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Does anyone has experience buying an iPhone 4 to be unlocked (oficially by Apple) in the US?

iPhones are unlocked by Apple, after you request the unlock to your carrier (once you have paid the subsidy). Since Apple Stores allow buying iPhones at full price now (for gifts, for example), can I buy an iPhone in an Apple Store and immediately after call AT&T to unlock it?

This should be both legal and possible. Heck, even Apple could offer it in their stores. Does anyone have experience with this? Any tips on how to ask for the unlock to AT&T?

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Now that Apple sells an officially unlocked, SIM-less, carrierless iPhone in the states, does anyone have any updates on this? –  Abby T. Miller Aug 7 '11 at 15:12
    
@Abby: I also wonder the same thing. It says here store.apple.com/us/browse/home/shop_iphone/family/iphone/… that you need to put a SIM in it to activate it. Can't I just buy it unlocked, power it up, and use it like an iPod touch with a camera and built in microphone? –  Jared Updike Nov 4 '11 at 23:03
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closed as too localized by Daniel Lawson Mar 23 '12 at 12:25

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3 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

No, this isn't possible to do through official channels. The officially unlocked phones are unlocked from the manufacturer; this isn't possible to do after the phone has been provisioned (otherwise the iPhone hacking community would be all over this avenue rather than going after security holes in the baseband to achieve the same effect). Because if their agreement with AT&T, Apple does not sell these units in the US, and every distributor outside of the US has to agree not to sell the units to US customers.

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I see. But based on reports on the web, it seems to be possible to get an iPhone unlocked after you outrun your contract. I thought if you buy the phone full price it would be the same. –  pgb Sep 16 '10 at 18:02
    
@pgb not on AT&T: wireless.att.com/answer-center/… –  Cawas Apr 17 '11 at 23:26
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Given what Adam said, your best bet to get an officially unlocked iPhone is (probably) through another country. I don't know about the Western hemisphere countries, but in Europe unlocked iPhones can be purchased in UK, France, Italy, and in several other countries. (In some places only through the Apple online store, in others also through brick-and-mortar Apple or non-Apple stores.)

One quite simple way would be this:

  1. Get an UK "address" from Borderlinx
  2. Order the phone from Apple Store UK to that address (pay normally with your credit card). Note the FAQ which beautifully explains that it's SIM-free.
  3. When Borderlinx gets the shipment they charge you for delivery (don't know about US but to Finland it's about $40) and when you've paid, they ship it to you (with UPS or DHL or similar service).

UK is a bit far from you, so consider checking some nearby countries first for similar services. (Or if you have friends/relatives in some country with unlocked iPhones that's of course even better.)

(UK + Borderlinx is a really popular method right now for getting an unlocked iPhone 4 where I live (as testified by e.g. this 45-page forum thread at local Apple fanboy site). Lots of people hate the SIM-locked & expensive Sonera deals we have.)

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Of course, an iPhone bought from the UK may be really expensive compared to the US (esp. now with relatively weak dollar), but if you really need it unlocked, that is one option. :) –  Jonik Sep 16 '10 at 18:21
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Another caveat: warranty & service may obviously be problematic if you buy the phone from abroad. (For us it's tolerable; you get some extra hassle, but due to EU laws Apple has to provide service even if you bought it e.g. from UK.) –  Jonik Sep 16 '10 at 18:29
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The Canadian Apple Store sells unlocked iPhones too. –  ghoppe Sep 17 '10 at 1:55
    
@ghoppe: Right, that's probably the best choice for OP then, provided there's some Borderlinx-like service (or Canadian friend/relative) available –  Jonik Sep 17 '10 at 11:35
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I live in US and have been an AT&T customer for many years and requested that they unlock my iPhone4 as I travel and they refused. So when iPhone4S arrived, I purchased an unlocked phone directly from Apple. It costs a bit more BUT the benefits are astounding. I travel around the globe and have purchased micro sims in Singapore (Singtel), Dubai (du) and Europe (Ortel)and the 3G plans are excellent and what is really irritating is that the data plans are very cheap compared to US. Does an unlocked phone work, yes.. can you buy them .. yes.

HOWEVER, if you are looking for a "jailbroken" unlocked phone, thats a different story. But if your need is similar to mine, Apple's unlocked phone is the way to go. Good travels.

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Just a side note, I purchased my unlocked phone at a local Apple store in NC. But you can order directly from Apple if your local store does not have them. –  SEWITT Mar 23 '12 at 8:50
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