"While this announcement may cause some controversy and create headlines, we believe this impacts a small group of users, namely hackers," Wu wrote in a note to clients. "[B]ut we believe for the majority of users, the impact will be minimal, if any."
The analyst said Apple was likely compelled to take a strong stand on iPhone unlocking -- which enable the handsets to run on unauthorized carriers -- for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, he said, the company wants to ensure its mobile phone platform remains stable and secure.
Apple also has a an obligation to meet its contractual obligations with AT&T (and other European wireless carriers), Wu explained. Then, of course, there's also a financial incentive on the part of the iPhone maker to keep users on its authorized carriers, as it receives a portion of the monthly fees from iPhone users signed up with those carriers.
Not surprisingly, representatives from the unofficial iPhone Dev Team -- a group of programmers responsible for one of the most widely distributed iPhone unlocking solutions -- disagrees over the scope of the matter.
In statement released Tuesday, the group said download totals from its own iPhone unlocking tools suggest that "several hundred thousand" people have unlocked their iPhones in recent weeks.
"The removal of the lock, a bug, was a major step forward in the iPhone development," the group wrote. "It made the iPhone free and useful to anyone, not only to those in certain countries."
The Dev Team claims that iPhone unlocking tools do not cause "damage" as Apple would like some people to believe. Nevertheless, the group said it plans to release a tool in the next week that will enable unlocked iPhone users to restore their phone to a factory-like state. In the meantime it advise users against updating their unlocked iPhone with the upcoming Apple iPhone software update.