Apple may be planning to offer an unlocked iPhone 4 in the U.S. this Wednesday, giving consumers the freedom to buy the iPhone at full price to use on whatever carrier they choose.
The information comes from the iPhone hacker Chronic Wire, who earlier said over the weekend that Apple would launch its new MacBook Air lineup on Wednesday. Now the hacker is saying that his original source mixed up part numbers, and that we should expect the unlocked iPhone 4 instead.
Apple has never offered an unlocked iPhone in the US, most likely due to the exclusivity arrangement it had with AT&T for years. But with the iPhone now on Verizon, and with a T-Mobile and Sprint launch rumored to be happening within the year, it makes sense that Apple would offer a completely unlocked model. The company already sells unlocked iPhones in international markets where consumers are used to having freedom of carrier choice.
The big question now is how an unlocked iPhone will support the different network technologies in the US. The current AT&T and Verizon iPhone 4 models use different wireless chipsets to support their competing network standards. But a teardown of the Verizon iPhone also revealed that it’s running a Qualcomm chipset that could potentially work on AT&T and T-Mobile’s HSPA+ and GSM networks.
For whatever reason, Apple disabled the ability for the Verizon iPhone 4 to work on other networks, but the existence of the new Qualcomm chipset means that it wouldn’t be too difficult for Apple to offer a truly carrier-agnostic iPhone. Such a move would also help Apple as it readies the iPhone 5. It would certainly be easier for Apple to have a single iPhone model that works across all networks, instead of juggling multiple models.
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