Apple began selling unlocked GSM iPhones in its United States retail outlets today; they list at $649 for the 16GB model and $749 for the 32GB model. This is such good news that I'm actually thinking about buying one.
Since the introduction of the original iPhone in 2007, the only way to acquire an unlocked iPhone in the U.S. was to use the grey market and import one from overseas. I understand why Apple chose to lock the iPhones that it sold in the States; it wanted to keep its launch partner AT&T happy.
But as I wrote last year, two-year service contracts are too close to indentured servitude for my liking. The $450 difference between the unlocked and locked pricing - which is the carrier's subsidy - works out to $18.75 per month over the life of the contract.
To be blunt, I feel ripped off by carrier subsidies. That's because those are built into the cost of the service, whether one purchases a subsidized phone or pays the full cost. (On top of that, as a Californian, I have to pay tax on the unsubsidized price of a mobile phone, as do customers in some other states.)
But with the release of unlocked iPhones, maybe I'll back off from my position of last year. Before today, I would have had to pay the full price for an iPhone anyway, having given up my mobile service during an economy drive a couple of years ago. If I cave in and open up my wallet, I'll still be paying full price, but I'll have the satisfaction of knowing that I can tell Ma Bell to get bent at any point I choose, without penalty.
But I will probably hold off on that until the iPhone 4S (or whatever it winds up being called) comes out; as The Oatmeal points out, there's something about mobile devices that makes buyer's remorse acutely painful to me. After all, the only thing worse than paying full freight is paying full freight for something that becomes obsolescent the month after one's bought it.