ChevronWP7: Windows Phone 7 unlocker released

ChevonWP7

After many long hours of Skype banter over the past week, we’ve finally opened Pandora’s box.

Today, together with Rafael Rivera and Chris Walsh, we’re releasing an elegantly simple tool to allow any user to unlock any retail Windows Phone 7 device for application side-loading (without having a WP7 marketplace registration account which costs US$99/year).

You can find the download and keep track of any further homebrew developments on the official ChevronWP7 group blog.

As I advocated previously, I believe having broader access to a device is both important to developers who might want to push the boundaries of what is “permitted” by just the public APIs, and users who may want to further customize and tweak their device (e.g. ringtones, custom theme colors, hardware search button, WiFi hotspot).

Windows Phone 7 homebrew developers, start your engines.

Update: If anyone was concerned about piracy, please read “Our stance on piracy” post.

Update 2: I have another followup post clearing up some further false allegations surrounding ChevronWP7 and piracy.

Update 3: We have a new blog post “Pursuing the future of homebrew on Windows Phone 7“.

56 insightful thoughts

  1. Awesome guys! Got a Navigation App here I was weary wont install on WP7 ’cause of those restrictions. Sweet butter to our bread. Keep up the good works guys, hope MS doesn’t sue you to oblivion because of this :-))

  2. @dhan … I don’t think Microsoft will take that action for simply unlocking the platform since they’re really trying to GROW the platform for now. I think, however, they will be selective about it. At least, I hope so, or they’ll be shooting themselves in the foot.

  3. Happy theories aside, Microsoft can’t let this sit.
    if they did, they would be supporting alternative marketplaces. Which has implications on both revenue for Microsoft, but probably also revenue agreements with operators.

    More importantly It also breaks the fundamental trust that a user should have with their device. What you call freedom and power, a malware writer calls opportunity. If all that stands between a user and Armageddon is a dialog box — well we know how well that hs worked on the PC,don’t we.

    While Microsoft engineers may like this, or the platform may even benefit from it, Microsoft can’t allow a standard method of gaining root access to persist.

      1. A dialog box is not security. Plus, your technique is not secret. A bad person could easily hijack it.

        Besides, its not just about malware. Alternative marketplaces could pop up that automate the process of installing ‘new’ apps that have unrestricted access to your phone.

        The point is that Microsoft has to continually break this app to ensure that it never becomes easy to install unauthorized apps.

        For a cogent and timely discussion of this, go bing Rafe Coburn’s post on “a third kind of freedom.” (hmmm.. That was the first time I kinda wanted copy-and-paste :)

      2. The results of this is Microsoft easily blocking everyone who unlocks their phone from the marketplace, apps and more, just because they share the same certificate. Have fun, guys.

  4. Hi guys, the app just said it couldn’t connect to the phone, and to try again with zune running.
    Did this and still no connection.

    running Win7, phone is Omnia 7

    cheers

  5. This is certainly going to ruffle feathers at MS HQ and as much as I like hacking about with apps/hardware I think this could really create a split down the developer community.
    MS could easily start blocking unlocked handsets from the live marketplace like they did with hacked xBox’s, will be interesting how its handled.

  6. One thing that has really bothered me is that there is no way to even debug a WP7 application on an actual device without spending 99$ at least once for the dev account.
    Microsoft should offer some free account type without store access just for local debugging purposes.

  7. I think this tool is a great thing to have. To be honest, I think it’s pretty poor that WP7 phones don’t allow you to load your own apps on there without a marketplace subscription. I understand the motive: to only allow the installation of applications from MS’s marketplace, but I think limiting sideloading to Visual Studio users (as opposed to VS users with a marketplace subscription) is enough discouragement to ensure your general users won’t be sideloading apps left right and centre and therefore not using the marketplace.

    Having free access to install apps without needing the $100 fee hanging over your head is a great thing. It lets you mess around in your spare time cooking up various me-ware apps for fun and testing, that will only be run by you (the developer) on your phone. Right now that privilege costs 100 bucks. I think charging developers the subscription for actually publishing to the marketplace is fine, but charging it just for sideloading your apps to mess around with is a bit rough. This tool solves that problem; it’s just a shame it didn’t come from MS. I really hope they don’t take it down.

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  9. Hey Long,
    Would there be a way to unlock a phone through this? I reeeeeeeeaaaally want a Samsung Focus from the US but nobody seems to be able to unlock ‘em yet :(

  10. While the efforts are appreciated, Microsoft may simply nullify this via a firmware update and now the cat and mouse game shall commence. If enough users had made noise about not being able to side load apps when they scratched WM 6.5, it would have been official. I think there aren’t enough users on this platform.

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