Business, Economics and Jobs

AT&T allows some iPhone users to unlock


A pedestrian walks by an AT&T Wireless store July 23, 2008 in San Francisco, California.


Justin Sullivan

The US mobile industry is rejoicing, after AT&T's longstanding policy against unlocking iPhones came to an end.

A spokesman for AT&T told the New York Times that the carrier would ease up its policies for customers whose accounts were in good standing and no longer had a long-term contract with AT&T. 

Most contracts last two years from the purchase of the phone.

Users in the middle of an iPhone service contract must pay an early termination fee in order to unlock the device, AppleInsider reports.

iPhones can be unlocked at the AT&T retail store, in an online chat with AT&T or by dialing 611 on the phone, the LA Times wrote.

A user could complete the process by connecting the phone to a computer, opening iTunes and backing up data, and restoring the phone to factory settings.

Apple also already sells unlocked iPhones for $649.99.

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Once their phones were unlocked, owners can use them on other GSM cell and data networks by using other SIM cards, a change that will mainly allow users to take advantage of cheaper service when traveling abroad.

The US mobile industry is not as well set up for contract-free iPhone use as other countries: In the U.S., the AT&T iPhone is compatible only with T-Mobile SIM cards, as Verizon and Sprint use different, CDMA cellular technology, according to ABC News.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson told 9to5Mac that there were "more than 1 million unlocked iPhones running on our network," even though T-Mobile doesn't sell any version of Apple's smartphones.

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