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It’s fairly widely known that if you jailbreak your iPhone it almost certainly voids the device’s warranty from Apple(s AAPL). The policy is meant to broadly discourage modifying the software and loading apps from sources other than the App Store, as well as introducing unsupported features or wireless carriers.
But what if you could get a warranty on a jailbroken device from someone who isn’t Apple?
Turns out you can. SquareTrade, the third-party warranty provider, is a company that has no problem replacing or fixing an iPhone, iPad, or really any smartphone whose software has been modified. The company’s new warranty policy, which starts at $60 for an iPhone, will fix or replace a device regardless of what’s been done to the software.
The technical expertise necessary to jailbreak an iPhone is itself a natural limiter of how many devices are jailbroken. But the warranty threat was another big deterrent. SquareTrade’s new offer does change the risk factor involved.
Apple’s attitude toward jailbreaking is laid out in a Knowledge Base article posted to its site:
Apple strongly cautions against installing any software that hacks the iOS. It is also important to note that unauthorized modification of the iOS is a violation of the iPhone end-user license agreement and because of this, Apple may deny service for an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch that has installed any unauthorized software.
From Apple’s perspective, the reasoning is related to the company’s goal of ensuring a uniform user experience. The entire philosophy behind the App Store — besides Apple getting a cut of every paid app that goes on a device and generally controlling all aspects of the device — is that Apple employees vet the apps for buggy code and security problems. Loading software onto an iOS device that hasn’t been vetted in theory could create a user experience with which Apple doesn’t want to be associated.
SquareTrade’s VP of Strategy Vince Tseng told me it makes no difference to SquareTrade what users do with the software. “We are here to help the Apple community, and if they want something Apple doesn’t provide we are here for them,” he said.
The warranty policy covers any software modification, but hardware mods are off limits. “Our general philosophy is that if a device hasn’t been played around with on the inside we don’t have a problem with that,” said Tseng.
Included in the company’s definition of hardware modifications? Filed-off serial numbers, meaning that SquareTrade is (wisely) shying away from offering warranties for potentially stolen devices.
Tseng acknowledges this policy isn’t targeting a huge group — jailbreakers aren’t a very large segment of the Apple community, he says — but those that do modify their iOS software are an important demographic when it comes to the future of the platform, believes.
“Is it the majority of iPhone owners? It’s not. But they are the community that is out there expanding the possibility of what the iPhone can do,” said Tseng. “Apple has already had a touchy relationship with those kinds of people. Unofficially, they get some benefit out of it, but at an official level they want nothing to do with people modifying their devices.”
Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.