A factory unlocked iPhone can be purchased in many countries around directly from the Apple store, or from Apple on-line. The great thing about an IMEI unlocked iPhone is that it can be used on any network in any country. Unfortunately the price of these IMEI unlocked iPhones is prohibited to a large number of people, so they choose the alternative, and much cheaper, carrier locked version instead. If you look at the difference between a factory unlocked iPhone compared to a locked version, the unlocked handset can be used on any network, anywhere around the globe, but cost five times the price.
The idea of being able to get a brand new iPhone for virtually pennies sounds great. Is a locked iPhone, all be it a seriously cheap one, going to be the best option for you? Perhaps you move to a new apartment block and you can’t seem to get a signal using you current service provider. Don’t be mistaken in thinking you can just swap carriers and your iPhone will work on the new network. If you place an simcard from a different network in your phone, instead of seeing the network name displayed in the top left hand corner of the phone’s display, you will be greeted with the dreaded “no service” message instead! You will need to unlock your iPhone before it will work.
Before July 2011 you had two alternative methods you could use to unlock an iPhone. It used to be possible to temporarily unlock an iPhone using software. However, if you want to permanently unlock your iPhone you need to use the official factory iPhone unlock. Not surprisingly the software hacking unlock method was only a temporary method which required reapplying every time the phone was rebooted.
It used to be possible to software unlock an iPhone so that it could be used on any network. However this method required the handset to have previously been jailbroken (a procedure which uses glitches in the phones operating system to enable third party software to be installed on the device). What is perhaps not clear is that it has never been possible to software unlock the newer models of iPhone, such as the iPhone 5 or iPhone 5s.
The alternative method of unlocking is the iPhone IMEI unlock. If an iPhone is unlocked using this method it will operate in exactly the same way as an expensive, factory unlocked iPhone, bought in the Apple store. The great thing is though, it would have only cost you a fraction of what Apple would charge you for an original. One of the primary benefits of IMEI unlocking is that it does not invalidate your Apple warranty. Once you have unlocked you may also safely upgrade your phone in iTunes when new iOS is release without ever having to worry about it relocking. Although this method is not new, it was limited, and only offered by certain carriers under certain conditions.
In the past few months there has emerged several independent companies that can provide iPhone factory unlocks with very few limitations in place for them to be successful. As long as your iPhone hasn’t been reported as lost or stolen, known as an IMEI blacklisting, they will be able to unlock it.
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When you buy a subsidized iPhone directly from a network or retail outlet it will be IMEI locked, meaning it can only be used with one carrier. The networks make some hefty profits from the customers they lock into a 24 or 36 month contract. To ensure as many customers as possible are enticed into signing on the line, they offer really cheap, sometimes free, iPhones. When it comes to the Apple iPhone, in order to entice their potential customers to sign up for lengthy contracts with them, the big cellular providers virtually give them away! If that wasn’t enough, to make these deals seem even more appealing, Apple have agreed to work with the networks to keep the retail price of a factory unlocked iPhone very high. The prices of the factory unlocked iPhone bought directly from Apple are often in excess of 5 times the price of the subsidized models supplied by the networks.
Being able to buy an iPhone at a heavily reduced price sounds like a great idea, right? May be you have to travel internationally on business? We don’t have to highlight how much you can be charged while roaming overseas. It’s not unusual for people to return from holidays or international business trips to face massive cellular bills as they have failed to consider the hefty cost charged for cellular and data roaming charges. The smart thing to do would be to use a domestic service from a local carrier. Many airports now sell local pay-as-you-go SIM cards for exactly this reason. But only an unlocked iPhone can be used on any network.
A while ago there were two ways in which an iPhone could be unlocked. The software method used to be the way to go, but this has subsequently been replaced with the IMEI unlocking process. The software unlock was a temporary method, and had to be applied every time the iPhone was rebooted, whereas the IMEI unlock is permanent.
Several years ago it was possible to unlock an iPhone using a software program. However this method required the handset to have previously been jailbroken (a procedure which uses glitches in the phones operating system to enable third party software to be installed on the device). With the unlocking software installed on the jailbroken phone, it was possible to connect it to networks other than those it was officially locked to. It is important to understand that a software unlock only works on a few iPhone models – the iPhone 3Gs, iPhone 4 and iPhone 4s – and that they could not be running above iOS 5.1.1.
The better alternative to the software unlock, is the iPhone factory unlock. This method of unlocking is not only stable, it doesn’t even void the manufacturer’s warranty. The great advantage factory unlocking has over the software unlock is that it’s permanent, meaning once unlocked, your iPhone will remain unlocked, even after updating to the current (or any future operating system updates). It is only until recently that the only option available to consumers to acquire an IMEI unlock would be directly through the carriers. Some networks would offer this option to loyal customers, but only if strict criteria had been adhered to, and the contract the phone was provided under had been completed of course.