When 9to5Mac brought you the story about Tim Cook convincing AT&T to unlock an iPhone on a customer’s behalf, we knew it would cause a bit of controversy because of AT&T’s questionable unlocking policies. Confusion among consumers regarding inconsistent policies for unlocking iPhones that have finished contractual obligations is nothing new. As witnessed in our original story, the carriers often make special exceptions for some customers while redirecting others to Apple. In many cases, they simply flat-out refuse to unlock iPhones.
It is not clear if AT&T is getting ready for a full-fledged policy change, but it looks like your best shot at getting an iPhone unlocked is by emailing Apple’s chief Tim Cook. A significant number of readers reached out to us since our original story that confirmed AT&T is continuing to unlock iPhones at the request of Cook’s office. Read more
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: