For the first time in history, Apple is now offering factory unlocked iPhones in the U.S. If you walk into your local Apple store, or browse online, you can purchase an unlocked iPhone 4 for operation on any compatible carrier. These unlocked devices start at $649.

AT&T does not currently offer unlocked iPhones in the United States. AT&T has yet to state if it will offer unlocked iPhones in its stores, or if the GSM carrier will unlock previously purchased iPhones.

When a GSM iPhone is “unlocked” for use on multiple networks, the carrier (in this case, AT&T) provides the unlock authorization to Apple, and Apple makes the change in its IMEI database. When the iPhone syncs with iTunes, the unlock is performed and the device is officially whitelisted.

The benefits of unlocking mostly pertain to international travelers who wish to swap SIM cards for use on other GSM carriers around the world. Because Verizon’s network standard, CDMA, is mainly used in the U.S. only, the advantages of a carrier-unlocked CDMA device are limited. GSM is much more of a global standard.

Another benefit of unlocking is freedom from a carrier contract. Unlocked iPhones are expensive because their price compensates for the carrier subsidy.

In the United States, an unlocked device on AT&T doesn’t really get you that much. Unless you don’t mind using T-Mobile’s EDGE network, you’ll still have to use AT&T for 3G coverage in the U.S. Because AT&T and Verizon operate on different frequencies, you cannot take an unlocked GSM device to Verizon’s network, and vice versa.

As it turns out, 9to5Mac received word that Verizon iPhones are “unlocked” by GSM standards by default.

“Verizon Wireless does not lock any of our phones in the U.S, that has never been our policy. Typically the conversation of locking or unlocking a device is one for carriers that use GSM technology. CDMA and GSM technologies are not compatible, so a CDMA phone won’t work on a GSM network and vice versa.”

AT&T, on the other hand, doesn’t look to be offering authorized iPhone unlocks in the foreseeable future. When asked about the option to unlock in-store, AT&T declined to comment. The GSM carrier did give some general information about the issue.

“You can, of  course, buy an unlocked iPhone from Apple and use it on the AT&T network.  We offer a variety of contract and no-contract options for iPhone, but do not sell unlocked iPhones. If you do buy an unlocked phone from Apple, you can absolutely bring it to us and choose any current voice and data plan – with no term commitment. AT&T offers data plans starting as low as $15 per month for 250 MB of data.”

Frontman for the iPhone Dev Team and unlock wizard, MuscleNerd, made an interesting point that AT&T should unlock older iPhone 4’s if the carrier subsidy has been paid off, but AT&T has not released a statement concerning that issue.

Some have speculated that these factory unlocked iPhones will be the “death” of the jailbreak alternative, UltraSn0w, in the U.S. That doesn’t seem plausible, as UltraSn0w is a free method that requires no face-to-face involvement with the carrier. The benefits of Apple selling unlocked devices is that you can be unlocked on the newer iPhone 4 basebands.

We’ll keep you updated with news concerning AT&T’s policy on unlocking. Let us know if you’ve tried to get your older iPhone unlocked by AT&T.

  • Roli

    IMEI* right? 😀

  • f3n1x197

    I wouldn’t say ” for the first time on history” the iphone 4 is sold unlocked from apple in mexico and europe, the problem are the carriers

    • It says “For the first time in history, Apple is now offering factory unlocked iPhones IN THE US.” That is correct.

    • Chano

      For the first time in history, Apple is now offering factory unlocked iPhones in the U.S.!!

      • f3n1x187

        Yep that’s what I was trying to say IN the U.S.

  • kokhean
    • Michael

      Technically, CDMA phones are NOT locked in the GSM terminology means. But to get CDMA phone to work to another providers, you have to PATCH firmware and re flash device. Actually, it is individual patch of CDMA phone, not universal solution.

      • kokhean

        Oh, then it’s real. Thanks for the clarification.

  • I’ve never heard of a “locked” CDMA phone. They don’t work the same way as GSM and so there’s no need to carrier lock them. CDMA phones are rigged to a specific carrier by design, realistically. It’s in the hardware.

    • Fabio Rodrigues

      Yes, they are, that way, you cant use them with another CDMA, like if you have a cdma blackberry from sprint you can’t use on verizon, unless you unlock it and then you will be able to flash it to work with other company, same goes to boost mobile and other cdmas companies, if you have a cdma boost mobile phone you can unlock it and flash with a different PRL file to work with let’s say pageplus, or verizon prepaid, difference is that unlock will allow you to have access to change prl and then manually program the phone, but the company needs to be able to accept esn from your phone (esn is almost same thing as imei, but identifies as cdma phone), lets say someone lost its sprint phone a called them to inform phone was lost, sprint put in its black list, it doesn’t mean you can’t use phone anymore, because esn is not on verizon’s esn blacklist for example

  • MaxMillion

    Wait so does that mean that I can use the CDMA iPhone 4 on any single CDMA network in the US?

    • Fabio Rodrigues

      Tecnically “yes” but probably “not”, pageplus for example sen’t an email and fax notifyng it’s dealers that iphone 4’s from verizon would not be allowed to be activated with pageplus with the change of being suspended or deactivated from the system, but you can jailbreak and then flash the iphone 4 cdma to work with cricket wich is sprint MVNO

      • MaxMillion

        Thanks will it work with us cellular ?

    • Fabio Rodrigues

      You need to check with them if they are CDMA (no SIM cards) or GSMA (SIM card phones) and if they do accept unlocked phones, if yes you just need jailbreak and go to a store where they can flash the phone for you, probably they can jailbreak it and unlock and flash the phone in the very same store

      • MaxMillion

        They r CDMA. And what does flash the phone mean?

    • Fabio Rodrigues

      FLASH is to make you cellphone work with the voice, messages and data from the company you want to have service with, its is like tell your phone what will be the towers that you phone will be connected, like program or provisioning your phone to work with the service provider that you want to have service with if you have a compatible phone.

      In my store I do flashes trough a company called “flashtotalk”, if you bring a phone from sprint I can make it work with verizon, or you can bring a metro pcs compatible phone and flash it to work with pageplus service which is a MVNO (mobile vitrual service operator) from verizon service (means that they relly on verizon’s network to operate) like virgin mobile needs sprint service to run.

      • Fabio Rodrigues

        sorry for my bad writing, my english still far from good 🙁
        but I keep improving it 😀

  • Pablo

    Movistar in Spain do unlock iPhones after the 2-year contract expires, but you have to nag them to do it, they only do it because they are olbigated by law. Dont expect too much from AT&T until some law obligates them to do it.

    But this is great news for international buyers like me. I currently have an AT&T phone unlocked to work overseas, don’t even have an AT&T chip to activate it.

  • Deathstar

    AT&T is not silent about this. just call and they will tell you.

    Q. I have an iPhone 4. Will AT&T unlock it?

    A. No. The iPhone smartphones we sell in our stores are for use on AT&T, which offers the nation’s fastest mobile broadband network, the ability to talk and surf on mobile broadband, and international roaming capability in more than 220 countries.

    Q. Can customers buy an unlocked iPhone at AT&T’s direct retail locations (e.g., COR, Authorized Local Dealers, DMDR, National Retail, or

    A. No. AT&T and its authorized dealers/retailers offer a variety of contract and no-contract options, but they do not sell unlocked iPhone smartphones.

    • AT&T IS silent in the sense that they have not responded to the fact that Apple now offers unlocked iPhones in its stores. But thanks for the AT&T Q&A response. That’s helpful info.

  • Deathstar

    I know I am going to sound like a jerk but here it goes…the picture in the article is also Not correct . The Verizon iPhone 4 does not have a SIM tray slot as shown in the above picture. =P

    • Fabio Rodrigues

      You are correct 😀

    • dfgbhfdv

      I don’t see any SIM tray slot. It’s just a little hole.

  • Lol CDMA is garbage old technology that should never have been implanted with the iPhone gsm is the standard worldwide it’s American carriers who are behind both in technology and in business models. I’ve been to Europe and let me tell you they have it down pat when it comes to cellphones here we aren’t even playing catch up we are so far behind it’s pathetic.

  • JSD

    I have a business account with ATT and they told me that Apple has yet to give them the ability to do so. Maybe Apple restricts access to who can and who can’t whitelist the phone’s IMEI?

  • Anonymous

    Why don’t we start a new class action lawsuit against both AT&T and Apple? They were sued before and we got a little change. Can we try again?

    • Anonymous

      you are right, why any lawyer in the world start a new class action against Apple IMei database. Apple has money to buy all these lawyer. Look for a hacker to destroy Apple IMEI databse

  • Paul Bellah

    As of Nov 2011 at&t refused my request to unlock my old (now off contract) iphone 3GS, they said this may change in the future but current policy is “no unlock available.” So my iphone 3GS is now just an ipod until they unlock (if they ever get a clue and stop agrivating customers).

  • And as of December 2011, I get the same thing. Since the iphone was locked to At&T, it can not be unlocked. I had called Apple just prior to my call to ATT and Apple said no problem just need them to initiate the unlock. Seems to be a monopoly and is just not right.!! I just heard some type of statistic that a million iphone users are on T-Mobile. So, what’s next?

    • Anonymous

      I live in the UK and bought a 3gs on ebay which was jailbroken and unlocked just over a year ago.. I now realise it on AT&T but well out of contract. My problem is that I cant update from 4.0.1 because it would lock back to AT&T which is not available in UK. I spoke to Apple last week about unlocking it and they told me I had to speak to AT&T. Having read up on this I know I would be knocking my head on a stone wall.