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Unlocked iPhones: Cheapest in France

Recent hubbub over the availability of unlocked iPhones has centered on Germany, where complaints from Vodafone and Debitel forced Apple’s German partner T-Mobile to offer an unlocked version of the coveted handset for a whopping €999, or almost USD $1,500. Now Apple’s iPhone partner in France, Orange, has stolen all the thunder, offering an unlocked version of the Apple handheld for just €649, or about $960 U.S. dollars. The €649 price includes a €100 fee for unlocking the iPhone during its first six months of availability; after that, French law will require Orange to unlock the iPhone for free.

An unlocked version of the iPhone can, in theory, be used on any compatible mobile network, rather than being restricted to service with Apple’s partners. However, selected iPhone features (like visual voicemail) only operate with networks operated by Apple’s partners since they require back-end support.

Orange is also offering four iPhone service plans ranging from €49 to €199 per month; however, the fine print on the contracts forbids using iPhones for VoIP calling, peer-to-peer sharing, or using the iPhone as a computer modem. Orange also warns it may limit data traffic in excess of 500 MB a month.

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