Oh dear! This is a move I was kind of expecting Apple to take shortly after the release of the first iOS 5 beta, but now that it's on its fourth release already, I thought that maybe they'd let us have our fun. To those of you running iOS 5 who aren't Apple registered developers, now may be a good time to downgrade, because Apple could be about to brick your device.

dead bricked iPhoneThe company has now begun disabling devices that it believes have unauthorized access to its iOS 5 beta software, in addition to the developer accounts which it believes are registering unique device identifiers (UDID) against its terms of service. This is mainly going to affect those users that paid to have their device's UDID registered through one of the many websites that currently offer this service.

Shortly after any major iOS release like this, a torrent of websites and eBay listings are spawned — all of which provide access to Apple's beta software for around $10 per device. You pay your money, send them your UDID, they register it on their Apple developer account and you're free to install and activate the beta software.

Of course, there's a pretty profit to be made for these websites. To become a registered Apple developer, you have to pay an annual fee of $99, however, for that you can register up to 100 UDIDs and grant them access to Apple's beta software. Sell those at $10 a piece and you've got yourself a nice little Christmas fund.

One particular site, mentioned by AppleInsider, claims to be "The Leading iOS Beta Registrar," having served a whopping 15,000 customers since it began in 2009. The site's blurb reads:

Apple only allows registered iPhone developers to have access to iOS 5 beta. That's where we come in. We have paid the fees and done all the work. All you have to do is register your iOS device on our account, once you register, you'll be able to download the beta firmware and install it on your device.

These sites clearly target eager Apple fanboys who get a taste of Apple's upcoming software at its WWDC announcements and have to have it on their device — we've all been there, I'm sure. But it isn't going to last for long.

Not only is Apple disabling unauthorized devices, but it's also disabling the developer accounts that register them. That means that these "registrars" will also feel the Cupertino company's unforgiving wrath. The original report from KarthikK.net explains what happens once Apple catches you:

Once Apple locks your iOS device, the phone will enter the initial setup mode asking you to connect to a WiFi network. And nothing happens more than that.

Apple effectively bricks your device and makes it completely unusable for daily use. It's unclear whether you'll be able to downgrade to iOS 4 to resurrect it again, or whether you'll have to wait for the final iOS 5 release this fall. It may be a good idea if you've used one of these sites, however, to downgrade now just in case.

Has your device been disabled by Apple yet?

[via AppleInsider, image courtesy of iDownloadBlog]