Subsidized smartphone prices represent a deal struck between consumers and the carriers: you commit to use their wireless services for a prescribed period of time, and in turn get a nice chunk of change knocked-off the upfront price of your handset. Once that time’s up, the idea is that your monthly service bills have offset the carrier’s earlier investment, leaving the two of you square. At least, that’s the way it’s supposed to work, but not all carriers are happy to call things even and let you do what you want with your phone once your contract is fulfilled. AT&T’s been one of the most notorious offenders around, keeping off-contract iPhones locked to its network. That’s all about to change now, with the carrier announcing that it will finally begin unlocking iPhones as of this Sunday.
The rules are going to be pretty straightforward. Obviously, you can’t currently have your iPhone tied to any ongoing service contract, and you can’t have any outstanding balance with AT&T. If you’re free-and-clear, though, starting Sunday you’ll be able to call up AT&T and the carrier will happily unlock you.
Granted, even an unlocked AT&T iPhone will be a bit limited in how else users in the US can take advantage of the handset, but there’s always the T-Mobile EDGE option. Frankly, we’re just happy to see AT&T finally commit to doing what it should have done in the first place.