Apple sells unlocked iPhones in U.S. for first time
Analyst sees move as more evidence of pressure from Android
Computerworld - Apple today started selling unlocked iPhones in the U.S. for hundreds more than the usual subsidized price that AT&T and Verizon customers pay.
The move was a first for Apple in the U.S., although unlocked iPhones have been available in other markets, including Canada, France and the U.K.
In 2010, Apple began selling the iPhone 3GS at unsubsidized prices and without a contract, but still tied those phones to AT&T, at the time the exclusive U.S. carrier.
While rumors over the last few days had pegged a Wednesday on-sale date for the unlocked iPhone 4, Apple quietly posted prices on its site today.
Apple sells the unlocked iPhones at $649 and $749 for the 16GB and 32GB models, respectively. Both black and white iPhones are available.
Those prices are similar to what Apple charges AT&T and Verizon, which then sell the phones to their customers, said Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research.
Unlocked iPhones will work on what Apple called "supported GMS carriers," referring to "Global System for Mobile Communications," the network standard used by AT&T, T-Mobile and some regional carriers in the U.S., and the likes of China Mobile in the People's Republic.
"Buying an unlocked iPhone 4 allows you to choose your own GSM carrier, change carriers at any time, and even use multiple carriers if you travel frequently," Apple said on its Web site.
But running an unlocked iPhone 4 on T-Mobile has drawbacks: Users won't be able to access that network at 3G speeds, but will be limited to the slower EDGE standard that was used by the 2007 first-generation iPhone, said Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates.
Frequent travelers will be the biggest buyers of unlocked iPhone 4s, Gold said.
"Roaming charges can be a killer," he said, referring to the high-price-per-minute charges U.S. carriers levy when a customer is overseas. "I know people who have come back with bills of $2,000 or $3,000."
Unlocked iPhone 4 owners could purchase a pre-paid micro-SIM card from a carrier at their destination, for instance, and swap out the AT&T card, said Gold.
The iPhone 4 will probably be replaced by Apple as its primary smartphone in September, the month most analysts expect the company to roll out the next-generation model, dubbed "iPhone 5" by some and "iPhone 4S" by others.
That may be one of the reasons why Apple has begun selling unlocked iPhones now. "There's no reason not to get rid of the old stuff [before September]," said Gold.
Gold had another explanation as well.
"They understand they need to be more open, more flexible in the face of competition from Android," said Gold. "The competition is really heating up. Plus, they have nothing to lose by doing this."
The unlocked iPhone 4 can be purchased at Apple's online store, which currently shows a delay of one-to-three days between ordering and shipping for the black model, three-to-five days for the white iPhone.
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is email@example.com.
- Apple's CarPlay vs. MirrorLink: Is there a need for both?
- Apple's CarPlay to spark mobile apps war in your car
- iTunes is almost as big a biz as OEM Windows
- Icahn says 'I can't' and stops $50B fight over Apple stock buyback
- Lenovo-Moto deal's impact on Apple? Zip
- Office 365 turns one, but success is tough to tally
- Everyone bets on bigger iPhone for '14
- Apple's iPod business collapses as revenue becomes a rounding error
- Update: More than 1B smartphones were shipped in 2013
- Cook admits Apple blew the call on the iPhone 5C
Read more about Smartphones in Computerworld's Smartphones Topic Center.
- Best iPhone, iPad Business Apps for 2014
- 14 Tech Conventions You Should Attend in 2014
- 10 Desktop Apps to Power Your Windows PC
- How to Add New Job Skills Without Going Back to School
- Slideshow: 7 security mistakes people make with their mobile device
- iOS vs. Android: Which is more secure?
- 11 sure signs you've been hacked
- OpenStack Hype vs. Reality: CIO Quick Pulse Open-source architecture can enable IT departments to build infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) clouds running on standard hardware.
- The Critical Role of Support in Your Enterprise Mobility Management Strategy Most business leaders underestimate the importance of tech support when they choose an EMM solution. Here's what to put on your checklist.
- Separating Work and Personal at the Platform Level: How BlackBerry Balance Works BlackBerry® Balance™ separates work from personal on the same mobile device, right at a platform level. Find out how it can work for...
- Protection for Every Enterprise: How BlackBerry Security Works Get an IT-level review of BlackBerry® Security, addressing data leakage protection, certified encryption, containerization and much more.
- Live Webcast On-demand webinar: "Mobility Mayhem: Balancing BYOD with Enterprise Security" Check out this on-demand webinar to hear Sophos senior security expert John Shier deep dive into how BYOD impacts your enterprise security strategy...
- Live Webcast Unmasking the Differences between Consumer and Enterprise File Sync & Share The consumerization of IT combined with the rapid pace of the modern mobile workplace is forcing enterprise IT teams to evaluate file sync...
- Live Webcast Workforce Mobilization for Improved Productivity A mobility research director from Aberdeen discusses reasons for extending legacy applications to mobile devices, and an integration strategist from Attachmate shows how...
- Getting Ready for BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10.2 Find out how BlackBerry® Enterprise Service 10 helps organizations address the full spectrum of EMM challenges, while balancing the needs of both the...
- Containerization Options: How to Choose the Best DLP Solution for Your Organization This webcast outlines a framework for making the right choice when it comes to containerization approaches, along with the pros and cons of... All Mobile/Wireless White Papers | Webcasts
As emerging technologies evolve they often find an initial niche in highly specialized scenarios, or in specific industry verticals, before expanding to wider areas of applicability. Within these initial niches, the early adopters can be anything from digital enthusiasts to fashionistas, or they can be folks simply using the technology because it serves a specific need extremely well. (free registration required) more