Does Unlocking or Jailbreaking an iPhone Void Its Warranty?

unlocking & jailbreaking void iphone warranty?
Can unlocking your phone result in a broken warranty?. iPhone image copyright Apple Inc.

Last Updated: Aug. 14, 2014

Jailbreaking and unlocking, processes by which users remove Apple's restrictions on what software can be used on iPhone and remove carriers "locks" respectively, have long existed in legal gray areas.

Apple has repeatedly affirmed its anti-jailbreaking stance, though its position on unlocking has evolved over the years. After years of reversals and conflicting rulings and laws, unlocking became officially legal in July 2014 when President Obama signed a bill legalizing the practice.

Despite Apple's official opposition to jailbreaking, the practice has remained popular with some people and a subject of intense interest for many more.  

But before you do either one to your iPhone, it's important to understand what the consequences may be. If everything goes fine, you'll have more options and more control over your iPhone. But what if something goes wrong and you need help? You need to know whether unlocking or jailbreaking an iPhone voids its warranty.

Jailbreaking: Yes

When it comes to jailbreaking, the answer is very clear: jailbreaking an iPhone voids its warranty. How do we know this? Apple says so: "unauthorized modification of iOS is a violation of the iOS end-user software license agreement and because of this, Apple may deny service for an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch that has installed any unauthorized software."

It's possible that you could jailbreak a phone and damage it, but still get support.

Doing this would require you to be lucky enough to succeed in removing the jailbreak and restoring the iPhone to its factory settings in a way that makes the previous jailbreak undetectable before taking the phone to Apple for help. It's possible, but don't bank on that happening.

The bottom line really is that if you jailbreak your iPhone you're taking a risk—and that risk includes voiding the phone's warranty and losing out on support from Apple for the rest of your iPhone's warranty period.

Unlocking: Depends

If you're more interested in unlocking your phone, the news is better. Thanks to the law mentioned above, unlocking is now legal in the U.S. (it's already been law, and a common practice, in many other countries). But not all unlocking is the same.

The unlocking that is legal and won't cause a warranty problem can be performed by Apple or your phone company after a defined period of time (usually after the two-year contract you signed when getting the phone is finished). If you get your phone unlocked through one of these authorized sources, you'll be protected (though there's an important detail related to this explained in the next section).

But there are many other sources of unlocks, including do-it-yourself software and companies which will unlock your phone for a fee. These options will usually result in unlocking your phone without damage, but since they're not officially authorized to provide the service, expect that using them will result in you losing warranty support if you need it.

Warranty Length

One of the most important factors when considering the effect of jailbreaking or unlocking on your iPhone's warranty is the length of the warranty itself. The standard iPhone warranty offers 90 days of phone support and one year of hardware repairs.

After that, unless you buy AppleCare to extend the warranty, your support from Apple is over.

That means that if you're jailbreaking or unlocking your phone more than a year after you bought it, it's out of warranty anyway, so there's less to worry about.

Still, jailbreaking can cause Apple to deny all service, including support and repairs that you'd pay for outside of the warranty, so think hard before taking that step.

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