You may have heard that in certain countries, carriers offer their customers the possibility to buy unlocked iPhones. These iPhones don’t differ from yours. They have exactly the same hardware and exactly the same software.
How does this official unlock work?
The difference between a locked iPhone and an officially unlocked one is due to the IMEI number, a number unique to every phone (it’s like a fingerprint if you want). When officially unlocked, your IMEI is added to an Apple database which authorizes the device for unlocking.
Fine, but how to add your IMEI to the database? Well, turns out there are some people out there who seem to have the right connections at the right companies. After doing some research, I found one of these companies. According to their website, they know people at T-Mobile Germany (which offers officially unlocked iPhones). You can just pay them a hefty $190 and they will submit your IMEI to T-Mobile, who will add you to the official iPhone unlock database.
Apparently, it takes somewhere from 4 to 25 days to get this done. Once the addition to the database is processed, you can simply connect your iPhone to iTunes, follow the prompts to install a new carrier settings update, and you should be good to go.
I contacted this company about a month ago to get more information but they never replied to me, which is why I don’t bother mentioning their name in this article.
Two days ago I talked to one of my friends who owns a mobile store in France. He’s in the process of being approved by Apple to resell the iPhone so I asked him if he would be able to provide this official unlocking service to his future Apple customers. He told me he wouldn’t take the risk but he said that he knows a few store around town that can do it for you for about $100.
It sure is expensive but the main benefit is that this iPhone unlock is permanent. Unlike some of the software unlocks such as UltraSn0w or BlackSn0w, you’ll be able to update your iPhone firmware without losing your unlock.
Would you be willing to pay nearly between $100 and $200 for an official unlock?