AT&T to begin officially unlocking off-contract iPhones, and good on them!

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AT&T has announced that they've put in place an official policy for unlocking off-contract iPhones. This comes after the office of Apple CEO Tim Cook intervened several times to get AT&T to unlock off-contract iPhones, and iMore among others wondered very loudly why this couldn't simply be their default practice. 9to5Mac has the official statement:

Beginning Sunday, April 8, we will offer qualifying customers the ability to unlock their AT&T iPhones. The only requirements are that a customer’s account must be in good standing, their device cannot be associated with a current and active term commitment on an AT&T customer account, and they need to have fulfilled their contract term, upgraded under one of our upgrade policies or paid an early termination fee.”

Kudos to AT&T for listening and doing what's in the best interests of their customers. We're quick to pile upon the backs of the carriers all our frustration and all anger, and would that glares were lasers we'd likely fry them. So when they do good, they deserve an equal amount of encouragement and support.

Cheers, AT&T!

So who's unlocking come April 8?

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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

AT&T to begin officially unlocking off-contract iPhones, and good on them!


Not to rain on anyone's parade but the caveats are big ones: you have to be off contract AND you must have upgraded at least once.

"they need to have fulfilled their contract term, upgraded under one of our upgrade policies or paid an early termination fee.” that's an "or", not an "and". One of those three things must be true of the iPhone line in question. If it's not, then the contract has not yet been fulfilled and they're not at all responsible to unlock the phone.

If your read carefully, it does have three ways of getting it done:
Fulfilled contract term
Paid early termination fee OR
Upgraded. It does mot say and. Two different words

And the important part of this...
Just because at&t unlocks the device, doesn't mean other carriers will let you connect.

In my experience the carriers have always allowed you to unlock devices for overseas usage if you fulfill certain requirements. Was the iPhone treated differently?

Yes it was treated differnetly, we had an old unlocked Treo 680 for when we went to Europe each year because AT&T would not under any circumstances unlock out iPhones! this is great news for us!

Nope not the case, unless you are talking about CDMA. One GSM, as long as you have a valid carrier SIM, and the correct radio bands, you are fine.

So if we renewed and upgraded when the iphone4s came out, that means we're SOL for 2 years, need to jailbreak and use another method or just pay ATT ridiculous roaming charges/plan rates if we take our phone overseas?

Sounds like it -- which is pretty shady. Even Verizon doesn't do that. I think their rule is 90 days, good standing account. Even then -- I don't see what the big deal is for the carrier. As long as you are still a paying customer, I don't know what difference an unlocked device makes to them. This even more so if you take I to consideration that you can use unlocked devices anyway that you've purchased elsewhere. Dumb...

Or it you can pay the ETF fee. Still not ideal, but an alternative that could be, possibly, cheaper than paying international data roaming, in the long run.

Why would AT&T unlock it for you if you just got it and they subsidized a huge chunk of its cost? If you want it unlocked pay the ETF to get off of your contract and then they'll unlock it. You also had the chance of getting the officially unlocked 4S when Apple launched it but you chose to go for the cheaper subsidized version tied to an AT&T contract. Now you must fulfill your contract.

I am not a big fan of AT&T but people these days have too high of expectations.
Like Juan said above, if you chose to get the iPhone for a cheaper price by locking into a 2 year contract then why do you expect the phone to be unlocked when you didnt pay the full price?
How fair would that be to those who chose to pay extra to have an unlocked and contract free phone.

Not looking for any sort of deal or break. I am a LOOOOOOONNNNNNNGGGGGG time customer, so its not like i just signed up and now want what amounts to "something for nothing".
What i am taking issue with is i finally renewed my contract and went from a 3gs to the iphone4s and renewed my contract after technically not being under contract as i had fullfilled my initial 2 year term. And now after what amounts to less than a month after i signed a new agreement, this announcement is made. Just lame.
All i want to be able to do is use my phone overseas on an upcoming trip and not have my wallet and checking acct get raped in the process.
Its mostly a matter of principle. I have jailbroken the new iphone and if ATT wont unlock it "officially", i'll just get 1 of those sim interposers i saw on another iphone blog. Seemed to work quite well. Its just sad we have to go the "alternate" route rather than have it officially done by a company ive been with for years.

Guess I'll be getting the next iPhone and get paid for doing it by selling my unlocked iPhone 4S. Even not eligible for a contract unlocked iPhones sell for more then $449

Verizon policy is better. You can be under contract and get it unlocked. Just tell them you are traveling overseas.

At&t its not the only one throttling... T-mobile slow ur data after 2gb, verizon also slow it, even metro pcs is starting to do throttling... People its time to accept it and move foward!!!

Verizon only throttles the iphone. Not any 3G/4G device. And they only throttle you if the tower your connected to is congested.

Yas, when I leave AT&T for Verizon as they have LTE in Detroit, it's so fast event tho it runs out fast, I can get more for the unlocked phones.

If I upgraded from iPhone 4 to 4S last Nov and renewed my contract, i should be good for AT&T to unlock my old iPhone 4 that is now just a paperweight, under AT&Ts guidelines right?