Apple Offers Unlocked iPhone 4S for Pre-Order
For those iPhone lovers who hate two-year contracts Apple will be offering the iPhone 4S unlocked in the United States. The unlocked version is already available for pre-order on the Apple online store at unsubsidized, contract-free prices. Buyers can expect to pay a $450 premium above carrier discount prices to avoid a contract, making the iPhone 4S 16GB come in at $649 with free shipping.
This puts the 32GB at $749 and the 64GB capacity model at $849. Of course the unlocked version comes in black or white, however it will only be compatible with GSM networks around the globe. This means that iPhone 4S users in the US will be limited to AT&T or T-Mobile as a choice of carriers. Currently Verizon and Sprint will require the iPhone 4S to be locked into a two-year contract to be activated on their networks.
The advantages of an unlocked iPhone go beyond simply not having to worry about a two-year contract. Instead of paying expensive roaming fees to your home carrier to use your iPhone 4S in a foreign country, a local micro-SIM card can be purchased for pre-paid minutes in the area. This frees up your cellular bill and makes it possible to swap out micro-SIM cards whenever you travel to a new place with a compatible GSM network. When you return to the US you can put your AT&T or T-Mobile micro-SIM back in the device.
One drawback of using the unlocked iPhone 4S on T-Mobile is that data will be limited to EDGE speeds. This is especially slow considering that on the AT&T network download speeds will double with the iPhone 4S, blowing away current iPhone 4 download speeds. Some might want to save $100 and still have an unlocked iPhone. Apple is also currently offering the GSM iPhone 4 with 8GB of storage unlocked for $549. This adds the same $450 to the going subsidized price of 99 bucks for the previous generation handset.
Verizon and Sprint owners can still use their locked iPhone 4S internationally on GSM networks, however subscribers will be forced to pay steep charges for international roaming on their data plans. The unlocked iPhone 4S ships in November.