Good news for world travelers and the commitment phobic: Apple will sell the iPhone 4S unlocked in November. The bad news is that the unlocked iPhone won’t work on CDMA networks, which means Verizon and Sprint users are out of luck.
The unlocked, contract-free iPhone 4S costs $649 for a 16 GB model, $749 for 32 GB and $849 for 64 GB. Apple hasn’t announced an exact release date yet. The phone will arrive without a micro-SIM card, so buyers will have to take it to their carrier of choice for coverage.
Unlocked smartphones are ideal for users who spend lots of time abroad and would get fleeced by overseas calling and data rates. When out of the country, users can save lots of money by popping in a SIM card from a local wireless provider instead. Unlocked phones might also be comforting for people who don’t like to sign lengthy contracts with wireless carriers, but it’s an expensive privilege. Users can take an unlocked iPhone to T-Mobile as well, but it’ll only get 2G data speeds.
As Danny Sullivan notes, Verizon and Sprint users have little chance of getting around the restrictions that Apple and wireless carriers have put in place. Unlocked GSM iPhones can’t access CDMA networks, apparently because the capability has been disabled. And even if you buy a locked Verizon or Sprint iPhone, carriers are unlikely to unlock it for you. Turning those locked CDMA phones into world phones will require a global roaming package, which starts at $30 per month.
It seems like Apple is inching ever-closer to creating an iPhone that can move freely between any wireless carrier, inside or outside the country, but we’re not there yet.
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