Does Unlocking or Jailbreaking an iPhone Void Its Warranty?

If you want more control over your iPhone, jailbreaking and unlocking are appealing. They remove some of Apple's restrictions on what you can do with your iPhone, including what software you can run and what phone company you can use.

But what Apple wants is only part of the issue. After years of conflicting rulings and laws, unlocking was officially legalized in July 2014 when President Obama signed a bill on the subject.

Despite opposition from Apple, jailbreaking has been popular with some people and a subject of interest for many more. Jailbreaking has declined as Apple has added many features that jailbreaking used to provide, but it's still technically possible. 

Unlocking, on the other hand, is much easier to do, more available to all people, and often a good idea (find out how in Unlock the iPhone on AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile).

Before you doing either, though, it's important to understand the possible consequences. But what if something goes wrong and you need help? 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. 

Want a more in-depth understanding of jailbreaking, unlocking, and how they're different? Check out Unlocking vs. Jailbreaking.

What Does It Mean to Void a Warranty?

A voided warranty is one that is canceled and no longer in effect thanks to an action that violates the terms of the warranty. Think of a warranty like a contract: it says that Apple will provide a set of services as long as you do not do certain things. If you do one of those prohibited things, the warranty no longer applies, or is voided. Among the things the iPhone warranty prohibits is to "(modify) to alter functionality or capability without the written permission of Apple."

Does Jailbreaking Void the iPhone Warranty?

The answer to that question is very clear: Jailbreaking an iPhone voids its warranty. According to Apple: "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 successfully removing the jailbreak and restoring the iPhone to its factory settings in a way that makes the previous jailbreak undetectable by Apple. 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 support from Apple for the rest of your iPhone's warranty period.

One type of problem that can be caused by failed iPhone jailbreaks is a white screen of death (don't worry: it's not as bad as it sounds). To learn about that and how to fix it, read How to Easily Get Rid of the iPhone White Screen of Death.

Does Unlocking Void the iPhone Warranty?

On the other hand, the news is better if you want to unlock your phone. Thanks to the law mentioned earlier, unlocking an iPhone is legal in the U.S. (it's legal, and 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 contract you signed when getting the phone is finished, though many people don't have contracts these days). If you get your phone unlocked through one of these authorized sources, you'll be protected.

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

iPhone Warranty Length

One of the most important factors when considering how jailbreaking or unlocking effects 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, you can buy AppleCare to extend the warranty. If not, though, 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. There's less to worry about.