I no longer buy my smartphones subsidized because I just can’t stand paying north of $2,000 in service fees over the course of my contract. Beginning with the iPhone 4s and onward, I’ve been purchasing my iPhones contract-free and unlocked. Of course, this means paying the full price upfront.

On the flip side, contract-free iPhones are unlocked out of the box, which gives me the freedom to switch carriers as easily as popping in another SIM card. Although a bunch of oversea markets have had the fully unlocked iPhone 5s for several weeks, Apple has now finally started selling the device in the United States through its online store…

It’s worth mentioning Verizon’s full-price iPhone 5s also comes unlocked, though only if you buy it via the Apple Store. Similarly, T-Mobile’s GSM-based iPhone 5s models sold by Apple have been unlocked since launch as well.

The SIM-free unlocked iPhone 5s (model number A1533) is available in space gray, silver and gold, each in 16/32/64GB storage tiers costing $649/$749/$849. The colorful iPhone 5c has been available SIM-free since its launch in September.

Mark Gurman of 9to5Mac first spotted the change:

Apple today released an unlocked GSM version of the iPhone 5s on its online store for the United States. This version of the iPhone 5s includes the same exact capabilities of the non-unlocked models, but does not include a SIM card. Users who buy this version of the iPhone will need to supply their own SIM card.

The central benefit of an unlocked iPhone is that it can work on many GSM networks across the globe with no contract. For frequent world travelers, this option is worth looking into.

Apple explains:

If you buy iPhone for T-Mobile, it will arrive with a nano-SIM card already installed that you can activate by visiting an Apple Retail Store or a T-Mobile store or by calling T-Mobile. If you buy a SIM-free iPhone, you will need to purchase a GSM-compatible nano-SIM card separately.

In the United States, you can purchase such a SIM from AT&T or T-Mobile. When you travel internationally, you can use a nano-SIM card for iPhone 5s from a local GSM carrier. The unlocked iPhone 5s model is A1533 (GSM). For details on LTE support, see

The online Apple Store at press time said the SIM-free iPhone 5s was available to ship in 1-2 weeks versus 3-5 days for iPhone 5s models that ship with a T-Mobile SIM.

iOS 7 teaser (iPhone 5s ad 002)

It should be noted that the unlocked SIM-free iPhone 5s is GSM-only device so it will work on AT&T and T-Mobile which use the standard, but not on Verizon’s CDMA network. In fact, these phones will work with just about any GSM carrier in the world, making SIM-less iPhones especially appealing to world travelers.

The SIM-free unlocked iPhone 5s has not yet arrived to Apple Stores, but should become available in a few weeks, ideally before Black Friday officialy marks the start of this year’s holiday shopping craziness.

  • Derp

    It only costs Apple £5 to increase the memory yet they charge $100 more. LEGIT!

    • Bob

      No it doesn’t cost £5 to increase it. It costs more.

      • Derp

        http:// blogs.which /technology/tablets-2/the-tablet-memory-mark-up-scandal/

      • Derp

        http:// blogs.which

        http:// metro

    • Rowan09

      That’s what everyone does to make money, no sense complaining about it.

  • omrishtam

    but if i buy from T-Mobile it’s also SIM-free…so what’s the difference?

    • m3nphls

      Only difference is that now it doesn’t come with a sim card inside. Regardless of the model, besides the Sprint one, if you bought it full price from apple it would come unlock.

  • Jerry

    So would it be wiser if you order one full price from verizon? That way it’ll work on every carrier? Besides sprint or am I missing something here

    • Brandon Lee Robinson

      No, if you buy from Verizon that would not allow you to have LTE on other services, or at least it was that way with the iPhone 5.

      • Jerry

        Ohh okay I thought it was fully unlocked. I understand now thanks!

      • Brandon Lee Robinson

        It’s not that it was not fully unlocked, the problem was in the nature that the iPhone’s use different frequency bands. After I just did a little research I noticed that they still use the same LTE bands, but still do not use the same frequency bands for other services.

        Model A1533 (GSM)*: UMTS/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz); GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz); LTE (Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 13, 17, 19, 20, 25)

        Model A1533 (CDMA)*: CDMA EV-DO Rev. A and Rev. B (800, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz); UMTS/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz); GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz); LTE (Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 13, 17, 19, 20, 25)

      • Jerry

        Okay not it makes sense lol.

      • Rowan09

        The Verizon model is fully unlocked for international usage only.

  • Nicholas Oldroyd

    “I no longer buy my smartphones subsidized because I just can’t stand paying north of $2,000 in service fees over the course of my contract.”

    You are getting ripped off then. I pay $1200 for 2 years of service with a new iPhone with a subsidized plan so I got my 5s for $199.

    The off-contract plan would have to be less than $31.25/mo for it to be cheaper to go off contract for me. And I don’t know a service that gives as good coverage and speed/performance as ATT LTE with unlimited data for less than $31.25/mo.

    • Alex Rodriguez

      What plan are you on?

      How much do you pay monthly after taxes and fees?

      Do you receive a corporate discount?

      I’m about 99% sure the blogger is right about paying less unsubsidized but if you feel you can prove otherwise I’m sure he welcomes it,

      • Nicholas Oldroyd

        $50/mo. It is a 5 line family plan with AT&T. The plan is $60/mo for the minutes including the first line and $10 for each additional line. So with 5 lines its $100/mo or $20/mo per person. Then I have added the $30/mo old unlimited data plan to my line for a total of $50/mo for my line. There are some tax and fees, but there is also a 15% discount to the whole plan which cancels them out.

        Just saying that the subsidized prices are better for some people still. The blog made it sound like they are never good for anyone.

      • mickrussom

        Unlimited data is gone. Only those grandfathered in can get it.

    • Alex Rodriguez

      $1200 for 2 years of service.
      Let’s do some math

      $1200/24 months

      $50 monthly.

      AT&T unlimited data and text talk for $50 no tax. That’s a great deal.

      Everyone get on this guys plan it’s a killer deal. He just proved this blogger is wrong!

  • Amit

    So as far as I can see, there’s absolutely no difference than the T-Mobile version am I right?
    I got the T-Mobile version since launch day and been using it ever since with a different carrier and it works perfectly. Only thing is it came with a “blank” T-Mobile SIM card.

    So what’s the big deal then?

  • İlkim Sezen

    Well I bought my iPhone 5S on the first day by paying the full price from 5th Avenue and I am using it in a different country. They had unlocked and contract free models since the start but they just didn’t mention that and it came with an AT&T sim card in it. I just changed it with mine and there you go.

  • jack

    The Tmobile version was already unlocked

  • Manuel Garcia

    Would anyone know a place to get a contract free iPhone 5s for Verizon, that isn’t ebay, but is reputable? I’m on a legacy plan and would really love to have unlimited 4G LTE.

    • Rowan09


      • Manuel Garcia

        Thanks, jeeze why does everyone up charge, I wish apple would just sell them, or Verizon, but no! Verizon insists on opening some type of plan.

    • m3nphls

      try swappa

  • Taf Khan

    Why only available now? In the uk it’s available unlocked and sim free on the day of release..

  • Mosz


    Ordering from EU the 16gb model will cost you 947.21$ (699€), and 1218.23$ for 64gb model.


    i have just unlock my iphone 5s

  • Yash Vardhan Gaddhyan

    if i buy a T-Mobile iPhone and remove the SIM card supplied, will i be able to insert any local sim even from different countries and use it normally?

  • Eliese

    If you buy this unlocked iPhone with a SIM card does that mean you can bypass the data plan? You can still use the wifi if there is free wifi, but you aren’t paying for a 4g network. Is this correct?