Some interesting hints on Apple’s website suggest that the iPhone 4S will be available unlocked in North America, saving you from having to sign a 2-year contract in order to get your hands on one.
The above image shows an informational link from Apple found by selecting an iPhone 4 from the Apple Online Store and then clicking the link titled “About the unlocked iPhone.” From the statement:
The unlocked iPhone includes all the features of iPhone but without a contract commitment. You can activate and use it on the supported GSM wireless network of your choice, such as AT&T in the United States. The unlocked iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S will not work with CDMA-based carriers such as Verizon Wireless or Sprint.
It’s important to note that the unlocked iPhone will only work on GSM carriers, and those using CDMA-based networks such as Sprint or Verizon will have to purchase a device locked to one of the two providers.
There is no official word on pricing or availability of unlocked models of the iPhone 4S, although I expect them to be available when Apple begins taking pre-orders on October 7th.