Theoretically, only developers currently have access to the latest version of Apple’s iOS 5 software for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. In reality, however, getting access to beta versions of iOS has never been easier for non-developers. Getting the software (which is easily available if you know how to use Google) is just one part of the process, though. Your phone’s UDID also has to be registered with Apple.
The easiest way to do that is to get a $99 developer account, but for most people, that’s a lot of money just to try out some beta software. Because of this, a large market for rogue iOS activations that allows virtually anyone who is wiling to risk their phone and $5 to $10 is currently flourishing. Some of these services have been around for a while, though most started around the time of the lengthy iOS 4 beta test.
There is, of course, also a well-known way to bypass the activation process altogether by performing a number of well-timed clicks and swipes, but that method leaves the phone part of your iPhone unusable. Using the paid rogue activation method leaves you with a fully functioning device without having to pay $99 for an Apple developer account.
How do these services work? Apple allows every developer to activate a set number of additional iPhones. These rogue activation services simply set up a developer account and then activate as many phones as they can (you have to send them your UDID when you request your activation).
Consider the Risks
There are obviously some risks involved here. Clearly you’re sending money to somebody who may or may not perform the service you requested. I hesitate to link to any of these services here, but if you decide to go this route, make sure to check what others are saying about them on the Web and on Twitter. Besides losing your money (generally between $5 and $10), you also run the risk of bricking your phone (at least temporarily until you can find somebody else who will activate your UDID on his developer account) as you can’t know for sure that your phone’s UDID was activated until you have installed the beta software. Most of these services will email you once they have activated your account, but you have to take them at their word that this is indeed the case.
As usual, use common sense and proceed at your own risk.