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An Unlocked iPhone Will Be Great for US Consumers

An Unlocked iPhone Will Be Great for US Consumers
Jailbroken US iPhone on Irish network Vodafone

Earlier we reported on a rumor that Apple will be selling unlocked iPhone 4 models in the US beginning this Wednesday. If this rumor is to be believed, especially in light of @ChronicWire backtracking on his information, it would be a welcome relief to US iPhone users who have been locked to AT&T as a carrier, even after fulfilling contractual agreements.

I have owned two iPhones that were purchased legitimately from AT&T, who has refused to unlock them after fulfilling my obligations with them. I have resorted to jailbreaking, not to use Cydia apps, but simply to be able to use my iPhone on Irish carriers while I live here. Unfortunately, this decreases my phone’s stability and security and is the only feasible solution I have for the device that I legitimately own outright. Clearly this is a flawed, anti-consumer, anti-competitive system.

There is speculation that AT&T has agreed to the practice of selling unlocked phones in order to appease regulators for the pending merger with T-Mobile USA. That carrier uses GSM that is on a different band, which does not support 3G data for iPhone 4 in its current form. It is reasonable to believe Apple would update the GSM chip to be compatible with T-Mobile’s network, if not on this rumored update for Wednesday but certainly in the 5th generation model coming this fall. It’s no secret Apple likes to piss off carriers, see iMessage, so let’s hope this rumor proves to be true.

Not only would an unlocked iPhone give consumers more freedom from carriers, but it would have the positive side effect of allowing US users traveling abroad to pop in a local SIM from each country they visit. Purchasing a prepaid SIM in Europe is about as simple and cheap as buying a few Snickers bars. Roaming in Europe on an AT&T SIM is about as painful as having a wisdom tooth removed.

For example, AT&T international roaming charges are $1.39 per minute, $.50 per text and $.02 per KB of data used. Yes, that’s kilobyte, not megabyte. Ouch. In Ireland, you can buy a prepaid SIM for €10 which gives you that amount in call credit, effectively making the SIM free. Vodafone Ireland prepaid SIM plans are €.99 per day for 50MB of data, €.13 for sent SMS, and €.29 per outgoing minute with no charge for incoming calls or texts. These rates and simplified buying process are very typical for most European carriers.

US iPhone users: welcome to the way the rest of the world works.