back to article O2 could impose out-of-contract iPhone lock-in

iPhone users might, or might not, be able to unlock when their contract expires, as O2 still hasn't decided if deserters should be able to take their toys with them. Apple fans who rushed to O2's contracts to get their hands on an iPhone have been asking if they'll be able to take their precious status symbol with them if they …


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  1. Chris Procter

    What's the issue here?

    Contract ends in March,

    I wait for new iPhone to be released in the summer,

    I buy sexy new iPhone and spend another year as office pariah!


  2. Mad as a Bat
    Jobs Halo

    Whose handset is it, anyway?

    Surely someone ought to tell O2 that all iPhones belong to Apple.

  3. Dave Higgin


    End of contract, end of subsidy, phones mine surely and can therefore demand its unlocked? or am I being naive

  4. Richard 81


    Surely when you've completed your contract you've finished paying for the phone and it thus your property, to do with as you wish.

  5. Annihilator
    Thumb Up


    I'm sure that Orange or Vodafone would be more than capable of and willing to provide said unlock code, no?

  6. Mark 164

    What about Simplicity users?

    I've got an iPhone on a Simplicity tariff, so technically my contract has ended already. I wouldn't mind seeing what the reception is like on the other networks.

  7. Richard Cartledge


    I thought they had to unlock at the end of the contract? due to EU competition rules? that was the case with my Nokia 6630 or whatever number it was.

  8. Terry Ellis

    No way

    Will they be allowed to lock you in after the contract.

    You are not leasing the phone from them, after all

  9. F1reman

    what's the law say


    Can you clarify what the law states regarding unlocking of handsets once a contract expires? Do you know if there is precedent for this?

  10. This post has been deleted by its author

  11. Anonymous Coward

    We're talking 2 seperate contracts here.

    Someone should remind O2 that at the end of your contract with THEM the phone belongs to you. It has nothing to do then with their exclusive contract with Apple. So ask for your PUC code and threaten legal actiuon if they refuse.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Will they unlock unlocked iphones?

    So, where do I stand: I bought an iphone quite a while back, took it home and unlocked it. It's never been officially unlocked, and it's been on orange all that time. Any chance of persuading them to unlock it properly so I don't have to arse about? And will I get visual voicemail at last?!

  13. Darren Forster
    Thumb Down

    Doesn't really matter

    Doesn't really matter, if they do offer to unlock the handset or not. If they don't unlock the handset, I'm quite sure there will be plenty of people in markets and computer fairs offering to unlock them anyway, the only people that would lose out if they do ban people from taking their iPhones is O2 as they'd lose out to market traders.

  14. David Edwards

    Other operators with iPhone

    Now that the other operators are selling the iphone, is there a chance they will unlock your old one on payg etc?

  15. Anonymous Coward

    Thinking it over?

    Really O2, you're taking time to consider what to do? I'll tell you, you'll flippin well hand out the codes thanks. We BOUGHT the phones and once the contract expires we have NO obligation to you whatsoever.


  16. Matthew Brown

    This is all

    Very disturbingly American.

  17. Jez Caudle

    Let me go ...

    ... or I will simply jail break. I'm thinking of jailbraking anyway so I can run applications in the background - like GPS tracking for example.

    Can they keep a phone locked to their network after the contact expires? Alas I didn't read mine when I signed up. I'm going to ask for a copy.

  18. censored

    Rules and Unlocking

    You'd have thought that after the subsidy it's yours to do as you please. But Ofcom disagree. They decided to revoke the mandatory unlock at the end of the contract. They said it was 'better for competition'. No-one other than Ofcom can quite understand how being unable to move your handset to another provided is good for competition.

    What's interesting about O2, is that none of their other handsets are locked at all, even within the contract. That makes sense, because even if you did sign up and go elsewhere, you're still stuck with a contract you'd have to pay. So in a sense it doesn't matter if you use the O2 SIM or not as they get their monthly amount anyway and don't have to provide a service for it if you go elsewhere!

    Specifically for iPhones, Apple keep a central database of which serial numbers are with which carriers, and the unlock is done via iTunes against this database. So Vodaphone would be unable to provide the unlock for an O2 handset, because the database would know it wasn't theirs to unlock.

    On the other hand, every iPhone owner signed up knowing that it was permanently locked to O2...

  19. Jeremy Chappell
    Jobs Halo

    What will Steve say?

    I wonder if Apple will have anything to say on this - I imagine they can just "make it happen" if they want to... So now I don't know if I should put an Evil Steve badge or a Good Steve badge on...

    Good Steve (right Mr Jobs?)

  20. The Original Ash


    My phone was unlocked as soon as I was sure it ran fine (one full battery charge, one full discharge with normal use).

    In fact, I might get myself a dual-sim package so I can get 3 data on PAYG for cheaper than Orange bundles.

    Needless to say I didn't get an iPhone.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I don't think…

    O2 will eventually have much of a say in the matter…

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    ...or you could just go elsewhere and get a decent handset instead.

    Just throwing that out there, yeah, I know, common sense isn't common amongst Apple fans, but it's worth a thought.

  23. The Indomitable Gall

    Exclusive contract with Apple...?

    Well I'm sorry, the contract of *sale* with the consumer trumps that. It is now well established by precedent that the end-user gets the unlock code at the end of the contract.

    Unless O2 want to provide a full refund on purchase price...?

  24. Blacklight


    If you pay all of the contract, they have reclaimed their subsidy payment, and should remove the subsidy lock. Period.

    I went to an O2 store, and asked how much the PAYG "buy it now" handset was. I was told. I coughed politely, and said would it be unlocked? They said "no".

    So, even if you buy it outright they won't unlock it, and I would presume they aren't subsidising the handset if you pay top whack for it?

  25. theloon

    Sounds like a rental phone to me - lets ask Trading Standards

    If it is not yours to use at the end of the contract then it would be classified as a rental surely?

    Therefore the upfront payment was a deposit for the lease. Deposits get returned, less wear and tear...

    Trading standards anyone?

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    Skeletor Don't Care

    He has had your money already!

  27. Anonymous Coward

    Already on this......

    ......I have paid the remainder of my contract and moved off O2. I have been told that apparently Apple have not provided O2 with a mechanism for unlocking the handset.

    After that revelation I reported them to the OFT for uncompetative practices.

    I won't be holding my breath though.

  28. Darius

    Unlocked the norm?

    I wonder if Apple will simply sell unlocked sim-free iPhones in the near future and leave it to the networks to sell locked phones with their contracts (to which they subsidise). It would make sense.

    I'm not sure why genuine unlocked iPhones cost £700-£900 when the pay as you go iPhones on O2 cost £340-£540. O2 don't subsidise pay as you go phones that heavily.

  29. John Owens

    O2 is rubbish

    Here in Belfast I get 150 KBs to 200 KBs with my 3 mobile broadband adapter and it's super fast for browsing.

    With 02 and iPhone 3GS it crawls. That and even though I live and work in the city center, it's often it can't receive a 3G signal and sometimes not even edge.

    With 3 I get coverage more or less everywhere.

  30. Tim Cook

    No question

    The mechanism for unlocking exists, and has been used by other networks in other countries upon settlement of contract - you request the unlock, the network approves this and puts in a request to Apple, the phone is then unlocked through iTunes next time you sync it.

    So the precedent is all there and set, and by O2's admission even the completely spurious argument they had against doing it before now - that they had the "exclusive" contract with Apple - is now null and void. They must surely know they haven't a leg to stand on legally and will just end up with a lot of bad publicity and a few court cases, so they'd be utterly foolish not to just curry some favour with their users in this new, non-monopolistic iPhone marketplace by releasing out-of-contract iPhones on request.

  31. Stephane Mabille
    Big Brother

    Moving abroad?


    Wasn't aware of Ofcom removing the mandatory unlock clause.

    O2 being the exclusive vendor of iPhone.... in UK. What about moving abroad with MY iPhone (I'll have more than reimbursed my sponsorship) after the end of my contract?

    What with Pay-as-you-go iPhones, aren't they supposed to be unlocked as they aren't sponsored at all.....

  32. IT_Frogman


    Definitely. Although it remains to be seen if anything was done about it.

    As an aside, I've been lucky enough to be trialling a few handsets recently for a business test alongside the iPhone (BB Bold 9000, Nokia N96/N97, Various HTC Handsets, Sony Xperia X1 amongst others) and to be honest, nothing still comes close. Although I am almost 99% positive I will move my contract to Orange in February when my O2 contract expires. Unless they can give me a huge discount on my tariff for the same stuff I get now (unlikely).

    For the haters - If you've never used one and you're in denial because you hate Apple or hate the thought of the phone, then how can you comment if you've never used one?

    You should read

  33. Mike 119


    I thought it was down to Apple to unlock the carrier restrictions?

  34. Anonymous Coward

    dont make me laff...

    it doesn't supprise me that ofcom changed there minds on the unlocking of phones at contract end...aids compitition!!! i dont think so.... all it will do is put a few more phones in the windows in cash converters and people signing up for contracts will demand better phones without having to pay anything for it.......

    ofcom are just a bunch of pussies who are currently being whiped by BT, not supprising they are the mobile phone operators bitches too....

    who's ya daddy...?

  35. Joe Montana

    Customers being screwed?

    What about the original iphone, which wasn't subsidised? Surely anyone who has one of these (and it would be out of contract by now too) should be able to unlock it.

    And how about the prepaid phones?

    As for the ridiculous excuse about having an exclusive deal in the UK, what if i want to pay up my o2 contract and leave the country?

    Or how about if i travel? Roaming is expensive, and some countries don't have roaming agreements anyway...

  36. kev conroy
    Jobs Halo

    02 data

    I was happy with mu Orange contract until I ran 3 minutes over my monthly allotted amount and got charged a million times the cost of a Duck House for the temerity of my infraction.

    I dislike Apple as much as the next geek, they ain't innovators, but they take existing tech and make it utterly usable by complete n00bs.

    The Android Hero looks lovely, but it's just not quite as obvious as the iPhone. If you control the hardware and all the s/w, you're in a strong position to define how your toy sells. get over it, the iPhone is a work of battery-power-chewing genius.

    Shame I have to charge it up at lunchtime to squeeze a days "all features turned on" life out of it!!

  37. Anonymous Coward


    Just had this very conversation with Apple and O2 today. O2 claim they can't unlock due to Apple policy (but the CSR did strangely hint it could be unofficially unlocked), Apple claim that it's purely an O2 policy.

    Given that the phone in question was bought for £440 from an Apple store, I think I'll just return it as unfit for purpose, in that it's not a stand-alone phone untied to a network.

    Really, O2 are making themselves appear a very risky choice for iPhone users that wish to upgrade in future. Even if I was 100% happy with their service I'd have to think twice now about choosing them for a new iPhone given their seemingly shady and unethical locking practices and the choice of other networks.

  38. OrsonX
    IT Angle

    @Stephane Mabille

    re: moving abroad

    er, good point! What happens then? When you are moving to a country where there is no O2 partner? Have you just paid for a very expensive brick?!

  39. Gradivus

    OFCOM? Waste of space

    I, too, was certain that OFCOM insisted that phones be unlocked 'for a reasonable fee' at the end of the contract.

    But apparently not. It would seem that they are determined to prove what a completely pointless organisation they are. Quote...

    Most mobile service providers require a minimum service period or contract term before you can switch to another provider. If you purchased your mobile phone with the service from your current provider, you have the option of keeping your current mobile phone, however you must make sure that you do that within the contractual terms of your existing mobile phone and service.

    Whether you are a post-paid (contract) or pre-paid user, you can keep your current mobile phone by requesting that the SIM lock on your mobile to be removed. Usually, mobile service providers require a minimum contract or service period to expire before they unlock your phone. Most service providers charge a fee for this service

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    If you want to be screwed over by Apple..

    ..there's an app for that.

    Apple - they don't mind cos you don't matter.

  41. Brian Witham

    Let us stroke the invisible hand

    Or we could of course put our faith in the market place.

    Now that we are seeing some competition - which should have been there from day one. All it will take is one network offering official unlocks and it will happen - o2 would suffer.

    Of course this assumes rational people (not bloody likely) and non - cartel. So the usual economic assumptions with the usual pitfalls

  42. Richard Scratcher

    Not an issue.

    I fully expect that when my contract expires, so will my iPhone's battery.

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns


    Stupid really, even if the handset was an O2 exclusive, I can't see how nobody legally could not have demanded an unlocking code. The iPhone isn't the first network-exclusive phone.

    Dumb ass Apple users. You get what you reaped.

  44. tony

    a title,

    I bet o2 are happy they created 18 month contracts rather than 12, seeing as a lot of people will be coming out of the o2 contract just as other providers come online, rather than being locked in for 6 more months.

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If the supplier can get round to it...

    just before the end of our corporate contract with a certain German based provider now linked to a fruity french one we asked for unlocks for the handsets agreeing at the time to pay the administrative charges. That was a couple of months ago.

    Still waiting for codes.......

  46. hojoclan

    There is a hardware hack

    There is a hardware hack for your beloved iphone, i believe it works with all mobiles, and it does not mess the phone up you can continue to use itunes etc. It is called the Rebel Sim Card and it is a thin shim that fits between the phone and the sim card and it fools the phone into thinking it is still on the network it is locked to. I still have the review of it that was in PC Pro June 09 where the auther used an iphone with a Vodaphone sim and was still able to access itunes and the app store with no problems. And it leaves the phone in its original state.

  47. Bod

    The EU

    What's the point of being in the EU if they can't do anything about this.

    It used to be basically an obligation under EU law to provide unlocking, but the EU got cold feet or got bullied by operators/Church of Apple and now say refusal to unlock is fine as long as the consumer is aware of this position somehow (i.e. fine print in the contract or worse even lack of it!).

    Someone needs to take this beyond whimps like offcom, and go to the EU courts.

    Or you can just buy any other brand of phone than Apple ;)

  48. Anonymous Coward

    02 not unlocking the iPhone. How stupid!

    Technically a handsets is supplied FOC on a contract and the agreement is the contract is paid for the full term and the handset is supplied free. Once this agreement is over the handset is paid for meaning you own it. 02 cannot really stand there and state they are not going to unlock the handset when it is legally the customer property if the contract is paid up. Its like a car company telling you you cannot change the body kit on a car once you have paid it all off, not their business what you do it with it. I say that 02 should let customers do what they want before they pi$$ them off and cause a massive back lash creating an increase in customer leaving!!!!

  49. Omar Marquez

    @Matthew Brown

    Don't be a stupid c*nt... you British are equally capable of shite business practices. (I know, I'm a Yank who has lived in the UK for 9+ years now, and sadly the UK has its own native brand of hucksters, perverts, and asshats.)

    But O2 does blow, and they had better unlock the f*ckin' iphones at the end of my contract, they're an overpriced network.

    (Ironically, isn't British O2 owned by Spaniards/Telefonica?)

  50. PsychicMonkey

    They don't have to...

    Yes the phone is yours, but you bought it with the lock in place, why should they unlock it for you?

    There is no legal reason to force them to unlock any phone, be it apple or nokia, the fact they do for other phones means nothing also.

    The iPhone is good because it is so easy to use, it's bad because it's hardware isn't as good as other phones. I never got one because O2 are shit.

    Love it or hate it, your choice. But stop bitching because you signed a contract without reading it.

  51. Joey91111

    If o2 don't unlock I'll need to lose my iPhone or get it stolen.

    o2 network in the last few weeks has been horendous. absolutely rubbish. If o2 don't unlock my phone at the end of my contract I think I can envisage myself losing my phone or having it stolen, paying the £25 excess on the insurance, selling the brand new boxed phone, using the cash to buy a fully (legally) unlocked iphone from Australia (£500) so I can use it with any network, anywhere in the world.

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