The iPhone 5 is now available for purchase unlocked at an unsubsidized price on Apple’s U.S. online store. Customers should also be able to pick up an unlocked iPhone 5 in U.S. Apple Retail stores as well. Pricing starts at $649 for the 16GB model.
It typically takes Apple a couple months before it starts selling a new iPhone model unlocked. Today a new option has appeared in the online store for selecting an unlocked model without a two-year carrier contract.
Unfortunately, GSM carrier customers need only apply—that means AT&T or T-Mobile in the U.S. and any other GSM international partners. The regular $199 iPhone 5 is unlocked out of the box on Verizon already. A pro of buying from Verizon is that you can use your unlocked iPhone 5 on AT&T’s HSPA+ network as well.
Here’s how Apple explains buying an unlocked iPhone 5:
The unlocked iPhone includes all the features of iPhone but without a wireless contract commitment. You can activate and use iPhone on the supported GSM wireless network of your choice, such as AT&T in the United States. The unlocked iPhone 4, iPhone 4S and iPhone 5 will not work with CDMA-based 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 does not come with a micro-SIM card for iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S, or a nano-SIM card for iPhone 5, so you’ll need to get one from any supported GSM carrier worldwide. To start using it, simply insert the 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.
Apple released the iPhone 5 back in September, and two months later supply is just now starting to catch up with demand. Shipping estimates for regular iPhone 5 orders are now at one week.