Apple has a new iPhone product listing in its online store, but it’s not the long-awaited handset upgraded you’ve been looking for. The iPhone 4 can now officially be purchased unlocked, meaning that it isn’t tied to a specific wireless carrier, TUAW has learned. You’ll be paying $649 for a 16 GB model and $749 for a 32 GB model. So, not cheap.
Don’t break out the champagne bottles and start planning a party just yet, however. For starters, the price is pretty prohibitive. Seriously. You could get an iPad 2 for less. The bigger problem is the fact that only the GSM model is available unlocked, meaning the phone is still restricted to the AT&T network here in the United States. The only other major wireless provider using GSM is T-Mobile, and that network is incompatible with the iPhone. Verizon phones use CDMA, and those remain (officially) locked.
The real advantage of an unlocked GSM iPhone is for world travelers. Previously, those with an iPhone who traveled abroad would have to worry about accruing some serious roaming charges when using their device outside the country. With an unlocked iPhone, swapping out your U.S.-friendly SIM card with one for a European service provider will cut down on those costs significantly. There’s also the advantage of being able to wrap your hands around one of Apple’s popular cellphones without signing your wireless communications life away to AT&T for two years. That alone may be enough to attract some buyers.