AT&T has begun unlocking iPhones for customers who have completed their contracts, reports 9to5Mac. This has long been a point of contention for customers of the network as they felt — rightly — that once their contract was up, they should be able to use their device on whatever carrier they please.
Now, AT&T has caved and will begin allowing those qualifying customers to have their devices unlocked. The company has issued the following statement about the new policy:
Beginning Sunday, April 8, we will offer qualifying customers the ability to unlock their AT&T iPhones. The only requirements are that a customer’s account must be in good standing, their device cannot be associated with a current and active term commitment on an AT&T customer account, and they need to have fulfilled their contract term, upgraded under one of our upgrade policies or paid an early termination fee.
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I personally have several iPhones that were originally purchased on AT&T but cannot be used on other GSM networks in the U.S. like U.S. Cellular or T-Mobile because they are still locked to Ma Bell’s system. This should be a great way for customers with older phones to both increase resale value for those devices and to improve their flexibility when choosing a future carrier.
Other devices on AT&T have always had the option to unlock after 80 days of service, but the iPhone was an exception. This fixes that ridiculous error.
It also mitigates the need for those customers to carefully manage firmware versions that can be jailbroken in order to unlock them. An official unlock method for phones that are done with contract should make it easier for users to upgrade to the latest versions of Apple’s software with no fear of losing an unlock.
It does not, however, solve the issue for those who wish to roam overseas while under current contract. Those customers will still be beholden to AT&T’s carrier deals for roaming, which aren’t terrible, but aren’t as nice as being able to grab a regular ‘pay-as-you-go’ data SIM and throw it into your device while traveling.
Still, it’s a nice step in the right direction and gives AT&T its pound of flesh for subsidizing the device while letting customers who have fulfilled those obligations have a bit more freedom when they’re done.