Apple Now Offering SIM-Free, Unlocked iPhones to U.S. Buyers

The new SIM-free iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus smartphones are now available on Apple's Website and in Apple Stores.

iPhone 6

Apple has made it even easier to get an unlocked, SIM-free iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus by selling the phones without SIM cards for the first time. Previously, buyers would have to buy a phone through T-Mobile and then replace the included SIM card with a card of their choice to obtain a phone they could use with other carriers around the world.

The SIM-free smartphones were not announced by Apple but instead simply appeared on the company's Website and in Apple Stores, where they are now available for sale to buyers.

By being able to buy SIM-free models directly, buyers no longer will have to go through extra activation steps to move devices from T-Mobile to other carriers.

A SIM-free iPhone 6 16GB model is priced at $649, with a 64GB model selling for $749 and a 64GB model for $849. The larger iPhone 6 Plus is priced at $749 for a 16GB model, $849 for a 64GB model and $949 for a 128GB model.

The availability of SIM-free iPhones could make them even more desirable for some users who want to have freedom to use services from various wireless carriers as they see fit around the world, particularly for global travelers who desire more flexibility.

Apple's latest iPhones continue to sell well since their introduction in September 2014, with more Apple devices being purchased and activated as gifts on Christmas this season compared with other brands, according to recent figures from Flurry Analytics. Apple collected 51.3 percent of the Christmas Day device activations, compared with 17.7 percent for major competitor Samsung, according to Flurry.

Based on the latest data, devices from third-place finisher Nokia made up 5.8 percent of the Christmas Day activations, with Sony in fourth place at 1.6 percent. LG finished fifth with 1.4 percent of the activations, according to Flurry.

The figures show that for every Samsung device that was activated, Apple saw 2.9 device activations, giving it a dominant performance for the holiday, the report states.

The form factors of mobile devices were also described amid the activation data from Flurry, including a big jump in the number of phablets activated, with Apple's iPhone 6 devices leading the way, the report states.

It will now be interesting to see if Apple continues to offer similar SIM-free iPhones as the company brings out future devices.

Back in December 2014, rumors began circulating that Apple would release a new iPhone 6S in the spring of 2015 while the next generation of devices, the iPhone 7, is expected in the fall, according to an earlier eWEEK report.

The rumors and purported timelines could, of course, be entirely or partially wrong, but that's the intrigue of following rumors about product launches.

No matter, it is an interesting and lucrative time for Apple, which continues to see big sales of its iPhone 6 smartphones that were launched in September.

The new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus smartphones were a big hit during the first weekend of sales starting Sept. 19; Apple sold more than 10 million units of the devices after their debut, setting a new all-time record for first-weekend iPhone sales since the smartphones first hit the market back in June of 2007, according to an earlier eWEEK report.

Preorders for the new iPhones reached huge levels, with more than 4 million devices preordered within 24 hours of the process opening on Sept. 12, just seven days before the official device launch date. That high demand quickly led the company to advise customers that many devices wouldn't be delivered until last October due to short initial supplies.

The new iPhones include the iPhone 6 with its 4.7-inch Retina HD display and an even larger iPhone 6 Plus with its 5.5-inch Retina HD screen. The new devices arrived in 16GB, 64GB and 128GB storage capacities. The new phones include an Apple-designed A8 chip with second-generation 64-bit desktop-class architecture, enhanced iSight and FaceTime HD cameras, and the latest iOS 8 operating system.

Some early iPhone 6 owners reported bending problems with the new devices when users keep them in pants pockets. The reported phone bending problem was not the first time that a potential problem has cropped up with new iPhones. In July 2010, Apple dealt with antenna issues surrounding its then new iPhone 4 that were inspired by consumer complaints of poor call quality when they held their phones. Called "Antennagate" by the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs at the time, the problem was the location of the antenna inside the devices, which was solved with an add-on thin rubber case.