Apple now offering unlocked iPhone 5 online on US store, starting at $649 for 16GB

Following our report from this morning, Apple made the much-awaited unlocked iPhone 5 available in the United States on its online store this evening. The unlocked device’s price range is set at $649, $749, and $849 for 16GB, 32GB, or 64GB of storage, respectively. Apple has offered an unlocked version of the iPhone 5 in several countries around the world since the device first launched in late September —including Canada and in Europe. However, as it has done in the past, Apple delayed the U.S. unlocked launch.

Additionally, we learned from several retail sources Apple will sell the unlocked iPhone 5 in its chain of retail stores in the coming days—perhaps as soon as tomorrow. The devices have begun arriving in large quantities to Apple stores over the past couple of days.

The unlocked version is GSM only, which supports AT&T and T-Mobile in the U.S., and will not work on CDMA bands. If you hate contracts, like swapping the nano SIM, and taking the device abroad is your thing, this is the version of the iPhone 5 for you. To avoid scalpers, Apple is limiting two per customer.

From Apple:

 “The unlocked iPhone includes all the features of iPhone but without a wireless contract commitment. You can activate and use iPhone on the supported GSM wireless network of your choice, such as AT&T in the United States. The unlocked iPhone 4, iPhone 4S and iPhone 5 will not work with CDMA-based carriers such as Verizon Wireless or Sprint. 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. It does not come with a micro-SIM card for iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S, or a nano-SIM card for iPhone 5, so you’ll need to get one from any supported GSM carrier worldwide. To start using it, simply insert the card into the slot on your iPhone and turn it on by pressing and holding the On/Off button for a few seconds. Then follow the onscreen instructions to set up your iPhone.”

Read more

The best way to unlock your AT&T iPhone may be through Tim Cook’s office

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