Apple is now selling an unlocked iPhone 4 in the United States. Those who want an iPhone 4 without a two-year service contract, or who travel internationally and want an Apple smartphone that works with local carriers, can now pay $649 or $749, respectively, for the 16GB and 32GB versions.
The unlocked iPhone 4 operates on GSM-based networks, which include AT&T and T-Mobile in the United States. However, the device apparently isn't compatible with T-Mobile's 3G network, which could limit its usefulness to those merely seeking a way to escape AT&T.
Users will need a micro-SIM card from a supported carrier in order to activate their device. Those road warriors with a tendency to visit multiple countries throughout the course of a given year could find an unlocked iPhone 4-accompanied by multiple micro-SIM cards-an advantage worth paying the higher, un-carrier-subsidized price.
The unlocked iPhone has been available for some time in certain international markets, often selling for a hefty markup.
Even as Apple continues to push out variants of the iPhone 4-the company recently released the white version of the popular smartphone, after months of unexplained delays-development of its successor is almost certainly underway. According to anonymous sources speaking to Reuters in April, Apple plans on shipping the iPhone 5 in September, meaning production of the next-generation smartphone will ramp up sometime in either July or August.
In addition to higher-resolution cameras, current rumors suggest that the iPhone 5 could include Apple's proprietary A5 processor, hardware upgraded to enable 3G FaceTime video conferencing and NFC (near-field communication) technology, which could allow the smartphone to act as an electronic wallet. Those features could allow Apple to compete more effectively against the increasingly high-powered Android smartphones due to hit the market over the next few months.
The iPhone 5 will also boast a host of new features courtesy of the just-unveiled iOS 5, including a refined notifications screen, boosted interoperability with Twitter, a robust "iMessenger" conversation platform seemingly designed to compete head-on with Research In Motion's BlackBerry Messenger and Newsstand, which consolidates the user's e-periodical subscriptions into one space.
For compulsive shutterbugs, iOS 5 will also offer a camera shortcut accessible via the lock screen-reminiscent in many ways of Windows Phone, which lets the user take images without needing to unlock their device and manually activate the camera app.
Apple plans on shipping iOS sometime this fall, which would conveniently fit the same timeframe as the iPhone 5's rumored release date.