Back in late 2007, Apple made no secret of the fact that AT&T would be the only supported network on the iPhone for the next few years, and that unlocked iPhones would re-lock and in some cases quit working entirely upon updating the firmware. Accusations flew back and forth, and everything from revenge to unintentional firmware problems were offered up as reasons for the bricking. The truth of course is never black and white, and the real reason may be a bit of both.
Apple obviously has a responsibility to keep customers phones working and secure, which means they must be able to update the phone and fix problems even if it means overwriting the areas of code hackers had altered to unlock it. And of course Apple has an interest in keeping unlocked iPhones from becoming the norm as well, so they aren’t going to go out of their way to avoid undoing these hacks even if they could.
Now with the release of firmware 1.1.3 at Macworld, it seems that these bricked iPhones may get a second chance at life. Users are reporting that upon putting the phone into recovery mode and updating the firmware, followed by some rebooting and a little bit of luck, previously bricked iPhones may in fact being working again. The phones seem to recover into a locked state requiring activation, but this is of course a good sign even if users have no intention of using the phone with AT&T.