Apple to offer unlocked GSM iPhone 4S starting in the US from November

Apple will offer the iPhone 4S in an unlocked flavor starting from November in the United States. This is nothing new for most other countries who can already pre-order an unlocked iPhone 4S today.

The unlocked iPhone works only on supported GSM networks, such as AT&T in the U.S. When you travel internationally, you can also use a micro-SIM card from a local GSM carrier. The unlocked iPhone 4 will not work with CDMA carriers such as Verizon Wireless or Sprint. If you don’t want a multiyear service contract or if you prefer to use a local carrier when traveling abroad, the unlocked iPhone is the best choice. It arrives without a micro-SIM card, so you’ll need an active micro-SIM card from any supported GSM carrier worldwide. To start using it, simply insert the micro-SIM card into the slot on your iPhone and turn it on by pressing and holding the On/Off button for a few seconds. Then follow the onscreen instructions to set up your iPhone.

The benefit of buying an unlocked iPhone is mostly to those that travel. The ability to buy a local SIM card and avoid the heavy roaming charges is a huge benefit to some. The downside is the price of the handset. Apple will be selling them for $649 for the 16GB, $749 for the 32GB and finally a whopping $849 for the 64GB. It is GSM only and should work even with T-Mobile but only with Edge; don't expect any 3G data!

Source: Apple


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Reader comments

Apple to offer unlocked GSM iPhone 4S starting in the US from November


Wish they had told us that! Was going to buy one with a gift card I was saving...Could have got 1 hour more of sleep!
Was going to give to my wife on t mobile (I know, EDGE) or sell!

Uhh, you're wrong there. The unlocked iPhone 4S will be physically identical to the carrier-locked versions. That means it still supports HSPA+14.4 on 850/1900/2100 and CDMA 1XEVDO on 850/1900. And of course, GSM+EDGE 850/900/1800/1900 is supported. The issue is whether the unlocked iPhone 4S accepts CDMA SIMs. If it does, unlocked iPhones can be used on MetroPCS and Verizon Wireless.

You wont be too happy when iPhone 6 is out in 6 months and then you have to pay the full price since you used your upgrade on 4S ;)

The new rotten apple Apple is screwing us again or has screwed themselves if the unlocked specs are correct. Time for a move to android here. Sprint negotiated a 30 billion dollar deal which excludes them from the population of unlocked IPhone users. Ha ha ha ha.

Read closely - it said the iPhone 4 (not 4S) won't work on CDMA networks. It doesn't say anything about an unlocked 4S not working on CDMA. I agree it could have been worded better, I thought the same the first time I read it.

Good luck getting any content in and out of those without iTunes. Keep your specs and your freedom and I will keep using the apps that I only had to purchase once.

I live in the cayman islands. I have N unlocked iPhone 4 which is working quite nicely without any cracks etc. I use iTunes and have quite a large music collection and a lot of Apps. Not sure what you mean?

So basically having GSM + CDMA on the same phone is completely useless for anyone on a GSM contract since CDMA roaming is not possible

Actually, that isn't true. In Asia, CDMA2000 networks all use SIM cards. In the United States, Verizon and MetroPCS SIM cards include CSIM programs, which means that using those SIM cards in CDMA2000 phones that supports CSIM UICCs will work. Sprint will be the next carrier to offer CSIM UICCs. U.S. Cellular and C Spire Wireless will both offer them too.

Damn it! I was all excited about an unlocked world phone. I'll wait for the next one I guess... makes no sense though. Why make unlocked iPhones impotent???

I don't want an unlocked iPhone 4S, I just want a no contract iPhone 4s. Is there any way to get one?? Good chance I'll have to switch carriers from ATT next year so I don't want to be stuck in contract with them.
Anyone know how I can get a no contract iPhone 4S - don't care if I have to pay unlocked prices, just want to get it on Oct 14.

Cool, one pointless answer. Anybody got the real scoop. I've bought these in the past at the Apple Store. Guess I'll try on 14th?

It's the same. The unlocked phones are sold at full price. So a no carrier phone would be the same thing. The carriers subsidize the price which lowers it. So you would want the unlocked version.

Pay full price. there is no reason that you can't buy one at that price. OTOH - look at the full price cost vs subsidized plus termination fee - if it's cheaper to pay the termination fee next year go with that.

but the phone is locked to their network. It means that you cannot just switch to AT&T on whim and use the same phone, you have to purchase a new iPhone 4s from AT&T. The unlocked allows you to merely purchase a sim card from AT&T and start off with a service that is already not tied to a 2 year contract.

Isn't the iphone 4s world phone anyway. So if I bought a 4s on contract, I could give it to a Tmobile user and it would work right?

So I don't see any reason in them calling it a world phone, just because you can take your att and use it in another country. That has be doable since the 3gs. I don't see why it's called a world phone, makes no difference than before other than that its cmda and gsm. I guess thats what they meant.

Precisely, it is because it will operate on the CDMA and GSM networks allowing those on a CDMA network to roam on GSM in countries where CDMA is not available and vice Verse.
With the Carrier purchased phones you are limited to the networks that YOUR carrier has a roaming agreement with.
With the unlocked phone it has the advantage that you can purchase a sim card for a destination network and be guaranteed that it will activate albeit with a new number for each sim card.

I believe the text disclaimer for the Unlocked iPhone 4S is probably incorrect. The disclaimer mentions "The unlocked iPhone 4 will not work with CDMA carriers such as Verizon Wireless or Sprint." which is true. An unlocked iPhone 4 will not work with CDMA carriers because the only unlocked iPhone 4 that was being sold is the GSM version.
The iPhone 4S however has both GSM and CDMA on the same phone. So it appears the disclaimer on this page is a carry over from the disclaimer on the unlocked iPhone 4 order form and wasn't updated to reflect the iPhone 4S.

Not necessarily - IIRC, CDMA carriers have an ESN database that identifies phones that will work on their network. If the # is not in the database, no go on activating it.
Now, there is no reason for a carrier not to activate your phone and add the ESN to their database - they essentially get an unsubsidized subscriber at full fare rate plan prices.
Since Apple appears to not allow carrier sot slap on carrier specific crap like in the old days, so that should not be an issue.
That was an issue why back when palm came out with CDMA carrier specific Treos - even through the networks were compatible (and roam on each other's network) carriers would not allow activation of non-carreir sold phones.

While CDMA carriers do have an MEID database (though AT&T also has an IMEI one too), the CDMA SIM system implemented by Verizon and MetroPCS (and soon Sprint, U.S. Cellular, Cricket, and C Spire Wireless) would bypass the restrictions of the MEID database.
If the unlocked iPhone 4S can use CDMA SIM cards, then it can be used on any CDMA network that supports CDMA SIMs. Pretty much any CDMA carrier that launches LTE will have CDMA SIMs.

Well for the 64GB ATT version, my upgrade price is only $200 less than the unlocked 64GB version. I travel a lot, so unlocked for only $200 more is a great deal for me. I am in an ATT contract, so I can't get the $399 price anyway.

Also, with a factory unlocked version, I don't have to worry about the baseband every time I jailbreak, which was ALWAYS a headache.

This is not entirely accurate. CDMA iPhone 4s have been flashed to work on CricKet's. It was done days after the CDMA iPhone 4 was released.

One issue we haven't addressed is if you buy it on Verizon at full price, will Verizon unlock it for you (or even have the ability to do so) so that you can buy a sim card and use that when you're abroad. It's not unheard of... Verizon unlocks phones for people all the time.

The issue we haven't discussed is if you purchase a 4S from Verizon (thus, it's your normal phone with Verizon as the carrier in the US) if they'll unlock the phone for you so you can use foreign SIM cards when you're abroad. This is pretty standard practice with Verizon... just not sure if Apple will give them the ability to do so.

The iPhone 4S has a dual-diversity Tx/Rx CDMA2000/WCDMA antenna configuration. That means that all WCDMA bands are technically also supported for CDMA2000.
In Japan, CDMA2000 operates on 850/2100, as well as using CDMA SIM cards. The iPhone 4S will work on that network, as it is launching on that network next week. In the United States, we use CDMA2000 on 850/1900 but most networks don't implement CDMA SIMs.
However, only Verizon and MetroPCS currently implement the newest version of the CDMA2000 standard which uses CDMA SIM cards. Everyone else uses the original standard which required programming the phone itself. The newer CDMA2000 standard is used in India, China, Japan, and South Korea.
Sprint, U.S. Cellular, Cricket, and C Spire Wireless will implement the newer standard as part of the LTE deployment. If the unlocked iPhone 4S will accept CDMA SIM cards, then it would be possible to used the unlocked model to move among CDMA networks in the United States.