Earlier this year, Apple announced that the iPhone would be available on Verizon. The technology press immediately heralded it as a groundbreaking decision – one that would end the complaints of dropped calls, poor signals, and costly service. It was a revolution in choice, an option for iPhone users to pick their carrier instead of being forced into working with AT&T.
But was it really a revolution in choice? Hardly. With eight major carriers in the United States and a lengthy list of regional carriers, giving iPhone users the choice of just two carriers is barely a major increase in choice. With carriers like T-Mobile and Sprint Nextel left out in the cold, many would-be iPhone customers have held off buying the new 4GS, fearing it wouldn’t support their preferred carrier.
The good news is that despite Apple’s official partnership with AT&T and Verizon, the iPhone can be used on a range of carriers. For years, the only way to achieve total freedom with your iPhone was to purchase an unlocked model from Apple – a costly process that frequently doubled, or even tripled, the price of a carrier subsidized unit.
Today, it’s possible to purchase a subsidized iPhone direct from your preferred carrier and unlock it afterwards. Whether you’re aiming to jailbreak your iPhone 4S, which provides access to thousands of new applications, or unlock it to gain compatibility with other networks, the process is simple and fairly inexpensive.
One of the most popular reasons for unlocking a carrier-restricted iPhone is to increase its functions when out of the country. Coverage from AT&T and Verizon can be limited in many countries, not to mention the sometimes extreme cost of international roaming services. For years, iPhone customers took to purchasing their devices internationally to make sure that they received an unlocked phone.
With iPhone 4S unlocking guides, that’s no longer necessary. In fact, for almost all consumers, save those without the time to unlock their own phone, unlocking a carrier-locked iPhone 4 is much less expensive than purchasing an unlocked phone internationally.
Of course, there are downsides to unlocking a carrier-locked phone. While factory unlocked phones typically come with a full warranty, the unlocking process – which involves jailbreaking the iPhone – voids both Apple’s factory warranty and the carrier’s own warranty. For some users, this might be a deal breaker, leaving them without any support if their iPhone stops working.
Then there’s the lack of software compatibility. On a factory unlocked iPhone, software updates are available through iTunes just as they are with a carrier-locked unit. On a jailbroken phone, however, finding software updates can be a challenging process that typically involves waiting for a ‘cracked’ version of Apple’s software to appear.
There are ups and downs to each approach, and the choice to purchase an unlocked phone or unlock their own iPhone is, as it should be, up to the consumer. However, due to the high three-figure costs associated with factory unlocked phones, more and more iPhone users are jailbreaking their own phones in an effort to enjoy greater carrier flexibility, cheaper international calling, and new apps.