Verizon sells the iPhone 5 unlocked out of the box, but what about AT&T? If you buy into a two-year contract for the subsidized starting price of $200, you’re usually not able to get an unlock until you’ve fulfilled your contract.
Buying off-contract for the full starting price of $649 is another story, however. AT&T customers in good standing should be able to get a fully priced iPhone 5 unlocked for free, but the process requires filling out a web form, sending a fax, and possibly waiting more than a week.
As it turns out, unlocking an unsubsidized iPhone 5 is as simple as restoring the device in iTunes.
According to TechCrunch:
We have confirmed the process with AT&T’s technical support and successfully tried it with a T-Mobile SIM card. After restoring the device in iTunes, the user is prompted with the usual unlocking message: “Congratulations, your iPhone has been unlocked.”
After receiving the confirmation message, you can confirm that the unlock has taken effect by swapping out the AT&T nano-SIM in your iPhone 5 for another GSM-comaptible nano-SIM. It worked for TechCrunch:
After receiving the notification my new iPhone was unlocked, I cut a micro-SIM card into the shape of a nano-SIM by using the AT&T SIM card that was already in the iPhone 5 as a guide. The most difficult part was to make it narrower so that you can close the tiny nano-SIM tray, though some have reported that this step may be optional.
We haven’t been able to independently confirm that this process works on an unsubsidized iPhone 5 yet, but it seems right. An iTunes restore is always required to apply an unlock once it has been approved by AT&T. The above process suggests that every off-contract AT&T iPhone 5 is basically considered to be factory unlocked internally, but for some reason AT&T isn’t applying the unlock before units hit store shelves. A simple iTunes restore should do the trick.
Hey, it beats sending a fax.