Yesterday, Apple released unlocked iPhones across the US, marking an important chapter for the device – one in which the consumer needn’t feel cornered to use their iPhone. While it may see trivial at first, especially considering the high asking price, here’s why it’s important:
In the beginning, as we all know, users were required to pay homage to AT&T in order to purchase and use an iPhone – contracts were mandatory, no unsubsidized pricing was offered, and they were the only iPhone carrier in town. This irritated many consumers, as they had to choose between using the phone of their choice or the network of their choice.
AT&T swiftly proved that they were not the best option for consumers, being slow to release and support new features, frequent problems with voice and data reception, comparatively slow data speeds, and poor customer service.
When the iPhone came to Verizon, it helped to ease some of those burdens, offering another option that, while better for some users, failed to support all of the features of the iPhone, such as simultaneous voice and data. Further, the Verizon iPhone has had delays with software updates. This meant that now, both major carriers offered the iPhone, but there were unique problems with each.
To add to the matter, Verizon and AT&T are both giants of companies, meaning that fast and reliable telephone support and friendly, customer-centric service aren’t necessarily at the top of their lists of priorities. Plus, both companies are relatively expensive.
Now, with the release of the unlocked iPhone, despite its cost ($649/$749), users can now choose to use the iPhone on almost any network of their choosing, whether it be the lower-priced networks, such as T-Mobile, or the more feature-laden, yet more expensive and “corporate” AT&T. Currently, users can only choose between GSM-based carries, but that’s something I expect to see change soon,
Whether or not the new networks that consumers can choose are a better option or not (this is debatable), the important aspect of the situation is that consumers can now freely choose for themselves whether or not they want a contract, and which carrier they’d like to use their device on.
In addition, offering more carrier choices makes the iPhone a better choice for business users, especially those that travel internationally, as they can get temporary plans in their country of destination, avoiding often hideous voice and data charges.
While it’s sometimes been possible to unlock an iPhone via unauthorized methods, such as through jailbreak, or various shady SIM or hardware-based methods, these each come with risks, expense, complications, and potential problems – now that an official solution is available, concerned customers can rest more easily.
In the end, supporting customer choice is important, and companies should always be reinforced for taking pro-consumer moves. What are your thoughts on this? As always, we encourage you to sound off in the comments.