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Apple: a sixth of iPhones ‘unlocked’

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Apple has sold more than a million iPhones, but more than a sixth of them may never get hooked up to AT&T, the gadget’s exclusive U.S. cell phone service provider.

About 250,000 of the nearly 1.4 million iPhones that Apple has sold thus far have gone to customers that don’t have any intention of signing up for AT&T’s service, Apple chief operating officer Tim Cook said on a conference call with analysts and investors.

That’s a problem not only for AT&T, which doesn’t get any monthly service fees from those customers, but for Apple, with which AT&T shares a portion of iPhone service revenue.

Since Apple launched the iPhone in June, hackers have published several strategies on the Internet that allow iPhone users to "unlock" their device from AT&T and link it up with alternate cell phone networks, such as T-Mobile’s.

However, some of the iPhone’s features — most notably "visual voice mail," which allows users to scan through their messages on their phone and pick and choose which ones to listen to — don’t work with the hacks. And Apple’s most recent software update on the phone reportedly made some of the unlocked phones unusable.

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The number of unlocked iPhones jumped after Apple cut the price on the device last month by $200, Cook said. He did not say how or if Apple would respond to the high rate of unlocked devices.

Cook’s comments came out as Apple reported its fiscal fourth quarter earnings. The company posted a profit of $904 million, or $1.01 a share, on sales of $6.22 billion, far exceeding analysts’ estimates.

Apple’s shares closed Tuesday at $186.10, up $11.74, or 6.7 percent.

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