On June 14 Apple began selling its GSM iPhone 4 unlocked in America, but what if they don’t have any left when you go to pick one up at your local store? Well, the guys at the checkout can now take an AT&T iPhone and unlock it instantly for you.
A source for 9to5 Mac has provided the site with a note from an Apple Retail Project Manager that reads:
Running low on any of the Unlocked iPhone 4 SKUs? You’ve got a solution. Sell any of the AT&T iPhone 4 SKUs as Device Only, and they’ll get unlocked too.
As we learned back in April with CutYourSim, the unlocking process is all related to your iPhone’s unique IMEI number. Apple takes your device’s number and stores it on a “whitelist” database that allows it to connect to any GSM network — including those that don’t even offer the device.
This means that if you pay the premium ($649 for 16GB or $749 for 32GB) for an unlocked device, as soon as you get it home you can insert any SIM card for any GSM network of your choice without being tied into an AT&T or Verizon contract.
Of course, the benefits for doing so right now are pretty chintzy, at least domestically. AT&T remains the only GSM carrier which supports the iPhone’s 3G capabilities, making any potential T-Mobile switcher subservient to EDGE. Still, for travelers going abroad who want to avoid extortionate roaming charges with a cheap pay-as-you-go SIM card, this is a god-send.