After being delayed for almost two months, Apple formally launched unlocked iPhone models via its online store and Apple Stores today, with pricing being identical to the previous model at $649, $749 and $849 for the 16/32/64GB models.With unlocked pricing reflecting the subsidy levels for each respective model for the 16GB, 32GB and the 64GB versions on a 2 year agreement, the following is a breakdown of the difference there is in paying the prorated $325 AT&T ETF once the conditions are met to formally unlock the device on an account after 60 days for current customers in good standing, inline with the current iPhone unlock policy.
|AT&T iPhone 5||16GB||32GB||64GB|
|2 Months of Service with Nation 450 Plan at $39.99/month with 3GB DataPro and Unlimited Messaging at $89.99/month||+$179.98||+$179.98||+$179.98|
|Prorated ETF (2 months at $10 per month of agreement for smartphones)||+$305||+$305||+$305|
While the subsidy is clearly deeper than the ETF, it’s quite clear that paying the ETF for an AT&T iPhone 5 and requesting the unlock for the device after two months of service is only slightly more expensive than paying Apple’s pricing for the unlocked iPhone with the two months prorated ETF and two months of service with the least expensive options factored in. However, even with the slightly increased expense, the problem now lies in AT&T’s interpretation of its own policy on iPhone unlocks detailed below, which seems to imply that the above activity would now be against the rules:
AT&T reserves the right to deny any unlock request that it concludes would result in an abuse of this policy or is part of an effort to defraud AT&T or its customers. AT&T further reserves the right to alter this unlocking policy at its discretion without advance notice.
Even though the contract ETF would be paid after the required two months of account activity in order to qualify for the iPhone unlock for current customers, AT&T is now asserting its right to disallow any unlock requests it deems abusive or fraudulent, despite the fact that all of the requirements would be met as spelled out in its own policies and means that AT&T is now specifically looking out for customers trying to obtain the cheapest price on an iPhone 5 and making this example more difficult, but not entirely impossible to pull off if one wanted to go through with it.
However, an unlock isn’t strictly required if taking advantage of AT&T MVNOs such as StraightTalk, Net10 or the rest of the currently available services as the AT&T MVNOs use AT&T coded SIM cards with different branding. The only reason to request an unlock at that point would be to take advantage of T-Mobile’s newly available 1900 MHz HSPA+ service, which is also available via Simple Mobile and StraightTalk’s T-Mobile BYOD SIM.
With AT&T having one of the more expensive monthly rate plans for an iPhone 5 in the market, any way that current and potential customers could score an iPhone 5 for as little as possible while still being able to have it unlocked is being seen as the best alternative to paying the cost for an unlocked iPhone and the above should be taken as a guideline for what to expect should anyone try to purchase an AT&T iPhone 5 with the sole intention of paying the ETF and requesting the unlock within current guidelines.
With everything broken down and said, it’s a wash at the current pricing and really not worth all of the effort and hit to your credit rating, especially with Verizon iPhone 5 models also being GSM unlocked for use in the US, should you want CDMA service as a back up and available for purchase at the same outright pricing as the factory unlocked models.
It then becomes a question of what your options are for your particular situation, and in this case, going factory unlocked or buying a Verizon iPhone 5 outright for the same price are now the best choices for an unlocked iPhone 5 if you’re not already with AT&T.