back to article T-Mobile unlocks iPhone, charges €999

Want an unlocked iPhone? Go to Germany. T-Mobile today said it would sell Apple's handset without a contract for a whopping €999 ($1481/£720). It also said it will unlock already-purchased iPhones. The network's move was prompted by Vodafone's success in the German court. The cellco claimed T-Mobile's exclusive iPhone sales …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    If officially unlocked, then it's open season for free hacks

    If this is supported by apple and not bricked by future firmware updates (surely a necessity), then it can't be long before the unlockers find out how it's done and make all unlocked iPhones appear to be unlocked t-mobile ones. There will not be a new hardware revision (too expensive) - at worst it'll be something reflashed which you need a special cable for.

    Hello unlocked iPhone, goodbye apple contract backhanders.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    A very welcome development. Sure, it's too expensive when unlocked. But it is also too expensive when locked. The good thing is that once generation two hits, which will most likely eliminate some of the more blatant shortcomings, we will not have to worry about all the friggin' lock-in, un-lock, and whatnot. We'll just decide whether it's worth 1K that time around. Also, nice to see "American Business Practice" shattered. Next thing you know they would want you to pay upon being called. No sir.

  3. andy rock
    Jobs Horns

    "not all of the device's functions will work afterwards"

    bargain! where do i sign up?!

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    Good News!

    The good news is that the dev teams will be able to use this unlock to their advantage, as so far the UK iPhone (with the later baseband) cannot yet be made SIM free.

    On another note, please can everyone bare in mind that you get airtime, minutes, texts, edge/gprs data and access to The Cloud when mentioning the total cost of ownership of the iPhone and Contract? Yes, the unlocked German iPhone might cost 500 euros less than a locked one with contract, but what do you get with that? An iPhone, a dock, a USB cable, a Wall Wart and a cleaning cloth... No minutes, no texts, no data etc! Add a decent contract for 18 months (SIM Only, rolling monthly contract with some data) and you're looking at £450 quid on top anyway.

    I'm not sticking up for the iPhone contracts (although if they weren't 18 month deals, they aren't actually /too/ bad when you break them down) and I have an unlocked US iPhone on UK T-Mobile myself, but please try to remember what you get in the package.

  5. Big_Boomer Silver badge
    Jobs Horns

    Bend over

    I laugh heartily at all the iFans as they gracefully (they are arty-farty types after all) bend over and let Saint Jobs royally ream then whilst stealing their wallets.

    From now on whenever I see an iPhone I shall point, laugh, and shout "Sucker".

    But then FruitMachine addicts have always paid over the odds for their "designer" goods. What is REALLY sad is that some of them actually think that buying that designer tat will make them a better person or more desirable. <LOL>

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    Why Bother?

    It's a second rate piece of crap. Being able to change the software doesn't make up for the lack of decent hardware.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    How much?

    "Orange hasn't said how much it will charge for an unlocked iPhone."

    Hmm. What's the bet they also go for €999? Or will France Telecom decide to drop the price to lure cross-border buyers from a market they haven't yet penetrated (so to speak)?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What a mess!

    Apple may make a fashion phone, an expensive phone, but boy they really don't seem to have done their homework on the commercial side. Didn't they know that in Germany you can't sell phones exclsuively on one network? And in the UK, you have to run around searching for EDGE or a CLOUD and you think you can charge customers premium prices for this benefit!

  9. gautam
    Thumb Down

    What next then?

    So Vodafone have done it & t-mobile got its own back by bumping up the price. So does it mean Vodafone will offer any cheaper then t-mobile? Will they try something similar in UK ? Can any other UK operator ty this? And give reduced price in the name of competition? Would be interesting.

    Its still a cartel here in UK.

  10. Andy

    Surprise surprise

    This almost certainly will be worthless to the hacking community anyway, as it will simply involve using the handset's unique unlock code - the infrastructure for this has been in place since day one.

    This is kind of a dead end, and doesn't change anything at all for those of us without €999 spare; though no doubt there will be no end of brainless stories and comments suggesting that this changes things for better or worse.

  11. SmokeyMcPotHead

    I think...

    ...Apple have made a huge mistake because of greed with the iPhone. I'm not an Apple fan in anyway shape or form, for me the brand is synonymous with DRM, over inflated prices, limitations and dumbing down in terms of consumer choice. The iPhone is a clear illustration of this, and so is in many respects the new iPod Classic, the the case of that they changed the video out method leaving existing users or new users with large bills for new dicks and cables to hook the device upto the TV - in UK money an extra £70 on top of the £160 or £230 price tag. So ya'll when it comes to anything Apple - it's very much buyer beware, do you're research first and make sure you can use it the way you want to, not the way Apple or some tin pot mobile phone company tell you to...

  12. Jonathan Fitt


    "The cellco claimed T-Mobile's exclusive iPhone sales deal, tied to an airtime contract, was uncompetitive. "

    Surely you mean anti-competitive?

  13. Voice of reason


    Now all we have to do is wait for Apple to catch up with the features.

    I'm looking forward to buying an unlocked second-generation iPhone when it has 3.5G data, better camera & GPS.

  14. Dave

    You buy an iTrash

    You get what you deserve. Actually, going by it's feature set, you DON'T get very much at all. But you sure pay for it!

  15. Chad H.


    At the end of the day, it is the phone that is best at displaying the web.

    Oh whats that, did someone say Noidea n95? Right, once they iron out the hive of bugs in that thing, maybe, but its still a tiny screen and a so-last-year design. Windows Mobile Devices? Um, the clue there is in the word "Windows" - Buggy as all heck, doesnt even paint the screen properly half the time. Blackberry? Great for email, pitty about the web.

  16. Richard Kilpatrick
    Thumb Down


    As I've said elsewhere, Apple's "greed" isn't a significant issue - based on features and build I'd certainly expect the iPhone to cost about £399/599 Euro, but not 999 Euro - this is T-Mobile not just demanding an "Apple" price for the iPhone, but compensation from their customers for being denied the business.

    Apple's intend is, I am sure, to bring down the cost of contracts and ensure solid data connectivity so that they can resell network under their own brand (at lower cost) whilst ensuring an always-accessible, spontaneous purchase model for iTMS.

    Apple really, really need to step in and tell T-Mobile to get lost at this stage, because this is going to do them serious harm from a PR/Marketing point of view. Apple do not get 999 Euro from the contract + phone.

    Looking at the UK model and taking the heaviest subsidy model + cheapest tariff, which is how I expect it to work, even assuming Apple are paid 30% of the TOTAL revenue, rather than the actual revenue less costs for The Cloud and so forth - then Apple's income from each iPhone would be £269 + £189. And remember that you're paying VAT on that too.

    Apple are being greedy to an extent in that I am sure that they COULD have sold the iPhone to customers for £269 or £299 or whatever outright. The revenue stream and lock-in to a specific network allows Apple to control what they are best at - overall customer experience. Selling the iPhone unlocked would be a disaster in many ways as everyone would have different levels of functionality - no Visual Voicemail, no EDGE... you get the idea.

    Of course, ultimately we'd rather they just got all the networks to provide the facilities to support the handset, and decent data, and upgraded to 3G to avoid the EDGE issue.

    Where do Apple go with this? Operators were asked to provide new infrastructure and compete to get the contract - Vodafone lost out. They'd never have received the support required had they just been going to sell unlocked iPhones and their model for iTMS purchases (and the YouTube facility, and Visual Voicemail) would have fallen down. They're caught between a rock and another, slightly harder rock. They have a contractual agreement with T-Mobile, and now a third-party is messing with that; getting OUT of that agreement will no doubt be extremely damaging too.

    I cannot believe Apple were not prepared for this, however. EU is EU, and they've had the Orange/France stuff in hand. Either the unlocked device will cost a fortune in France and be a disaster, or people from Germany will just go to France to buy iPhones and T-Mobile will lose customers rapidly.

    (And if you think O2 give us Brits a bad deal - especially when T-Mobile are so good here - you really need to look at the 2 Year contracts T-Mobile is offering in Germany. Those are terrifyingly poor value).

  17. system

    If it's decent screen size you want

    Why not buy an ibook for less?

    Pick up a PAYG phone that actually is just a phone for £10.

    But then of course, you'd still be buying apple trash.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    EU law vs US sales structure

    On the 12th December some interesting new regulations come into effect about the free movement of goods and services within the EU. These rules are designed to remove any artificial barriers that prevent the free trade of goods accross borders within the EU.

    Having had a quick look at these rules, I find it hard to see how it will be possible for Apple to prevent the sale and use of unlocked iPhones anywhere in the EU. The victory for Vodaphone is effectively a test case for Europe wide law, and to provide unlocked iPhones in Germany and France but not in the UK would be a direct contravention of the new rules.

    It is also worth noting that if you buy a product from, say, Germany when it is on sale in the UK, then the manufacturer is obliged to repair it in the UK.

    The next question is whether the pricing of the unlocked iPhone can stay so high. If a decent competitor for the iPhone comes on the market at less than half the price, iPhone prices will have to drop. Just the promise of such a posibility may hit potential sales of the iPhone - especially those that are tied into an expensive contract.

    Apple has tried to force an unfamiliar sales model onto the European market, but now the market is fighting back.

  19. Danny Thompson

    How much?

    "However, €999 is less than the cost of the iPhone with a contract, which would set German buyers back at least €1575 for hardware and monthly airtime over the 24-month minimum duration of the contract."

    I wish people would stop peddling this crap. The €1575 includes the cost of a 24-month contract and it is wrong to compare that price with a SIM-free priced handset with no contract. Equally ridiculous and misleading comparisons are being made on the UK pricing.

    It is so simple really - the handset in the UK costs £269, period. The mandatory contract costs £35 per month for a minimum 18 months contract, total value £630. It may well be a lot of money for a low number of minutes and texts (200/200) but it does include unlimited access to The Cloud, for what thats worth. If Apple get another £189 (30%) out of the revenue share then one could argue that the iPhone TCO is £458 over the period. But what does that mean really when handset subsidies in the UK are recovered over the airtime contract period anyway?

    What is happening elsewhere in Europe (France and Germany) is really quite interesting, and the backlash pricing by T-Mobile and France Telecom is not only entirely predictable but also with clear intent. But, for the life of me, I can't see the point of attempting to use the iPhone on a non-approved network. Visual Voicemail will not work, there is unlikely to be EDGE, and certainly no bundled unlimited The Cloud (again, for what thats worth!!). So what you end up with is an even worse-performing handset than if you kept with the plan. For what? Just to have the latest piece of Apple jewelry in your hand? And to then start complaining about it all just adds ridiculous onto the pile.

    This will happen all over again when the UMTS version of an iPhone hits the streets. For such a despised device it sure has grabbed the attention of everyone on the planet, it seems. Hows that for Apple marketing :D

  20. Steven Foster
    Thumb Down

    Urgh, horrible.

    Thought this all along, but who pays 700 quid for a Phone? You can get a decent PC for that much. You could get 2 Xbox360 elites and have money left over. Hell, you could even get 2 PS3s if you really wanted to.

    Or you could buy a contract less Phone with inferior features. Admittedly the eye candy goes some way towards compensating for that, but nowhere near justifying such a ridiculous price.

    I really do envy anyone who has that kind of money to waste.

  21. Richard Kilpatrick
    Thumb Up

    Re: How Much?

    Thankyou! The endless "it costs the cost of the contract too" statements are bloody irritating.

    However, I unlocked mine - it is on PayG O2 due to the SIM lock still being unhacked, but it cost £269 and 1/2 hour messing. EDGE works, and scarily I get an E logo in the Borders, where I don't get a 3G T-Mobile signal.

    It's a perfectly good handset, and "performs" is a variable measure - I'm finding battery life and user interface to be vastly better than my previous phones. It has many flaws, not least of which is the inability to act as a modem, but it seems to attract a lot more criticism from people that have not used it and have formed an Opinion...

    Apple's marketing promises change. With computers, with music players, with phones. The whole idea is that This Is Better. And like it or not, Apple's OS is the best available to the consumer (some may find software lacking if they haven't looked, or complain about the hardware it needs - after all, price-comparison shopping with the sort of PCs consumers, rather than "enthusiasts" buy always shows Apple to be the expensive option, like iMac vs. XPS One for example). The iPod is the best MUSIC player - it may not be as good for video as an Archos, or double up as a goat-shaving device, but in terms of user-interface (again), capacity, speed of operation and audio quality, it manages the comprises of "quality" and "price" very well indeed.

    So naturally we expect big things of iPhone too - but Apple isn't really interested in changing the world of the phone. It has 12 buttons. You speak into it and hear voices. What, really, can you do to change that. iPhone is about content delivery and bringing everything the consumer does into one place without the WIndows Mobile trick of basically being a tiny computer. And it works. The immediacy of the OS hides the fact that this is a computer - likewise the touch interface. For most WM devices (and I'm a fan of these), you need a stylus. You see start menus, and spinning "wait" things, and some things just don't work right. There's no consistency to the way things behave, and it runs out of memory.

    There's also a lot of software that can perform badly or well, something Apple seeks to control on iPhone.

    I personally think they have succeeded in their aims, even if I'd LIKE more out of the device. I think it will come, and I'll be confident that when they do add 3G and modem use, I will want - and be satisfied with - the iPhone. Oh, and more capacity. Although it would need to be 64GB to replace my iPod.

    (As an iPod, I've noticed the flash based iPhone is faster than my HD-based one when connected to a compatible headunit. This is actually pretty handy, and it handles calls when being a media storage unit for my car quite well, pausing the music and still providing good call quality. This is the sort of thing that makes iPhone different).

  22. Alistair MacRae

    What's the point?

    Loads of people upgrade there phone every year and mobile tech moves on at a good pace.

    So spending so much on the phone when in year any phone invariably looks dated seems stupid. People don’t really need to update their MP3 player often. The iPhone will be obsolete by next year. If its not already.

    So who's going to spend £250 a year on a phone as apple tries to stay current against the other players?

    They’re already about to make a 3g version of it!

  23. Danny Thompson

    Re: Whats the point?

    Good question. The point is that Apple are selling the iPhone to its existing customer base. That it draws the attention of new customers is a bonus. Like the iPod the iPhone is a catalyst for selling Mac kit, Apple's core business (no pun intended). So the iPhone is not an end but a means to an end, big difference.

    People who are used to buying Apple product frequently update/upgrade their product as time goes by. Some buy every single point release. Others wait for a Gen. or two to pass by before they buy back into the same technology. The iPod is a classic (ugh! will these unintended puns never end) example. They are still selling as quick as ever - people are updating their Nano's bought earlier in the year with the new video version.

    So, to answer the question "Who is going to spend £250 a year on a phone ......" I would say that there are plenty of people out there willing to part with that amount of cash every so often. In comparison with other spends, £269 is not a lot at all really. Bear in mind also that Apple have a well-established history of passing on technology enhancements without raking up the price aggressively. It would be reasonable, then, to expect the 2nd Generation 3G iPhone to cost very close to the £269 you would spend on a 1st Generation iPhone today.

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