(This is a reply to What if the builder of your home burnt it down if you changed the locks?)
I have a strong suspicion that Apple will try to convince us that these iPhones are a strange sort of rental and are not really the property of the people who shelled out 500$ for the device. Most likely, they'll come up with some sort of mumbo-jumbo based on their control of the copyright on the software which runs the device. They'd likely claim that "unlocking" the phone is a modification of the software that is not permitted under the copyright licensing terms they provided when you purchased the device with the software pre-installed.
This would lead to my first inquiry for Apple: can I remove the pre-installed software and replace it with other software that allows me to use the device outside their narrowly defined market? If I cannot, then I would argue that the entire package (device plus software), being indivisible, is "rented".
Assuming that no iPhone user actually owns the device but instead rents it, how does this change of assumptions reflect back into the original "property" metaphor?
There are provincial acts and regulatory bodies covering the rental of property. For example, I can change the locks on a rental property, with the agreement of both parties. Neither the tenant nor the landlord can deny the other access to the property without the other's approval unless sanctioned by a provincial authority.
I doubt that Apple would look fondly on greater government involvement in their market. Due to this, I suspect that, if pressed, they are likely to revert to the claim that only the software is "rented". A quick scan of the warranty information provided with an iPhone would likely explain the limits of Apple's liability towards the continuing fitness of the device - a further indication that the purchaser "owns" the device.
Confused yet? I am.
To resolve this confusion, I'd suggest that we first start by only applying metaphors from the physical world to artifacts from the physical world. That is, the device called an iPhone, software excluded.
If the physical device is "owned", a user should have no restriction on their ability to replace the software running on their iPhone with something more to their liking. This does not, unfortunately, give them license to modify the existing software on the device as Apple has given no indication that derivative works are permitted. As part of this ability to choose other software, a user should be able to indicate that they have made an alternative selection and Apple should cease updating the software.
Sadly, there is nothing beyond market pressure that can force Apple to provide this ability to iPhone purchasers. Since the current state of affairs gives them a de facto monopoly over iPhones, I doubt they can be convinced to provide this functionality. Any change only weakens their monopoly.
Information is not a tangible. It presents no artifact that can be directly manipulated in the physical world. It cannot be made scarce by hiding it behind "locks" (themselves information, just as easily manipulated as the information they "protect"). We need to move on, away from the scarcity economics of the past and learn the information economics of the future.
Extending a physical world concept (property rights) into the informational world does nothing to clarify this issue for uninformed users. The "intellectual property" salesforce has convinced much of the populace that copyright is a fence around ideas to stop people from "stealing" those ideas. They pretend that information is something to be owned. It's counter-productive to add to this confusion by suggesting that purchasing a device gives any control over the software that might be running on that device.
Two wrongs don't make a right.