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Iphone Apple

Unlocked iPhones in US For $649 334

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the it's-about-time dept.
Endoflow2010 writes "Apple on Tuesday started selling an unlocked version of its iPhone 4, starting at $649. A 16GB unlocked iPhone 4 will set you back $649, while a 32GB version is selling for $749. Both are available in black or white; the black will ship within one to three business days, while the white is available in three to five days, according to the Apple Web site. The benefit of an unlocked phone is that you are not locked into a two-year contract with a particular provider. But it also means that you don't get the subsidized pricing provided by someone like AT&T or Verizon. The same phones with a contract cost $199 and $299."
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Unlocked iPhones in US For $649

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  • by recoiledsnake (879048) on Tuesday June 14, 2011 @03:12PM (#36439930)

    The data plan will cost the same as buying it on a contract. Only TMobile gives a $10 discount. The govt should make this practice illegal like it's done in the EU.

    • The data plan will cost the same as buying it on a contract. Only TMobile gives a $10 discount. The govt should make this practice illegal like it's done in the EU.

      Exactly, except that I don't think an iPhone will work on T-Mobile's network (or Sprint's).

      • by DdJ (10790) on Tuesday June 14, 2011 @03:27PM (#36440132) Homepage Journal

        It will work on T-Mobile's network since both are GSM phones. But since T-Mobile uses a different technology for 3G speeds, it will only work at Edge (2G) networking speeds. But for many people that will be fine.

        It will not work on Sprint's network because only GSM phones are being sold unlocked, and Sprint uses a CDMA network, like Verizon. (But there is every chance that next year a dual-mode phone will exist instead of two different single-mode phones, and an unlocked version of that could well work on Sprint.)

        • by Andy Dodd (701) <atd7@@@cornell...edu> on Tuesday June 14, 2011 @03:32PM (#36440244) Homepage

          Small correction: Same technology, different frequency band.

          Since it doesn't support T-Mo's 3G bands, there's not much point to it unless you'll be doing a lot of international travel. If it's only going to be fully functional on AT&T, you may as well go for the contract, since you won't be saving any money on service.

          • Small correction: Same technology, different frequency band.

            Since it doesn't support T-Mo's 3G bands, there's not much point to it unless you'll be doing a lot of international travel. If it's only going to be fully functional on AT&T, you may as well go for the contract, since you won't be saving any money on service.

            I have an unlocked iPhone 4, on T-Mobile's US service.

            Edge is slow, but it's very reliable and doesn't use much power. Sure, I'd like to have 3G speed but I guess I'm not really missing it much since most everything works acceptably on Edge (no Youtube, but again I don't think I'm missing much there). I have had other 3G phones, and and I have a 3G iPad on AT&T, so it's not like I don't know the difference. The lower monthly cost and better customer service from T-Mobile outweighs the speed deficit f

    • by timeOday (582209)
      I wonder why Apple is offering this if no carrier has an appropriate pricing plan to support it? This is like paying cash for a car and STILL making a payment on it every month. Why?
      • by Microlith (54737)

        To make a point, I suppose? I bought my N900 outright even though AT&T doesn't give discounts, mostly because there was no chance in hell that any US carrier would make it available.

        • by timeOday (582209)
          So in your case there was a perfectly good reason. Likewise, could I use my unlocked iPhone with, say, tracfone?
      • by node 3 (115640) on Tuesday June 14, 2011 @03:49PM (#36440450)

        I wonder why Apple is offering this if no carrier has an appropriate pricing plan to support it? This is like paying cash for a car and STILL making a payment on it every month. Why?

        The short answer is: because people want it.

        (it's funny, people bitch about phones being carrier-locked, then act confused when a phone is offered without a carrier-lock)

        The longer answer is:

        - So you don't have to enter a 2 year contract.
        - For use overseas, being able to buy a local SIM instead of paying AT&T's high international roaming rates
        - It makes the iPhone more readily available in countries and on carriers which it's not currently sold on

        Which is to say, because people want it.

        • by timeOday (582209)
          The example of an international user does seem to make sense.

          If nothing else, maybe Apple's entry into prepaid phones for such a popular model will create market forces for the carriers to offer more attractive "bring your own phone" plans. I really hate this forced "rent-to-own" model. I wouldn't buy a TV or couch that way, and I don't want to buy a phone that way.

        • by Mousit (646085)
          Another piece of the answer is: pre-pay and pay-as-you-go plans.

          AT&T is well-known to use a database of IMEI numbers to detect iPhones and other smartphones, so that it can force them onto specific plans and to require the addition of expensive data packages. This also includes entirely rejecting detected smartphones straight off of pre-pay plans and requiring them to go post-pay only, though they just this past April finally added a pre-pay smartphone plan (however, only a single AT&T-branded sm
      • I wonder why Apple is offering this if no carrier has an appropriate pricing plan to support it? This is like paying cash for a car and STILL making a payment on it every month. Why?

        For travelers who want to use their iPhone internationally this makes it a lot easier than before (assuming you can get micro-SIMS easily). Instead of having to carry two phones when you travel one will do.

        To those who say: Jailbreak/unlock!1 yes - but with this you are not at the mercy of the cat and mouse game between Apple an the jailbreakers.

        Know, if there was a way to copy the needed software to create an "officially" unlocked iPhone, using this phones software, from carrier locked ones life would real

        • by tlhIngan (30335) <<ten.frow> <ta> <todhsals>> on Tuesday June 14, 2011 @04:45PM (#36441472)

          Know, if there was a way to copy the needed software to create an "officially" unlocked iPhone, using this phones software, from carrier locked ones life would really be good. Better yet, let this be a prelude for ATT to being able to unlock subsidized iPhones.

          It's interesting actually.

          Every iPhone4 is manufactured the same (I'm talking GSM ones, not counting the Verizon/CDMA ones). They're loaded with software and shipped out to Apple. Every serial number issued is recorded.

          What happens when you buy an iPhone4 is this. For carrier sold phones, Apple records the serial numbers of every phone they ship out, and in their database it's marked as "Carrier locked". For phones sold at the Apple store, if you pay for a contract-free one, it's marked in the database as "unlocked", else if you buy it carrier locked/subsidized, it's marked as "carrier locked" as well. The baseband at this time only has the iMEI and nothing else.

          Now, the next step is important, and it doesn't matter if it's done by the carrier in store or by you. The phone is plugged into the PC and it talks with iTunes. The phone queries the baseband and asks it what the carrier ID of the SIM that's inside is. It passes this information to iTunes along with its serial number, which contacts Apple and Apple looks into the database to see what phone it is.

          If it's an unlocked phone, Apple ignores the carrier ID, and passes back a baseband configuration blob that basically keeps it unlocked. If it's a locked phone, it takes that carrier ID and produces a baseband configuration that locks the baseband to that carrier ID.

          Note that the only time the phone knows it's locked is during the initial "Connect to iTunes" phase, which is why you must have a SIM inside for it (iTunes complains if there's no SIM). Subsequent times (during a restore, say), having a SIM inside it doesn't matter.

          This also means that the carrier locking only happens during this period as well. You can buy a phone from AT&T, stick in say a Rogers SIM card, connect it to iTunes, and you'll have a phone locked to Rogers instead of AT&T.

          These blobs are probably signed by Apple to ensure that replay attacks aren't possible, and are keyed to IMEI.

          This may mean that right now, it's not possible to re-configure the baseband with a new blob. I expect iOS 5 to allow this capability though with a new baseband firmware. The use of iCloud would mean a user would purchase the unlock option, then restore their phone - iCloud backs up the data, the phone erases user data and restores itself to default, then the user set up begins while it fetches a new configuration blob. iCloud then restores the phone.

      • It's a dev's model I'm guessing. Want to dig around the internals, use it on a local network or the like? It's a very useful lightweight computer in its own right, paying $600+ to be free of a contract could be worth it in the long run if you don't need it for the phone component. Yes, of course you could just buy an iPod touch for that, but I'm betting there's at least a few people who have a practical/financial use for this, even at that initial cost.
    • by poetmatt (793785)

      Forget that, the government should make it illegal to charge a premium to have an unlocked phone. In the US, the average smartphone is $500 unlocked. Apple wants it even higher? Fuck that. The cost of these phones is nowhere near reality, considering that subsidized on contract is essentially not even half.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by ArsonSmith (13997)

        Screw that, the government should just provide everyone with smartphones. Why should I have to pay greedy profit driven corporations in order to have the basic right of communications. They should nationalize the wireless carriers and offer subsidized phones for all at reasonable prices. Or even free to the disadvantaged. Screw the profits of the fat cat money leaches.

    • Depends on what they cost, of course. Are they a lot more expensive in the US than in Finland? Here's what I found on a local operator's page:

      Mobiililaajakaista Mini 0,5 Mbit/s 4,90 eur/month
      Mobiililaajakaista Perus 1 Mbit/s eur/month
      Mobiililaajakaista Nopsa Up to 15 Mbit/s 13,90 eur/month

      No monthly limits, if that matters.
    • by mspohr (589790) on Tuesday June 14, 2011 @04:13PM (#36440856)
      You can use this phone with an ATT 'pay as you go' plan. You can get calls for 10 cents a minute and buy data ($15 for 100 MB $25 for 500 MB). No contract required.

      http://www.wireless.att.com/cell-phone-service/cell-phone-plans/pyg-cell-phone-plans.jsp [att.com]

      I don't use the phone part much so my calls are only a few dollars a month. I only use data for email and web browsing so use less than 100 MB a month.

      My cost is usually about $20 a month.

      • 10 cents a minute is pretty good. but those data rates are insanely expensive. If you used an iPhone the way a typical geek does, the data plan will cost a fortune.

    • by Altus (1034)

      What practice is that exactly? I'm not quite clear what you want changed (though I agree, unlocked phones don't make much sense in the US give the plan structures)

    • by Abreu (173023)

      In some countries (like here in Mexico), if you want an iPhone 4* this means paying $600.00usd up front and then signing a $50usd monthly plan for 12 months.

      Fail to see the advantage here.

      *Similar, if slightly cheaper upfront charges apply if you want a DroidX or a Samsung GalaxyS

  • by yossie (93792) on Tuesday June 14, 2011 @03:12PM (#36439938)

    So, knowing better than to waste my time, I called AT&T today and, as expected, "Apple still doesn't allow us to unlock iPhones." Anyone have a clue if this policy is ever going away?

    • by sehgalanuj (2057492) on Tuesday June 14, 2011 @03:22PM (#36440056)

      Apple not allowing unlocking is a load of nonsense. All across the world there are multiple careers who offer unlocking of iPhones, so obviously Apple is not the culprit, but rather AT&T is. There are some countries where multiple careers offer iPhones and in these places you will find iPhones unlockable through a particular service provider, while another tries to lock you in by not offering that service.

      Here in Germany, I had T-Mobile unlock all my iPhones thus far after the contract expires or is terminated. It is nothing but the absolute greed of AT&T that stops them from asking Apple for unlocks.

      Apple has nothing to lose with a carrier asking them to unlock an iPhone. The carrier, AT&T, does. Do your own math on who is more likely to be responsible.

      • AT&T is actually not bad about unlocking phones. They do all their other phones after (IIRC) 6 months in good standing.

        But it is on them to tell Apple to unlock, not the other way around. As I understand it, the iPhone asks the Apple server on activation whether it should be locked or not - but AT&T can tell Apple to change the flag and they'll do it, based on the fact that, well, they do in other countries.

        So it's very weird.

      • by realityimpaired (1668397) on Tuesday June 14, 2011 @03:29PM (#36440174)

        There are some countries where you can buy an unlocked iPhone by buying it directly from Apple instead of from a carrier.... Canada is one of them, and the Canadian version most definitely will work with ATT (since it works on Telus, Bell, and Rogers, who all use the same technology and frequencies as ATT).... of course, I ended up buying an LG phone for half the price with more features. :)

        • by jonbryce (703250)

          The only possible difference between the Canadian iPhone and the AT&T iphone is the language and locale settings. In all other respects, every iPhone except the Verizon one is the same hardware all over the world.

      • by drb226 (1938360)
        Strong agree. Apple has everything to gain by allowing iPhones to be unlocked: it makes their product more attractive. "Apple doesn't allow us" is pure BS.
      • I'm not sure I understand what the advantage to unlocking a US-based iPhone is. The only GSM providers are AT&T and T-mobile, right? And isn't T-mobile on a different frequency band or something. So you unlock your phone, and your choices are... AT&T. I guess I could see it if you were doing a lot of international travel, but for those of us primarily staying in the US, I don't see the appeal. Or do I have the technical details wrong?
        • by node 3 (115640)

          International travel, increased resale value, and the ability to switch over to a prepaid plan/carrier if you want. There are plenty of reasons to want an unlocked iPhone. The real question is, why *wouldn't* you want your iPhone unlocked by AT&T, given the choice?

          • Ok, like I said, I understand if you do international travel. Still not understanding the other two - why would you pay more for an unlocked used phone, when an unlocked phone still can only connect to AT&T? Not to mention that unlocking it yourself really isn't that hard. And what prepaid plan/carriers? Isn't it AT&T with a standard plan or nothing? So, to answer your final question, it's not so much that I *wouldn't* want it, it's just that I don't actually WANT it enough to do anything about it,
    • by jo_ham (604554)

      Nonsense - my carrier (ie, not in the US) will quite happily unlock an iPhone. That Apple would prevent it is just not accurate, unless they have some strange carrier-specific terms in the US. Given that it was AT&T doing the strong arming in that initial contract, perhaps that is the case. I get the sense that if they told you that it was down to Apple, their collective nose is now growing.

    • by MoonBuggy (611105)

      Par for the course - electronics in the UK have always been overpriced (the 20% VAT included in the UK figures does make up some of the disparity, but not all of it). If anyone cares, the ex-VAT prices are $696 [google.com] and $835 [google.com].

      What I find much more interesting is that they're charging an extra £100 (or $100, as it happens) for 16GB more of flash. Even a fast microSD card will set you back less than a third of that as a standalone retail product, so the extra profit Apple must be making on the high-capacity m

      • by MoonBuggy (611105)

        Also, as I mentioned a little further down, the profits on any iPhone must be fairly absurd to begin with, since it's really just an iPod touch with a $50 3G chipset and a couple of minor software tweaks, yet it retails at a $450 premium on the 32GB model (a total of 2.5 times the $299 retail price of the iPod).

    • This is about $100-$150 cheaper than equivalent iphone here in Egypt.
  • Most of the "subsidized price" discount is never directly paid but instead offered as a small take on the monthly contract. Apple sees this as a way to get a more direct cash flow bonus while letting those willing to buy them take their chances getting them hooked up to AT&T or Verizon since I'm fairly sure the GSM antenna doesn't support T-Mobile's frequency though I may be wrong. All this really points to is that Apple is definitively a manufacturer and wishes to remain that way.

    • since I'm fairly sure the GSM antenna doesn't support T-Mobile's frequency though I may be wrong. All this really points to is that Apple is definitively a manufacturer and wishes to remain that way.

      I believe the AT&T iPhone supports the T-Mobile edge frequencies... just not the 3G frequencies.

      So you can get a signal and make calls, but forget about doing anything data-related without WiFi unless you're really patient.

      The same thing with the old Nexus One (in reverse) made for T-Mobile. You could put it on AT&T network but data was limited to edge.

      • It's just like being on an old dialup line, except that back when we all used dialup, websites weren't the MB/page fat-asses they are today.

  • So will AT&T unlock our iPhones like thry do ther phones. I think the reason they had is now gone.

  • From TFA:

    "Get all the features of iPhone 4—FaceTime video calling, Retina display, HD video recording, and more—in a phone that you can activate and use on the supported GSM wireless carrier of your choice, such as AT&T in the United States," Apple said in a note. "If you don't want a multiyear service contract or if you prefer to use a local carrier when traveling abroad, the unlocked iPhone 4 is the best choice."

    So as an American, you either need to be someone who wants to spend $649 on a smartphone but intends to use it for less than 2 years (perhaps, planning on moving to the moon?) or you need to be someone who is so frequently overseas that you have your own overseas SIM and would like to be able to switch between networks with ease. How many people is that? Any hands in the slashdot crowd?

    • by jo_ham (604554)

      Well they can't win, can they? Everyone is yelling at them for having a locked phone, then they release an unlocked one in the US (in the rest of the world this is a non-story - welcome to the 21st century USA) and now a large portion of this thread is talking about how no one would possibly want that.

    • by node 3 (115640)

      Why the chorus of slashdot nerds decrying choice? Isn't "choice" the battle cry around here?

      Oh, it's Apple that's offering choice? Well, that changes everything!

    • by mlts (1038732) *

      I'm not that worried about the cost for an unlocked phone. Why? The secondary market. If I keep the iPhone in a case and have it in good condition, an unlocked phone will be easily worth $500-600 on eBay. Some auctions get so crazy that people actually may pay for more than what the phone is worth, although one has to be careful because of potential cheats [1]. So, if I sell my iPhone 4 after picking up the next gen, I'm really not out $600... but out $100-$200.

      [1]: It is an old trick for scammers to

  • Considering that you can buy a 32GB ipod touch for $300, an extra $450 to add phone functionality seems really steep. But they're looking to maximize their profits, so I guess they figure that someone will pay it.

    • by node 3 (115640)

      That's already what they charge. We just haven't been directly exposed to that price here in the US. And the iPhone is much more than just an iPod touch with a cell phone.

    • by samkass (174571)

      It's also got GPS, a much better camera, and an IPS screen. And antennae and 3G chips aren't free in either component or integration costs. But really, yeah, it's the value (not cost) of the phone that increases the price the most.

  • I bought unlocked iphones for wife and I because she doesn't want a data plan or caller-ID, and I don't want things like voice mail, call waiting, visual voice mail, etc etc... So we pick and choose our features instead of being tied to our providers' "iphone plan"... Our total monthly bill is about half what it would be if we went on-contract for a subsidized phone... Over 3 years (minimum contract period for an iphone here in Canada), we save far far more than the difference between the subsidized and ful

  • I am kind of amazed that Apple's U.S. enterprise/corporate customers have put up with locked phones for so long. I remember some previous models were available unlocked (or at least contractless -- I forget the details). But the majority of the iPhone timeline these phones have required a contract and a phone number. I have worked for two different iOS dev shops, and in each case it was either a complete PITA to get devices, or the devs/qa just used their personal devices because there was no other effec
  • I don't make a lot of calls, so I'm on a pay-as-you-go plan. This means - without hacking, anyway - my only smartphone option is an Android phone.

    Now I've used iOS in the past (iPod Touch), and now that I've used Android for a while... frankly if I could get a reasonably priced (and supported on prepaid) iPhone I'd drop Android in a minute - but this price is ludicrous. I realize it's not top-end hardware, but my LG Thrive cost me $149.99 - that's with no contract! LG has managed to make a decent touchscree

  • Nothing new here. You've been able to buy it directly from Apple at full price all along, and actually those prices are a little cheaper then when I did the comparison about 1.5 years ago when I bought my Nexus One - then the 32GB version was a whopping $799. Apple still makes you get a contract though - probably part of their data plan agreements, one of the reasons I didn't go for it (not to mention that aside from the SDD drive size, dual camera, and a few mm in dimensions, even the Nexus One is superior
  • I don't care that much about having an unlocked phone. I mostly want an unsubsidized phone. I'd like to buy a phone without the subsidy and then get a lower rate as a result, so that if I continue to use the phone after two years, I'm not continuing to pay the subsidy. The way it's set up now, you're wasting money with every monthly bill if you don't go buy a new phone as soon as you're able to.

  • I know where I'll be buying my next iPhone. Over here the pricing is as follows:

    16GB = $949 NZD 32GB = $1129 NZD

    Direct conversion USD -> NZD

    16GB = $793 NZD 32GB = $915 NZD

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