Apple releases unlocked GSM iPhone in US

Apple has today updated its online store with a new unlocked version of the iPhone 4. Customers can order the phone in either black or white at a starting price of $649 for 16GB, with the option to upgrade to 32GB for $100 extra.

Currently, shipping estimates place the black version as arriving within 1-3 business days, whereas the white version will take slightly longer, at around 3-5 business days. Although the phone comes without a carrier lock, Apple notes that users will need to supply their own activated micro-SIM from their service provider. Micro-SIMs from the iPad 3G will not work.

The GSM version will work with mobile networks globally, making them ideal for frequent travellers. However, Apple notes that the company will not ship internationally, meaning that customers are at the mercy of the offerings in their local Apple stores. In the US, customers essentially have a choice between AT&T or T-Mobile in terms of GSM, but T-Mobile's 3G network is not supported with the iPhone 4.

The unlocked iPhone marks the end of AT&T's exclusivity, a process that began in February with the release of the Verizon iPhone. One of the iPhone's commonly cited complaints is the unreliability of AT&T. With the unlocked iPhone, the US has now joined the numerous other countries able to officially purchase an iPhone with no strings attached.

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Overall, I actually like my AT&T Apple IPhone 3GS better than my previous Verizon Wireless service, because AT&T still offers Unlimited Text Messages for $20.00 a month and they still have Early Upgrades for a $36.00 Activation Fee Penalty for Upgrading Early, Verizon Wireless got rid of both of those benefits recently, Just FYI.

Look at the price! still pricey. But if it was available from day one, Apple would have sold a lot more!

Innervisions33 said,
How is it that the iPhone, unlocked, costs more than both the iPad in it's Wifi only and Wifi/3G models??

Because the iPad has poor cameras, less ram I believe and in general has been manufactured to try and keep costs down. (not retina display for this very reason).

The iPhone (generally speaking) has higher quality harder because its the flagship mobile device for Apple, and it's all crammed into a smaller package. It's the same in the UK and anywhere else where they sell unlocked iPhone's, they 're more expensive than any of the iPad models.

Innervisions33 said,
How is it that the iPhone, unlocked, costs more than both the iPad in it's Wifi only and Wifi/3G models??

Because the iPad is not a phone?

Innervisions33 said,
How is it that the iPhone, unlocked, costs more than both the iPad in it's Wifi only and Wifi/3G models??

Because iSheep will pay the price without question, lest the Almighty Jobs will strike you down if you question his will...or pricing structure.

xpxp2002 said,

Because iSheep will pay the price without question, lest the Almighty Jobs will strike you down if you question his will...or pricing structure.

Just wondering, how much was the unlocked Nexus One new? Answer, $530. Unlocked phones cost a lot. I know this phone is more, but this is Apple so that is a given.

While I can see this being good for people who frequently travel outside the US (either for business or pleasure), I can't really see the point for the other 90%+ of Americans. There are only two major GSM carriers in the US (AT&T & T-Mobile), and it will only fully operate on one of them. There are plenty of smaller GSM carriers, but the majority of those won't let you use a phone that you didn't purchase from them (Net10 and Tracfone for sure, and likely many others as well).

roadwarrior said,
While I can see this being good for people who frequently travel outside the US (either for business or pleasure), I can't really see the point for the other 90%+ of Americans. There are only two major GSM carriers in the US (AT&T & T-Mobile), and it will only fully operate on one of them. There are plenty of smaller GSM carriers, but the majority of those won't let you use a phone that you didn't purchase from them (Net10 and Tracfone for sure, and likely many others as well).
Businesses that force customers to use their products and/or services in a certain way, as if they are dictating terms to the customer, die out sooner or later. AT&T/Verizon, Comcast/Time Warner, Microsoft/Google/Apple, etc. survive because the US business laws allow for monopolies to exist thereby allowing businesses to fix prices, force unfair terms and conditions on the customers, give customers little choice (2 is never enough), etc.

Finally they do this. I haven't bought any phones from the carriers in forever and I don't pay their prices either. Just use an MVNO of the big network to get their coverage and buy my phone that I like without their crap all over it and use away. This way i get the best of both worlds. The money i save per month easily pays off the phone in less than the 2yr contract!

EG - Choosing a Samsung Infuse on the wireless.att.net site:
A-phone for $199 + 2yr contract at $104.99/month+tax (900 minutes/unlimited SMS/2GB Data) = $2719 + tax for 2 yrs.

B-phone for $549 + 50/month (ulimited talk/sms - 100-1000MB/data)= $1749

So in that example i save almost $1,000 over 2yrs - STILL get the same coverage from AT&T & Still get the same phones they offer!!

SHoTTa35 said,

EG - Choosing a Samsung Infuse on the wireless.att.net site:
A-phone for $199 + 2yr contract at $104.99/month+tax (900 minutes/unlimited SMS/2GB Data) = $2719 + tax for 2 yrs.

B-phone for $549 + 50/month (ulimited talk/sms - 100-1000MB/data)= $1749

So in that example i save almost $1,000 over 2yrs - STILL get the same coverage from AT&T & Still get the same phones they offer!!

I guess with the iPhone, 1000MB/1GB is not a lot.

ccoltmanm said,

I guess with the iPhone, 1000MB/1GB is not a lot.

True, it depends however as i'm in WIFI at work all day long and then i'm home. Bars/Malls around here all have wifi also so i'm generally covered plus the fact that they are AT&T phones I can get on at any AT&T wifi hotspot automatically. Plus my ISP offers wifi hotspots to which i registered the phones MAC address so it automatically logs on too as well.

RangerLG said,
Does anyone know if this is in the retail stores as well or online?

Just to answer my own question, the retail stores do have them and are selling them today.

"However, Apple notes that the company will not ship internationally"
No, why would they, in the rest of the world we can get it from just about any carrier we want, just like most other phones and that is without any stupid carrier branding (at least for smartphones)

Leonick said,
"However, Apple notes that the company will not ship internationally"
No, why would they, in the rest of the world we can get it from just about any carrier we want, just like most other phones and that is without any stupid carrier branding (at least for smartphones)

Not in India. To purchase an iPhone 4 you have to sign a contract with Aircel or Airtel (service providers).

This is definitely a great move. Hopefully they'll sell unlocked 4S/5 right after it is launched. I'll be sure to import one.

Its useless. You may as well do contract and get it for 199.99 or 299.99.

And unlocked GSM phone will still only fully work on ATT. You can't use T-Mobile 3G unless you jailbreak it and apply the patch which the vast majority won't know how to do even with the simplesr of instructions.

Even if Apple then sells the CDMA version unlocked, it can;t be activated accept on Verzion. Even tho Sprint and criket both use CDMA, the bands are different and they can't activate an iPhone onto their networks. So this is really pointless to say the least.

So their really is no benefit unless you go buy your own prepaied microSIM to drop in it. And many of them only offer talk time only with no data.

So in reality it really isn't an unlocked phone.

TechieXP said,
Its useless. You may as well do contract and get it for 199.99 or 299.99.

And unlocked GSM phone will still only fully work on ATT. You can't use T-Mobile 3G unless you jailbreak it and apply the patch which the vast majority won't know how to do even with the simplesr of instructions.

Even if Apple then sells the CDMA version unlocked, it can;t be activated accept on Verzion. Even tho Sprint and criket both use CDMA, the bands are different and they can't activate an iPhone onto their networks. So this is really pointless to say the least.

So their really is no benefit unless you go buy your own prepaied microSIM to drop in it. And many of them only offer talk time only with no data.

So in reality it really isn't an unlocked phone.


Usually things are cheaper if you just buy the device and then get a SIM-only plan.

Take Belgium for example. Over here you don't get a phone with your plan, you just pay the normal price, every time. But on the other hand, for €15/month (21$) we do get 2GB of data (with tethering and everything), 1h calls to all networks and 2000 texts to all networks. And that's on a carrier with full HSPA in bigger cities, and nationwide EDGE.

In the end, you always pay less if you go SIM-only. Carriers might subsidize, but the huge amount of money you spend on your plan is a lot more than what you save on your phone.

TechieXP said,

Even if Apple then sells the CDMA version unlocked, it can;t be activated accept on Verzion. Even tho Sprint and criket both use CDMA, the bands are different and they can't activate an iPhone onto their networks. So this is really pointless to say the least.
That's exactly why CDMA is not as popular as GSM service providers. GSM is worldwide and the phone will work everywhere, especially because the phone is Quad band and the phone uses the standard protocols for data. So that makes your point about uselessness, moot.

TechieXP said,
And unlocked GSM phone will still only fully work on ATT. You can't use T-Mobile 3G unless you jailbreak it and apply the patch which the vast majority won't know how to do even with the simplesr of instructions.

I'm pretty sure you can't use it on T-Mobile's 3G at all....

andrewbares said,

I'm pretty sure you can't use it on T-Mobile's 3G at all....

You should be able to enter the APN for T-Mobile, but you will only get EDGE speeds. I'm wondering if Facetime will work.

RangerLG said,

You should be able to enter the APN for T-Mobile, but you will only get EDGE speeds. I'm wondering if Facetime will work.

Not sure about this specific one sold by Apple in the US but years ago I bought an iPhone 3 SIM free, as all my phones, in Europe and when I came back in the US I just inserted my T-Mobile SIM and the device automatically picked up all the necessary settings.
Out of curiosity I tried also my wife's AT&T SIM and not only the phone got automatically setup I was also able to use MMS, something that for a long time was not available on the devices (locked ones) sold by AT&T....

Fritzly said,

Not sure about this specific one sold by Apple in the US but years ago I bought an iPhone 3 SIM free, as all my phones, in Europe and when I came back in the US I just inserted my T-Mobile SIM and the device automatically picked up all the necessary settings.
Out of curiosity I tried also my wife's AT&T SIM and not only the phone got automatically setup I was also able to use MMS, something that for a long time was not available on the devices (locked ones) sold by AT&T....

When I put in the SIM last night, I was immediately on EDGE even though the phone had no APN settings, but MMS does not work and I have not been able to get it to work. Everything I am reading says the phone has to be Jailbroken to use MMS on T-Mobile.

Pam14160 said,
$600+ for a phone; why?

Paying the actual cost of the hardware. No subsidies. Rights to use it anywhere you want in the world. Rights to use it on any carrier you'd like on any plan you'd like. Your phone is no longer a brick should you choose to change carriers. Must I go on?

Pam14160 said,
$600+ for a phone; why?
It's got $0 subsidy from carriers. That's why.

Why would people buy it? It's a choice which people in other countries enjoy. It's useful if you want to give your phone to friends or family in a foreign country. It works on other carriers. No contracts. Just a few advantages that a minority enjoy.

People have allowed the country to be owned by 2 monopolistic carriers - AT&T and Verizon. It's not a surprise that you think it's not worth it.

Edited by Jebadiah, Jun 14 2011, 2:57pm :

Deihmos said,

It has the Apple logo that's why. The sad thing is people will buy it.

Well it's what you have to pay for a good smartphone. All good android phones cost about the same if you don't get them with a contract which is a lot more common in europe where I live.

Have you seen the cost of unsubsidized phones? They're expensive for a reason. You're not grandfathered into any contract, you can stop any time. Subsidized phones are cheap because contracts allow them to rape the money from you.

Menge said,
Your phone is no longer a brick should you choose to change carriers.
Incorrect, this is only GSM, if you switch to CDMA, you'd need a new phone.

Pam14160 said,
$600+ for a phone; why?

No contract and unlocked for any GSM carrier. If you went in to buy another GSM phone without contract, you will pay similar prices.

Deihmos said,

It has the Apple logo that's why. The sad thing is people will buy it.
Apple logo has nothing to do with it, I paid $629 the day the Nexus One came out .. and no Apple Logo was there

Pam14160 said,
$600+ for a phone; why?

Hm, because in 2011, a "phone" emcompasses several new devices that can do more than just making calls. Comparing an iPhone to an old-fashioned phone is just SO dumb.

Menge said,

Paying the actual cost of the hardware. No subsidies. Rights to use it anywhere you want in the world. Rights to use it on any carrier you'd like on any plan you'd like. Your phone is no longer a brick should you choose to change carriers. Must I go on?
Lol @ thinking the hardware costs even remotely that much. It's ignorance like this that has allowed apple to blatantly rip people off by charging 2-3x(or more than 3x in this case) what a product is worth for so many years.

Blackhearted said,
Lol @ thinking the hardware costs even remotely that much. It's ignorance like this that has allowed apple to blatantly rip people off by charging 2-3x(or more than 3x in this case) what a product is worth for so many years.

I do not know what is the source of your information but you are dead wrong; SIM free smartphones cost between $500 and $700. Why pay such amount of money? Because carriers will not hold you by the balls, they will have to improve the quality of the services offered and push to keep customers.
Unfortunately the US market is a big racket and keeping customers in a state of ignorance is very helpful in mantaining the staus quo.

Stewart Gilligan Griffin said,
took them long enough, now you can use it on T-mobile..... until the merger then just AT&T again </joke>

Don't forget....EDGE data speeds only. The merger will actually help this.