Sprint to lock iPhone 4S SIM cards, starting today

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All you brand new Sprint iPhone 4S customers who thought you’d actually be able to use the full dual-mode GSM/CDMA worldphone capabilities of your fancy new Apple handset when traveling abroad, think again. According to a leak from SprintFeed, Sprint will begin locking the SIM card of every iPhone 4S upon activation. This will make it impossible to use any other SIM besides a Sprint SIM while overseas, a restriction that significantly increases the price of using the device outside the US.

“Starting tomorrow, all iPhone 4S devices will have the SIM locked,” reads the leaked Sprint memo. “The locking occurs during the activation process and is invisible to the customer (no extra action is needed by customer or rep).”

The memo goes on to say that customer who wish to use their iPhone 4S during international travel will be directed to Sprint Worldwide “for authentication.”

SIM cards of customers who purchased their iPhone 4S from Sprint before today will, it seems, remain unlocked. This mean they will be able to travel to, say, Italy, pop in a pre-paid GSM SIM card that gives them a local phone number, and use it to their heart’s content. This is a far less expensive way to use your own phone while overseas, where almost all phones are unlocked.

Now, if you were planning to purchase an iPhone 4S from Sprint today, don’t think you’re necessarily going to get a better deal from Verizon or AT&T — they lock their SIM cards, too. That said, Verizon will reportedly allow customers who’ve had their accounts in good standing for 60 days or more to request an “international unlock,” which would enable the full worldphone capabilities. With Sprint fighting fiercely to compete with AT&T and Verizon, it’s entirely possible it will allow its customers the ability to unlock their SIM cards, as well.

Of course, there’s always the jailbreak option, which will completely unlock your iPhone 4S from any type of restrictions — and void your Apple warranty. The fact that jailbreaking is the only real way to be able to do what you want with a device you own is completely absurd. It’s time for US wireless carriers to stop acting like insecure significant others, and let people make their own decisions.

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