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I have read about a phone unlock boxes (JAF, Phoenix, etc). What are they exactly? Some serial adapters? JTAG adapters? What is their role and what makes them so expensive?

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    \$\begingroup\$ It's a firmware flash read/writer application where different versions are available for many operating systems in order to hack the phone by uploading a flash firmware version of phone OS that has root permissions "unlocked" in order to change settings. Some are free and some will brick your phone. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 6 '17 at 19:03
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I believe you are referring to the "black boxes" that are used to hack the software in mobile phones and "unlock" them. Most cell phones are sold with proprietary software that enables them to only be used by the carrier that sells them. Once a phone has been "unlocked" it can be used on any compatible network (still needs to operate on the correct frequencies). They are priced based on what people are willing to pay for them. There are businesses out there that do nothing but charge people to unlock their phones.

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    \$\begingroup\$ That feels like something from the 90s. Is that still a thing? I haven't been offered a provider-locked phone in 20 years... But maybe I'm just not looking at the phones sold at carriers' agents \$\endgroup\$ Sep 6 '17 at 18:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ The last phone I had before I went back to iPhone was a Galaxy S5 and it was definitely locked to Verizon. I got it at a Verizon corporate retail store. \$\endgroup\$
    – LsD
    Sep 6 '17 at 18:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ I guess that you are right and somehow these are used to bypass network locks. I am still wondering how they do it. Where do they hook in the phone hardware? What protocol is used? I believe that they access some thing called "baseband". They all look quite similar an USB interface towards a computer and a RJ-45 plug in that one can put several cables for different phone models - a pattern that tells me that there is something quite standard inside. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 6 '17 at 18:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ That I can't tell you. But, your initial question of "what are they" I could answer. LOL \$\endgroup\$
    – LsD
    Sep 6 '17 at 18:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ It would be helpful and appreciated if you would accept the answer if it did indeed answer your initial question. \$\endgroup\$
    – LsD
    Sep 6 '17 at 18:53

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