Rumors out this morning indicate that Apple will release an unlocked GSM version of its iPhone 4 in the United States on Wednesday. The tip comes from trusted Apple rumorist ChronicWire, who published the tidbit late Sunday night on his Twitter feed. This would be the first time US Apple Stores sold an iPhone device that was not pre-tied to specific carriers.
ChronicWire even has parts numbers for the unlocked iPhones —MC603 (16GB, Black) MC604 (16GB, White) MC605 (32GB, Black) MC606 (32GB, White) — which gives further weight to the rumor. As Electronista reports, the model numbers line up with previous iPhones released internationally, but without regional suffixes (B for Britain, C for Canada, etc) that are normally included. An unlocked iPhone 4 would be able to work on any GSM network around the world with an appropriate SIM card.
We have a bit of trouble believing that Apple would release an unlocked iPhone in the US. Of course, the company is no longer under an exclusivity agreement with AT&T, which would have legally restricted it from releasing such a device. And unlocked iPhones are widely available abroad, where wireless customers are expected or required to purchase phone and service separately. That said, the US remains Apple’s primary market. And the company likes to keep the reigns tight on its products, especially in the US. Besides that, there is little incentive for Apple to release such a device, especially out of the blue.
Another factor that ups our skepticism is that ChronicWire, the source of the rumor, had published less than 24 hours before that it was “100% confirmed” that Apple would release an update of the MacBook Air ultra-thin laptop on Wednesday, not an unlocked iPhone 4.
Still, it seems possible that Apple will release something on Wednesday (or late Tuesday night). What that thing will be, we’ll all just have to wait and see.