even a patent, doesn't necessarily mean said product will reach the light of day. This application was filed in 2009. Meanwhile, the U.S. Library of Congress only very recently ruled that both jailbreaking and unlocking are legal
. Thus, it's unclear if Apple could, or would, follow through with these measures. It is true that Apple continues to hammer home the fact that jailbreaking voids your warranty.
However, as we've noted before
, jailbreaking is also very easy to reverse to the point where Apple cannot detect the device was once jailbroken, unless the device is bricked.
However, what if Apple could proactively determine that a device is jailbroken and even take pictures or audio recordings of the "miscreant." The patent application says:
17. A system comprising: an electronic device comprising; an input device operable to receive a password provided by a user; a camera operable to take a photograph of the user; a processor operable to: determine that a predetermined number of incorrect passwords have been successively received; direct the camera to take a photograph of the user; and generate an alert notification in response to the processor determining, wherein the alert notification comprises information related to the identity of the user and the photograph of the user; and communications circuitry operable to transmit the alert notification to a remote device.
18. The system of claim 17, wherein: the camera is operable to take a plurality of photographs of the surroundings of the electronic device; and wherein the processor is further operable to: analyze each of the plurality of photographs to identify distinguishing landmarks in the photographs; and determine the location of each photograph based on the identified distinguishing landmarks.
Apple would use the recording feature to try to pattern match against authorized voice signatures for the device. Additionally, the patent goes further and says that the device could even monitor a user's heartbeat to confirm whether or not a user is authorized, as well.
This all seems quite over-the-top for something like jailbreaking, which is used by end users to provide things like a useful look screen (Intelliscreen is a good example), by providing access to apps that Apple simply will not approve for the App Store
. Still, Apple has been very clear: it has called jailbreaking a crime in the past. The fact that the U.S. Library of Congress disagrees seems to have not changed its opinion.