Render Unto Steve What Is Steve’s

Its taken a while to get my thoughts and heart together enough to address this. Considering the fervor that various mobile devices have caused in the past year though, I think that some accountability is an order, or at least a good bit of checking our motives at the door when it comes to these devices and what we want to do with them.

If you will, think of this as a look at stewardship, ownership, and accountability.

Matthew 22:15-22 ESV

Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his talk. And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away.

This weekend I took some time to read through RSS feeds on my Treo. It had been some time since doing so, and there are several websites that I read there, that I do not anywhere else for various reasons. One of the common themes of the week happened to be the update for the iPhone (Version 1.1.1) that had come out. Several websites reported on this update beforehand of having the possiblity of bricking, or rendering useless, their iPhones. Those that would be effected would be those whose devices were being used on another carrier’s network, or had other functionality exposed that was not in the original design of the iPhone.

The day of the release came, and then came the reports of what worked and what did not work. Suffice to say, there were plenty of disappointed people. Especially those who had unlocked the iPhone to be used on other carriers around the world, or those whose use of special applications enabled functionality that was nor present in the off-the-shelf-version.

A statement from Apple days before the release of the update (from Engadget):

…the company has released an official statement warning users that “unauthorized iPhone unlocking programs” could cause “irreparable damage to the iPhone’s software.” Furthermore, the firm stated that these apps could result in the handset becoming “permanently inoperable when a future Apple-supplied iPhone software update is installed” — you know, like the one coming “later this week” that includes the iTunes WiFi Music Store. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the release also notes that “unauthorized modifications to the iPhone’s software” violates the iPhone software license agreement and “voids the warranty.”

So basically, if you installed software you were not supposed to, then you are not supposed to expect an official update to continue to allow your device to work.

A post that I read at The SmartPDA posted this (thanks):

Nowadays, when you buy gadgets and software, you enter into an agreement with the manufacturer and your service provider, usually outlined in the manual or in the software itself. Quite frankly, nobody (myself included) takes the time to read the agreement, since we’re too busy enjoying our new toys.

Anyone who purchases an iPhone enter[s] into a provider agreement with AT&T, and into an End User License Agreement with Apple over the smartphone’s software.

There are two aspects at play here, one of which is very much a part of how Christians define themselves as relating to the world around us:

Romans 13 ESV (selected quotes)

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer…

There are a few ways of looking at this, but we will will just cover a few of the topmost points, and let discussion merit the rest.

Because of end-user license agreements that a person agrees to when they purchase software or hardware, you agree not to do certain things to the item in return for a specific service. When you pay Apple (Steve Jobs and company) for the iPhone, one part of that agreement is that you make the concession NOT to modify the software of the device in any fashion, nor to manipulate the ability of the radio software to work in any fashion not prescribed by At&T or Apple.

In the US, phone makers and carriers are required by law to allow for a phone to be unlocked to be used on compatable carriers where possible. This law is usually circumvented by carriers by modifying aspects of the hardware or software so that it is harder for the device to work on another carrier. Or, by making exclusivity agreements with carriers that stipulate that a device is to be sold/used on one carrier for a specific amount of time. The latter is the case with the iPhone.

So, is it against the law to modify your iPhone to be used on another carrier? Yes.

Is it against the law to demand that Apple modify the agreement that you signed and agreed to stating that you would not use the device in any way that violates the terms of service or end-user agreement? No. It is not against the law to demand it, but not right to expect it per your timing.

As much as we believe that a device is ours and we should be able to do what we want, the truth is we cannot. As believers, and moreso as law-abiding citizens, we have to hold to standards that speak not towards lawlessness, but towards civility. If you are a believer who has purchased an iPhone and are using it in ways that break the end-user-license agreement or terms of service, you cannot expect your unsantioned use to be officially updated. If what you purchased does not fit how you want to use it, then find a device that does, or admit that your lusts cannot be fulfilled by this temporary thing and wait on the device that does work best for what you’d like to do.

Give Apple their just due for providing a device that has made you excited, but don’t let your lusts for wanting to use it cost Christ’s name.