Apple lets consumers choose: unlocks entire line of iPhones

Apple added contract-free unlocked versions of its iPhone lineup, including the iPhone 4S, to its online store on Friday. The 8GB iPhone 3GS is available for $375.00, 8GB iPhone 4 for $549.00, and 16, 32, and 64GB iPhone 4S for $649, $749, and $849 respectively.

Unlocked iPhones will only work on GSM networks, including the iPhone 4S, which is a dual mode phone. Furthermore, the GSM network will need to support the same frequencies as AT&T in order for 3G data to work. Potential iPhone users on T-Mobile's network and other carriers that use AWS would be limited to slower EDGE data rates.

"If you don’t want a multiyear service contract or if you prefer to use a local carrier when traveling abroad, the unlocked iPhone is the best choice", Apple says in its description. That said, you're still paying up to a $450 premium for that privilege.

Customers must supply a carrier supported micro-SIM card, and some functions of the device will not work if the carrier does not support it natively, such as visual voicemail.

Friday's announcement follows one from Sprint saying that it will begin to SIM lock all devices beginning today. The CDMA carrier had shipped phones since the 4S' launch last month without locking the micro SIM down. The activation process will now add the lock and an iPhone software update will lock down previously sold devices.

Sprint will, however, unlock the SIM port for international use for customers "in good standing", it says.

It also follows one day after Apple released iOS 5.0.1, aimed at fixing battery problems that plague a large number of 4S owners. Apple did not list the Sprint SIM lock as one of the 'fixes' in the update.

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