Apple has just updated the US online store making the GSM iPhone 4 available as a carrier-unlocked option. Free at last!
As stated on the Apple Store:
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. It arrives without a micro-SIM card, so you’ll need an active micro-SIM card from any supported GSM carrier worldwide.
The unlocked iPhone 4 starts at $649 for the 16GB model and is available in either black or white. The 32GB model will set you back an additional $100. The black models are shipping in 1-3 business days while a white model will take 3-5 days. Apple is still recommending AT&T as a US carrier since the iPhone 4 is incompatible with T-Mobile USA’s 3G network. The iPhone 4 will work on T-Mobile but data speeds will be crippled on their ancient EDGE network. At this time, an unlocked CDMA (Verizon) model is not available.
This is a big win for consumers, despite being effectively limited to AT&T’s network in the US. When traveling abroad, US iPhone users will now be able to break the chains of expensive international roaming charges by simply visiting the local corner shop for a prepaid micro SIM card. Not only that, but it finally puts the consumer in charge by allowing freedom from an expensive contract, usually 24 months on AT&T. The price of freedom is a $450 premium over the $199 contract price – a sum I will happily pay.