a guide to factory unlocked iPhones.

Discussion in 'iPhone Tips, Help and Troubleshooting' started by el_grapadora, Apr 22, 2010.

  1. el_grapadora macrumors newbie

    el_grapadora

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2004
    Location:
    USA
    #1
    It's been a while since I've logged into the forums. Since I've only been lurking for advice for ages, I figure it's time I actually gave something back. Below, a few notes on my journey into factory unlocked iPhone land.

    . . . . .

    So about a year ago, I bought a 'new' iPhone 2G off eBay to replace one I had stolen a couple months earlier. Unlike my original 2G, this one got knocked around quite a bit, including several drops on concrete and tile. The screen was, mercifully, okay, but the home button was hard to press, the vibrate function was off-and-on, and the phone was getting bogged down by OS 3.1 besides. Once I heard about OS 4, and how I wouldn't be able to get it on my old phone, I decided it was time for a new one.

    WHY UNLOCK?
    So why even bother unlocking? Well, for one, I've been buying and software-unlocking my phones because I loathe AT&T's coverage, and am enjoying a T-Mobile plan at about 30% off the equivalent AT&T price. Considering 3G is spotty wherever I am, and I have wi-fi in most places I hang out anyway, I'm willing to live with EDGE.

    The jailbreak feature is really handy, too, because I'm a stats nut who loves scrobbling to last.fm. There is (and for the foreseeable future, will be) no background scrobbler to send my recent tracks to last.fm without a Cydia app. But I digress…

    I finally got fed up with the cat-and-mouse game, constantly worrying about bricking my phone, and enduring the performance issues I have been since 3.1+unlock. Note the difference: a software unlocked phone means you can buy a (cheaper) locked phone, but you have to wait for the most excellent iPhone Dev Team to deliver a version of Pwnage before you can upgrade. Plus, I noticed a lot of performance issues with my older iPhone. A factory unlocked phone was never locked by a carrier, and really does mean any SIM, any time, anywhere--NO QUESTIONS. But where to get one?

    BUYING
    This is the tricky part. You basically have three choices to get a "legally" (factory) unlocked phone:
    1. Buy one for $850+ on a reputable site like Buy.com, TigerDirect, or a host of US and UK sites.
    2. Give a friend going to one of a number of unlocked-iPhone countries a bunch of money to buy an unlocked phone for you.
    3. Buy one for $600+ on eBay.

    I opted for option 1. How do US/UK companies get these phones, when there are no unlocked carriers in either country? Essentially, they're surplus phones being bought up by wholesalers and then sold to big computer parts companies like TigerDirect. My phone actually carries a Hong Kong part number, but there were no other markings (print, instructions, etc.) for me to tell the difference.
    ** EDIT: Jersey in the UK's Channel Islands also sell the phones unlocked. Probably a spendy trip for US customers, though.

    These phones are definitely expensive: $700 for an 8GB iPhone 3G all the way to as much as $1300 for a 32GB iPhone 3GS. I got mine for a little over $800 thanks to a Buy.com error (which they and Tiger Direct honored, much to my surprise!).

    Option 2 is cool, if you have a trustworthy friend.

    Option 3 can be dangerous. A lot of sellers will try to blur the line between software unlocked phones (using the very awesome iPhone Dev Team's unlocking software) and factory unlocked phones (which were never locked in the first place). BE AWARE OF WHAT YOU'RE BUYING. Ask for the part number. Google it, and if it's legit, you should see multiple search results online linking the part # of the iPhone you want to buy with a country with unlocked iPhones. If not, don't fall for the scam. It might be a software unlocked phone, which is definitely not worth the $600+ you'll be paying. Or it could be an iKnockoff, which is just a jerk move all around.

    UNLOCKING
    When I was doing research, I read some conflicting info on this one. But rest assured:

    IF YOUR PHONE IS LEGIT FACTORY UNLOCKED, YOU DON'T NEED TO WORRY ABOUT ANY EXTRA PRECAUTIONS. PERIOD.

    Just insert a SIM card, plug it into iTunes, and it'll register and activate the phone just as if you had a normal AT&T account (or whatever your national iPhone carrier is). That's it. It doesn't matter what country you're in when you unlock, nor does it matter which country's iTunes Store you're registered with, nor does it matter what country your part # is associated with. Just plug in your phone and go. If you're having problems, it might be a phone issue, or you might not actually have a clean, factory unlocked phone.

    HOWEVER, if you jailbreak after that, it's just as if you'd jailbroken a normal, clean iPhone, and all the normal precautions apply.

    CONCLUSION
    So that's my primer on factory unlocked iPhones. We iPhone users are now conditioned to fear any unlock, but the factory unlocked phones appear to be a lot less scary than they're made out to be. The biggest concern you should have is that you're getting a legit phone from a legit seller—if you're paying several car payments' worth to buy a phone, be careful!

    Any questions?

    PS--I'm getting ready to sell the old 2G. I'd like to leave it unlocked, but still wipe all my data off of it. Anyone know the best way to do that? PM me with answers.
     
  2. Applejuiced macrumors Westmere

    Applejuiced

    Joined:
    Apr 16, 2008
    Location:
    At the iPhone hacks section.
    #2
    Update or restore it to official 3.1.3 thru itunes.
    Then follow this guide to JB and unlock it.
    http://www.iclarified.com/entry/index.php?enid=7436
     
  3. jav6454 macrumors P6

    jav6454

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2007
    Location:
    1 Geostationary Tower Plaza
    #3
    If you want to sell a 2G unlocked and everything, stick to 2.2.1 (I can't believe I'm saying that). My old 2G chokes on OS 3.
     
  4. Applejuiced macrumors Westmere

    Applejuiced

    Joined:
    Apr 16, 2008
    Location:
    At the iPhone hacks section.
    #4
    Oh no :D
    Where's TheSpaz to see this?
     
  5. jav6454 macrumors P6

    jav6454

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2007
    Location:
    1 Geostationary Tower Plaza
    #5
    Luckily no where near enough...
     
  6. philstone macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Oct 13, 2008
    Location:
    Jersey, Channel Isles
    #6
    Just to add to Apple's info - Jersey, Channel Islands sell all their iphones unlocked.
     

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