updated 10:45 pm EDT, Mon June 13, 2011
Unlocked US iPhone 4 priced, clarified
Talk of new Apple products next week was narrowed down to the rumored unlocked US iPhone 4. A leak Monday night said the hints of new Air systems were a confusion of part numbers and that the smartphones were the only new options. The MacRumors source had the phone costing about $50 more than they do in locked off-contract form, starting at $649 for a 16GB version and moving to $749 for 32GB.
The slightly higher price would reflect not just that they would be sold without a subsidy but could be taken to almost any GSM carrier in the world. Only Apple's own online and retail stores are expected to carry the unlocked version, since AT&T likely wants to encourage contracts.
Reasoning still isn't certain for why Apple would offer an unlocked iPhone 4 in the US just a few months before it's liable to be replaced. It may have represented the earliest opportunity to bring the unrestricted phone to the US for the sake of travellers or even to clear out stock of the phone from Canada and other countries that have had it from the outset. Alternately, AT&T may have greenlit the phone to try and please regulators who would be listening to Sprint's complaints about device exclusives and would be in a position to either mandate device restrictions on the buyout of T-Mobile or block the merger altogether.
The current iPhone 4 works on T-Mobile on a basic form but is limited to EDGE (2G) for data and GSM for voice. Verizon has already said the next iPhone would support both CDMA and GSM in one chipset, but escaped details have hinted it might support both AT&T and T-Mobile 3G bands and guarantee support whether or not the two carriers are cleared to merge.