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'I partied and I unlocked the iPhone!'

George Hotz with his unlocked iPhone

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

KAI RYSSDAL: Sometimes cause and effect in the stock market's a pretty easy thing to figure out. Maybe there's an earnings report or something. So when we noticed Apple shares were up more than two percent today we went looking for a reason. And we found it in Glen Rock, New Jersey. That's where George Hotz lives.

Last night on his blog George, who's 17 by the way, posted instructions for how to fiddle with an iPhone so it can be used with a wireless carrier other than AT&T. We figured that was worth a conversation, so we called him up.

GEORGE HOTZ: Hello?

RYSSDAL: Hey, George. Kai Ryssdal. How are you?

HOTZ: Pretty good.

RYSSDAL: How long did it take you to do this?

HOTZ: My friend and I went to a shopping mall at 3 p.m. on June 29th, the day it came out. We got our iPhones right at 6 and we came home and I've been working on it ever since.

RYSSDAL: Now, I read your blog. And I'll be honest with you, I didn't understand the whole thing. Is this a hardware thing where you actually crack open the phone and mess around. . .

HOTZ: Yeah.

RYSSDAL: It is?

HOTZ: Yeah, you do, actually, have to open up the iPhone and solder some stuff to it. And all it is is a piece of wire. So it's tools everyone has. But the issue is you actually can open up your iPhone and do it.

RYSSDAL: All right, now here's the big question. Why?

HOTZ: The truth is because our family has T-Mobile. We have a T-Mobile family plan. And if I wanted AT&T, I'd have to pay for it. So, I could either decide to pay for AT&T or just work to unlock the iPhone.

RYSSDAL: So, pure practicality then.

HOTZ: Yeah, basically.

RYSSDAL: As it stands now, you can only buy the iPhone in the United States. You can only use it -- well, until you came out with this thing -- only use it with AT&T. But what this does is it opens up the iPhone to be used overseas. Do you think some wiley entrepreneur out there is going to take your method and start himself up a company that's gonna make a whole lot of money?

HOTZ: I mean, I'm sure he will. And actually my dad thinks that I should be the one doing that. But I have no desire to do that at all.

RYSSDAL: Why not?

HOTZ: That's something I kinda don't want. I mean, it's not what I was going for at all. I wish I could just release a little program that everyone could just run on their iPhone. And then there'd be no need for these companies. But, there are going to be companies that do it.

RYSSDAL: And you're all right with that?

HOTZ: It's either that or I don't release the method. And some people -- there's probably been about 50 people so far who have reported success with the method. And I'm real happy to hear that.

RYSSDAL: So, what does your mom think of this whole thing?

HOTZ: I mean, she thinks I've been drinking too many Red Bulls.

RYSSDAL: So, a lot of late nights doing this project?

HOTZ: Yeah, like, there were nights I'd go to sleep at 9 in the morning.

RYSSDAL: All right, that's not good.

HOTZ: Well, but, you know, it's all worth it.

RYSSDAL: Yeah, and really what else are you gonna do the summer before you go to college, right?

HOTZ: Yeah, exactly. Like it's . . . I partied and I unlocked the iPhone. It was a good summer.

RYSSDAL: Yeah, not bad for a 17-year-old kid from New Jersey, huh?

HOTZ: I'll take it, yeah.

RYSSDAL: Where you going to school?

HOTZ: R.I.T.

RYSSDAL: Excellent. Rochester Institute of Technology, right?

HOTZ: That's the one.

RYSSDAL: All right. Best of luck to you.

HOTZ: Thanks a lot.

RYSSDAL: George Hotz leaves for college tomorrow morning. His "How I Spent My Summer Vacation" essay is going to be titled, "Changing the Market Dynamics of the iPhone."


About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.
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