Apple today pulled iPhone 4 from sale without contract. The offering has been in-place since iPhone 3G, making good on a promise to sell the device without contract.
The original iPhone was sold without contract at the point of sale, but required a two-year contract upon activation. iPhone 3G required a contract renewal, but AT&T and Apple announced that iPhone 3G would eventually be available for sale without a contract. The companies made good on that promise nearly a year later, and continued the offering over to iPhone 3GS.
The reason behind this retraction appears to be clear; unlocking. iPhone 4 sales were being diverted from contract-ready customers to unlockers. Apple and AT&T clearly waited until supply had met demand with iPhone 3G, and iPhone 3GS did not require significant manufacturing delays. As such, the offering was continued to iPhone 3GS without holding up new contract sales.
It is not clear if Apple will offer iPhone 4 in the United States without a contract in the future. AT&T continues to offer iPhone 4 without contract, however, AT&T may change that policy in light of Apple’s retraction of their mandatory pricing for no-contract iPhones. Apple has modified their web site to now state that iPhone requires a contract, indicating AT&T may follow suit shortly.