Unlocked iPhone?!

With all the buzz about the wonders of the iPhone, a very real consumer rights issue has been left to simmer on the back burner. The question of whether or not the iPhone can be unlocked or will ever be sold as such is on many consumers minds. Sooner or later, whatever’s left simmering on the back burner will either evaporate or boil over.

Which will it be for the iPhone? Will Apple willingly allow unlocked versions to enter the marketplace? For the immediate future, the answer is a resounding no. While consumer demand may eventually cause the matter to reach a tipping point, for now corporate policies of bedfellows Apple and AT&T will win out. Plenty of people and companies have already tried to unlock the iPhone, without much success to speak of thus far. UK based company Uniquephone boasts a 75% success rate, but these numbers are not confirmed. Most consumers will not likely be comfortable risking their $500-$600 initial investment, before extras and service contract charges, including sky-high contract early termination fees, on a “maybe.”

This very issue arose shortly before the release of the iPhone for this reporter. One afternoon while mopping my son’s playroom, he decided to ‘help’ by swishing his hand around in the mopwater bucket. Little did I realize that the black Razor had found its way into his eager little hand until the mopwater was poured down the toilet and I glimpsed a swirling flash of black. I fervently hoped it was only a black sock, but no such luck.

With the phone’s insurance recently cancelled and our contract not yet eligible for an inexpensive or free upgrade, we were forced to replace the phone at full cost or spend more on a refurbished phone than we had originally purchased for the original phone with a service contract attached to the discounted price. Would we prefer an iPhone with the freedom to roam? Absolutely. Does Apple have a stake in keeping the iPhones attached to a contract with AT&T? You bet. As we mentioned in yesterday’s update, the revenue reporting for the iPhone is on a 24 month cycle. The very same 24 month initial contract period that comes with most phones from most carriers these days.

If Apple could no longer count on the additional income from contractual kickbacks, it would be forced to find another way to make up for the lost projected revenue. They’re not going to let that happen — at least not yet.