We get many emails on Apple’s customer support experience. While not always positive, some are excellent examples of Apple going beyond the average company. Today, a reader and trusted tipster reached out to us and explained that a personal email to Apple’s Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook, who is known to keep up Steve Job’s long-time tradition of answering customer emails, resulted in AT&T making a “special one-time exception” to fulfill a request it previously refused.

The reader was reassigned to Canada for work and decided he wanted to use his iPhone 3GS (which was on AT&T at the time, but has since finished its contract) on a Canadian carrier’s pay-as-you-go plan. AT&T refused to unlock the device, insisting only Apple could. Apple suggested the reader call AT&T again, because only the carrier could authorize the unlock. When he did, the only advice the reader received was to “Just jailbreak your phone.” We heard reports of many similar situations and both the carriers and Apple often give inconsistent information related to unlocking iPhones, which result in confusion among consumers. Frustrated, the reader sent an email to Cook asking him for help (full email below).

While the reader never received a personal response from Cook, he did receive a response from AT&T Partnership Operations that informed him it received his email from Cook requesting to unlock the iPhone. 9to5Mac confirmed the emails are authentic. After AT&T confirmed the IMEI’s for the device, an AT&T representative told the reader that the carrier made an exception to unlock the iPhone. The reader was given instructions to tether his iPhone to iTunes to complete the unlock. According to the reader, he also received a call from Cook’s assistant to make sure AT&T followed through with the request:

Mid day my wife sent me an e-mail at work saying “Um, Tim Cook’s special assistant just called and she wants to know if AT&T has unlocked your phone yet??? Why does Tim Cook care about your phone?”

The full letter sent by the reader to Cook is below:

Hi Tim,

My family is immersed in the Apple brand. All 4 of my children (aged 2 to 8) have been using iPod touches, iPhones, iPads, and iMacs since they were a year old. Our television is a 27” iMac using eyeTV. My kids talk to their grandmother every second day via video Skype on the iMac. All of our computers are Macs (we have 4 in the house). Apple has touched every aspect of our lives and made it richer!

My company recently moved me to Canada for a work assignment for a few years. My wife’s iPhone 3GS had finished its contract with AT&T so I bought her an iPhone 4 the day we moved to Canada. I took her iPhone 3GS and I contacted AT&T to see if I could have it unlocked so that I could use the phone with a Canadian carrier with a “pay as you go” plan for casual use (I’m forced to use a Blackberry for work, but I hate it so I’d like to use the iPhone for phone calls). This is where my problems began.

Basically AT&T told me that they couldn’t unlock it, only Apple could. I called Apple (but was routed through Apple Canada) and they told me “ask to talk to a supervisor at AT&T because the customer service rep won’t know the process, but AT&T definitely can unlock it”. So I called them back and the supervisor was adamant that they couldn’t help me. “Just jailbreak your phone” was their advice.

I didn’t want to jailbreak my phone, I like Apple’s curated experience and I don’t want to stray from that. However after several more calls to both AT&T and Apple, I made no progress. So I’m turning to you for a final plea.

I love Apple and will continue to buy your products regardless of what happens with this situation. However, I did pay $600 some odd dollars for this device (even though I bought it on contact and they say its subsidized, I’m basically paying for the device in my monthly payments) and I’d like to be able to use it.

My thanks to the Apple team, keep innovating!

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