Clarification on "Factory unlocked"

Discussion in 'iPhone' started by JayLenochiniMac, Oct 25, 2012.

  1. JayLenochiniMac macrumors G5

    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2007
    Location:
    New Sanfrakota
    #1
    I need some clarification on what constitutes "factory unlocked" (as opposed to merely IMEI "unlocked") and whether it's possible to discriminate between the two after the fact.

    An unlocked iPhone could fall into one of the following groups:

    1) No-commitment, contract-free iPhone that has been unlocked at the factory. This would be a true "factory unlocked" iPhone.

    2) iPhone unlocked through at&t in which the IMEI is submitted to Apple and Apple unlocks it.

    3) iPhone IMEI-unlocked through a third-party such as fusion_unlock or Gevey.

    Is it possible to discriminate between a true "factory unlocked" iPhone and an iPhone that's been IMEI unlocked through at&t or a third party? If so, how?
     
  2. Daveoc64 macrumors 601

    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2008
    Location:
    Bristol, UK
    #2
    No iPhone is unlocked (or locked) at the factory. Which carrier (if any) an iPhone is locked to is determined at the point of activation through iTunes or on the device itself in iOS 5.0+. The lock status is determined by checking a database that Apple maintains.

    If you buy an iPhone from somewhere that sells them unlocked, they will have requested that Apple's database reflects that.

    Or one sold by a carrier that does not lock their devices like Verizon... Or unlocked by one of the other hundreds of iPhone carriers that aren't AT&T...

    Gevey does offer an "IMEI unlock", but their traditional model is using a small device to trick the phone into accepting another SIM.

    Not really. Unless whoever you're getting it from tells you, it's hard to just tell. There are some indicators (such as model number), but there are a lot of gotchas with using those to actually work it out.

    "Factory Unlocked" is a somewhat irrelevant term. It's more important to have an "authorized unlock". If it's been approved by a carrier or the original seller of the phone, then it's a valid unlock that will always remain and there is no functional difference between the two.

    Third party services like unlock_fusion are not official and as such, there is a possibility (perhaps very remote) that the unlock will not be permanent. These services are certainly a step up from software or hardware modification though. This unofficial nature also means that the service could be discontinued at any time.


    Using a hack (either hardware or software) is incredibly unreliable and really just a temporary solution.
     
  3. JayLenochiniMac thread starter macrumors G5

    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2007
    Location:
    New Sanfrakota
    #3
    Thanks for the very useful post. So there's absolutely no way to test whether the "factory unlocked" iPhone you buy off ebay is a no-commitment iPhone or an authorized unlocked iPhone? Not even through serial number?

    What about the box it comes in? Any difference?
     
  4. Applejuiced macrumors Westmere

    Applejuiced

    Joined:
    Apr 16, 2008
    Location:
    At the iPhone hacks section.
    #4
    Nope.
    They will both behave the same and that's accepting any carriers GSM sim.
    And in the end that's all that matters.
    What difference does it make if its bought factory unlocked or a no commitment iphone. They're both the same hardware and software wise.
     
  5. JayLenochiniMac, Oct 25, 2012
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2012

    JayLenochiniMac thread starter macrumors G5

    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2007
    Location:
    New Sanfrakota
    #5
    Agreed. I guess I asked because I see two separate categories on ebay for them (Factory Unlocked and Unlocked). If you check the price trends for the two categories, Factory Unlocked is going for $20 more (used). However, you get no indication whether it began its life as a bona fide factory unlocked iPhone or if it's IMEI unlocked after purchase.
     
  6. Applejuiced macrumors Westmere

    Applejuiced

    Joined:
    Apr 16, 2008
    Location:
    At the iPhone hacks section.
    #6
    I hear you.
    Just make sure you don't get stuck with a gevey unlocked one.
    I saw people before selling them unlocked when in reality they are locked but he includes a gevey sim adapter:)
     

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