Apple unveils unlocked, no-commit $599 and $699 iPhones

Chicago (IL) – Apple has introduced a no-commit option for
prospective iPhone 3G customers who don’t want to sign a 2-year service
contract with the AT&T. Apple stores are now carrying
8GB and 16GB iPhone 3Gs for $599 and $699
respectively, as confirmed by the staff of Apple’s flagship New York,
Fifth Avenue store. AT&T is expected to follow Apple’s
move sho
rtly. And in the UK, several online retailers are also now
carrying SIM-free iPhones for use with any network.

This no-commit iPhone
indicates Apple and its carrier partners are clearing the backlog
of iPhones in anticipation of new models early June. And the pricing of the no-commit iPhone at Apple stores suggests that
AT&T heavily subsidized 8GB and 16GB models at about $400 and $500

Apple does not appear to have limited the number of
no-commit iPhones available to a single buyer. In addition, no-commit
iPhone do not require prospective buyer to have an existing service
contract with the AT&T.

AT&T expected to follow suit

Now that Apple has offered a no-commit
option at its own stores, AT&T is soon expected to follow suit. According to rumors at Boy Genius Report,
AT&T plans to match Apple’s pricing for their no-commit iPhones, but
may limit the purchase to one unit per line. In addition, the sources
revealed that an existing service contract will be required as well an
iPhone data plan (if the device is activated on the AT&T network).

Europe has fully SIM-free iPhones

Last week, UK’s online retailer Play (and many others) began selling SIM-free iPhones that work on any network, while O2 (a mobile operator) started giving away iPhone 3Gs for free with their low-cost plans. In France, unlocked iPhone 3Gs are now offered at department stores. The iPhone 3G will debut in China — where the China Unicom mobile operator confirmed it will start selling the handset to China’s 1.3+ billion market beginning May 17. And finally, AT&T is now selling refurbished iPhones again, 8GB model for $99 (service plan required) + free shipping, and 16GB for $199.

Apple Insider reported
AT&T is now offering some customers early upgrade to a
subsidized iPhone 3G with more relaxed policies. It’s believed the advent of no-commit option is motivated by the desire of Apple and
its carrier partners to clear inventories ahead of the next-gen iPhone
(that should debut at the WWDC this June). The no-commit iPhone 3G, of
course, doesn’t necessarily mean that the upcoming model will also be sold with no carrier ties.

Unlocked phones, now support T-Mobile in U.S.

The no-commit option enables those buyers who don’t want to sign a
2-year service contract with the AT&T to simply walk away from the store
with an iPhone 3G they can activate later at home through iTunes. The no-commit
iPhone does not have any service provider lock, meaning you’re not tied
only to the AT&T network so you can put another carrier’s SIM card
to get to its network. For U.S. residents, this means only T-Mobile (who
matches AT&T’s GSM, but not their 3G network).

Practically speaking, this
means that a no-commit iPhone 3G on T-Mobile’s network can be used for
voice, text messaging and Internet-related activities over the
GSM-based EDGE network, but you won’t be able to surf at 3G speeds
since T-Mobile’s and AT&T’s 3G networks are incompatible (though you can still use Wi-Fi at whatever Internet speed is available). This also
effectively renders Verizon’s and Sprint’s network incompatible with
the iPhone (until Apple provides official support — if ever).

In Europe and Asia, however, the situation is quite the opposite as
most carriers use compatible 3G networks so switching no-commit iPhone
3G to other networks is a simple matter of swapping out with another operator’s
SIM card.