Apple to update sealed iPhone and iPad firmware at retail stores

One of the things that many prospective jailbreakers hope for when buying an iPhone or iPad from the store, especially third-party stores that may not rotate inventory as frequently, is that they may happen upon a device with older firmware on it that can still be jailbroken.

iPhone 15 Pro packaging render.
Image Source: Supercharged

But according to Mark Gurman writing for Bloomberg, Apple appears to be working on a system for updating the software on iPhones and iPads that still reside in their retail packaging — a move that could impede the once adrenaline-provoking feeling one gets from obtaining a jailbreakable iPhone or iPad right out of the box.

Based on the report, it seems as though Apple has developed a technology in which the boxed device is placed on top of a special pad-like device. The iPhone or iPad then powers on inside of its sealed box, loads the newest firmware, and then powers back off. All of this happens wirelessly without breaking the seal on the box.

You may remember the case of the iPhone 15 models, which had the iOS 17.0.1 update right out of the box to fix an issue that could affect the user experience of transferring data from an older iPhone to the newer one. This was an issue where the device could literally freeze during setup and seriously impact the end user’s initial experience with the device.

While Apple likely intends this to make sure that users have the most stable version of iOS or iPadOS on their device before ever powering it on, the implications for jailbreaking are huge because it means that Apple can keep unopened iPhones and iPads up to date and prevent them from shipping with hackable firmware.

Gurman says that Apple is expected to roll this technology out to its own retail stores by the end of this year, but it remains to be seen if Apple will provide this sort of technology to larger retail outlets such as Best Buy, Walmart, and Amazon so that these third-party distributors can also keep unsold Apple devices up to date.

It seems very unlikely that smaller brick and mortar stores will be forced to keep their inventory updated. So perhaps prospective jailbreakers may want to limit their iPhone and iPad shopping habits to smaller stores that don’t rotate their stock as often for the best odds of picking up a device on lower firmware.

In any case, this is a double-edged sword with both the potential to save a lot of people hassle and to cause a lot of hassle for others. It just depends what side of the playing field you’re on.

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