back to article AT&T to allow unlocking of out-of-contract iPhones

Beginning this Sunday, AT&T will let some customers unlock their iPhones, thus allowing them to use another carrier's service – provided, of course, that the carrier's network is compatible with the newly unlocked iPhone. An older GSM-only AT&T phone would not be able to hop aboard Verzon's CDMA network, for example. When the …


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  1. Brad Ackerman


    Dark Helmet's crew aren't doing this because it's the right thing to do unless they've all been replaced with pod people. Heading off more stringent requirements from the FCC?

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  3. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    Phony Economics

    I have an unlocked phone - paid full price for it originally - that costs me $50/month via T-Mobile. The phone cost me $500 originally (Nexus S) and the 2 year contract plan wanted $110/month to give me a "free" phone. So my "free" phone would actually cost me $1440!

    There's no reason to ever buy a contract/locked phone - unless you want to throw money at the phone company for some reason.

    1. Sandy Scott

      Re: Phony Economics

      The problem with your argument is that the the deal your comparing ($110/mo over 2) years is completely bonkers.

      Maybe the UK is different in this regard, but I bought by Desire HD (the best HTC you could buy at the time) for £21.50/mo over 2 years, with plenty of calls, unlimited texts and a data limit I've only breached while staying for a week in a hotel with no wi-fi!

      Even if I could find a comparable sim-only deal, most start at £10/mo, which means the phone has cost me under £300 on top of the plan - bargain, especially when you consider the cost of credit

      You also miss out on the superior customer service you'll get from a operator if/when it breaks. - When my microphone failed, I had a replacement phone in my hand by 10 am the following morning, for cost whatsoever to me.

      In short, you can get a great deal by going though an telco - just don't get mugged by a salesman in a shop - is a great place to start for UK based customers.

      1. Sweaty Hambeast

        Re: Phony Economics

        "Maybe the UK is different in this regard,"

        Possibly. I live in NL and I when I was looking around for a smartphone, the contract prices for 2 years were far too expensive. I could have bought something for EUR500 and then had a PAYG SIM or maybe a contract for the SIM but the prices were far too much (although the prices have dropped due to the EU recently).

        Eventually I bought a new computer, cheapo mobile and an iPod Touch for about the same money! YMMV.

    2. Franklin

      Re: Phony Economics

      "There's no reason to ever buy a contract/locked phone - unless you want to throw money at the phone company for some reason."

      You always throw money at the phone company, at least if you want phone service. A phone does little good without service, after all.

      At least as a phone. My old iPhone works as a music player, even though I replaced it with an HTC once the contract was up. But the point still stands that if you want to use your phone as a phone, you're going to throw money at the phone company to make it go.

    3. Hugh McIntyre

      Re: Phony Economics

      Maybe in your case you found a case where the same plan would somehow cost $50 for an unlocked phone and $110/month for the locked one. Is T-Mobile different in this regard?

      But for iPhones at least, there seems to be no way to pay less than about $60/month for voice+data, and the price per month is *the same* on both AT&T and Verizon with or without an unlocked iPhone. Including presumably with one of these unlocked-by-AT&T iPhones. Yes, they should charge you less for the unlocked phone but they don't. As such, paying $400 or so extra for an unlocked phone makes no sense.

      Are you sure the $50 and $110 plans were giving you the same quantity of minutes and data?

  4. zxcvbnm

    What about all the people who where refused unlocking when their contract ended and left at&t to go abroad. They now have no account with at&t and a useless locked iphone. Will they finally be able to get unlocked?

  5. Charles 9

    Funny thing...

    If what I've read on the iPhones is correct, there aren't that many options available in the US for an AT&T iPhone besides AT&T. Sure, you can jump to an AT&T-based MVNO, but I read them a bit and couldn't find many deals better than AT&T itself. Then there's T-Mobile and its MVNOs, but they use different frequencies for High-Speed Packet Access, so no high-speed access there.

    1. RAMChYLD

      Re: Funny thing...

      Thing is, iPhones are quad-band 2G and penta-band 3G. They should at least allow you to hop from AT&T to T-Mobile. Hoping to CDMA-based Verizon, tho...

  6. Malcolm Weir Silver badge

    No advantage over T-Mobile

    The idea that AT&T allowing unlocking might create a competitive advantage over T-Mobile is flawed, because T-Mo will already unlock any of their phones while still in contract. It doesn't get you out of the contract, but if you want to pay someone else _as well_ for airtime, why would any sane company care? So I can run my T-Mo Android thing on AT&T's network if I feel like it, juts by buying an AT&T SIM (or by swapping one out of a colleague's phone).

    More relevant, I've run my in-contract T-Mo (USA) phone using PAYG SIMs in the UK, Germany and Australia.

    So where's this "competitive advantage" of which you speak?

  7. M Gale

    How generous.

    AT&T are allowing you to dispose of your own property how you see fit.

    They surely must be models of generosity for the rest of the world.

    Joke icon neither displayed nor needed. If you don't get it, I don't care.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    T-mobile (in the UK)

    will allow you to unlock your phone after the contract has run its course.

    They do charge £15 quid but every phone i have had from them has been unlocked.

    Sometimes they are cheaper than using a 3rd party unlock service...

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    That would be the effect of AT&T being scared of what happened in Canada. Now all carriers are required by law to unlock your phone if you actually own it (that is, you are done paying for it). This includes that they have to deduce a certain amount every month of how much of it you have payed.

    1. John Tserkezis

      "Now all carriers are required by law to unlock your phone if you actually own it"

      Rest assured that while they *have* to, it doesn't mean they'll make it easy for you.

      Expect to run through hoops during the 'unlocking' process before you actually really own the phone you merely think you own.

  10. rav

    So At&T offers to give you the keys to your own phone?

    After the contract is over and you paid a huge premium to pay for the phone, does AT&T give you a discount for using your own phone?

    New cell phone purchases are subsidized by monthly fees. Why don't those fees drop when the user has their own phone? Just another example of the mobile carriers ripping off the consumer.

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  12. A J Stiles

    USA catching up with rest of world at last?

    How it could ever have been legal for them *not* to unlock *your* phone in the first place, is what needs fixing.

  13. David Eddleman


    Doesn't do a lot of good for CDMA network customers, who typically deploy UICCs into their phones. Which IMO is a bit of a scummy deal, as it locks the phone to the carrier and requires all manner of reflashing and such to get it to work on another provider.

    People say SIMs are dead...nope.

    It's why I switched to a GSM carrier and got a phone with a removable SIM card and is dual band (pretty much only necessary here in the US, thanks to dual-band airwaves...CDMA used to be loads better than GSM, but lately that has fallen flat).

    I can take my phone to any carrier, pop a SIM (or one of the removable UICCs) and get it over to them. Lot of flexibility in that regard, and that's why T-Mobile have offered me good rates and good service for my area.

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