If you’re one of the many that have spent all morning sat hitting the refresh key in a pre-ordering frenzy, chances are you spied one seemingly glaring omission from Apple’s online ordering system: there were no unlocked iPhone 4S handsets, at least in the U.S.
It appears now that those looking to buy an unlocked iPhone 4S in the United States will have to wait until November to get their hands on the new must-have smartphone, though there are no specifics other than ‘November.’ Those looking for an unlocked solution will also have to make do with GSM service with no support for Verizon nor Sprint.
The unlocked iPhone includes all the features of iPhone but without a contract commitment. You can activate and use it on the supported GSM wireless network of your choice, such as AT&T in the United States.* The unlocked iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S will not work with CDMA-based carriers such as Verizon Wireless or Sprint.
If you don’t want a multiyear service contract or if you prefer to use a local carrier when traveling abroad, the unlocked iPhone is the best choice. It arrives without a micro-SIM card, so you’ll need an active micro-SIM card from any supported GSM carrier worldwide. To start using it, simply insert the micro-SIM card into the slot on your iPhone and turn it on by pressing and holding the On/Off button for a few seconds. Then follow the onscreen instructions to set up your iPhone.
While the iPhone 4S is now a ‘world phone’ and capable of working on both GSM (AT&T, T-Mobile) and CDMA (Verizon, Sprint) networks, it also appears that if you buy an iPhone for a specific network, doing so locks the device to that particular baseband. What this means in affect is that you can’t easily buy an iPhone 4S for AT&T, and then move it over to Sprint, for example.
Roaming should not be affected by that, and Apple is quick to point out that any handset bought for a CDMA carrier will come with a SIM card which, seemingly, is simply there to enable the handset to roam onto a GSM network when abroad. Considering the rest of the civilized world is using GSM as its mobile infrastructure of choice, that’s got to be a good thing!
“If you choose AT&T as your wireless carrier, your iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S will use only GSM cellular technology for voice and data services, and it can roam internationally on 200 GSM carriers around the world.
If you choose Sprint or Verizon Wireless as your wireless carrier, your iPhone 4 will use only CDMA cellular technology for voice and data services. An iPhone 4S activated on Sprint or Verizon Wireless will use CDMA technology too, but it also has the ability to roam internationally on GSM networks using the provided GSM micro-SIM.”
It all seems overly-complicated, but that’s the price you pay for carrying two different mobile technologies in one country, America!