The group of hackers behind the AppSnapp application released this week claim that the tool has been downloaded over 140,000 times since the weekend.

Unlike other applications designed to get the phone to make calls on networks other than the partner carrier, AppSnapp is a ‘jailbreak’ tool, which allows users to run third party applications natively on the Apple iPhone.

To date, iPhone developers have only been able to run web-based applications on the device, promoting much activity from the hacker community. All this is set to change next year when Apple releases an SDK allowing native third party applications on the iPhone.

The SDK is expected to be in developers’ hands in February.

But it looks like there’s a considerable community that just can’t wait to write apps for the iPhone. Apple recently revealed that it has sold 1.4 million units to date, which suggests that at least 10 per cent of those device owners were interested enough to download AppSnapp, even if they didn’t all install it.

Apple recently established an iPhone development centre to help drive legitimate development of applications. At present, the centre only supports widgets, or web apps, but this is expected to change ahead of the February news.

There are 268 applications presently available on the iPhone Dev Centre site.