That is, in fact, exactly what one analyst said will happen. "I assume that someone will succeed in unlocking the iPhone," said Avi Greengart, principal analyst, mobile devices at Current Analysis. "I also assume Apple will close whatever loophole is open the next time they synchronize [the software]."
It's also likely there will be complications with special features of the phone that are designed to work only on AT&T's network, such as the visual voicemail feature, he said.
Greengart said that he sympathizes with those that might want to use an iPhone with another carrier but "that's not the way the product was designed."
"Exclusive agreements are not that unusual in this industry at all," he said.
Aaron Santell, an iPhone user in New York, said that he would have preferred to use the service provider he has for his Blackberry device, Verizon Wireless, when he purchased an iPhone. But using AT&T's service is "a small price to pay" to use a device that provides such a rich user experience as the iPhone does, he said.
As one might imagine, unlocking phones is a thorny issue with carriers, which certainly don't condone it. Carriers will give users unlock codes upon request for a fee, but they don't encourage the practice.
In the U.K. and Europe, third parties have been unlocking handsets for several years, although there is no law that specifically protects them, McLaughlin said. However, in the U.S., it is legal to unlock mobile handsets under an amendment to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that was passed in November 2006.
McLaughlin said that even though it's legal in the U.S. to unlock phones, he anticipates that if his team is successful, Apple may take legal action against them based on their tinkering with the firmware. "They'll probably come after us for copyright infringement," he said.
Apple did not reply to requests for comment Thursday.
McLaughlin plans to charge customers about $49.99 for software to unlock iPhones. Even if Uniquephones is not the first to offer unlocking capability, it won't be hard for them to replicate what others have done once the encryption is cracked, he added.