Apple to Sell Unlocked IPhone 4

Apple today began selling unlocked versions of its iPhone 4, allowing people to use the device overseas without large roaming rates and possibly attempting to ramp up its business appeal.

The Cupertino, Calif.-based company now offers unlocked iPhone 4 devices, allowing customers to choose their carrier. The devices have micro-SIM card slots, meaning they will only work on GSM carriers, which in the U.S. are limited to AT&T and T-Mobile.

Apple is offering white and black models of both its 16-gigabyte device for $650 and 32-gigabyte device for $750. Apple currently sells locked, contract-only versions of the iPhone 4 for $200 for the 16-gigabyte model, and $300 for the 32-gigabyte.

“If you don’t want a multi-year service contract or if you prefer to use a local carrier when travelling abroad, the unlocked iPhone 4 is the best choice,” said Apple on the device’s product page.

Consumers who wanted unlocked versions of the iPhone previously had to use back-door measures like jailbreaking their devices. With Apple’s new offering, U.S. customers join those in countries like Canada and the U.K. where unlocked devices are already commonly available.

With an unlocked device, iPhone users who travel abroad can choose and to swap carriers and SIM cards on the fly. Doing so will allow them to avoid enormous international roaming fees from AT&T. Though the asking price of the unlocked device is higher compared to locked phones, travellers who take the unlocked iPhone 4 may save money in the long-run.

The unlocked iPhone could be another step for Apple in appealing to the business-minded global corporate sector, which has long preferred Research in Motion’s BlackBerry line of smartphones.

In May, the Deutsche Bank introduced a pilot program allowing employees to use iPhones instead of their traditional BlackBerry devices. Thanks to iPhone app Good Technology, which better encrypts e-mails on the iPhone, employees were able to check e-mail on their iPhone. Deutsche Bank could join J.P. Morgan Chase, among other banks, who are opting for the iPhone over BlackBerry.

The U.S. government is allowing many of its employees to trade their berries for apples, as some government workers will be moving from BlackBerry devices to iPhones. Employees at the ATF, Department of Veterans Affairs, Congress, the State Department and other agencies have been given the option to use iPhones, iPads and sometimes Android devices rather than the formerly-mandated BlackBerry smartphones.

Last week, Apple announced its iMessage service, allowing users to connect with other iPhone users immediately in an instant message-type setting similar to BlackBerry’s popular BBM texting feature. The service will run over 3G and Wifi rather than SMS, which can become costly if a user doesn’t have an unlimited texting plan. Users can instantly send text, photos and other files through the service, and even group chat with other co-workers.

Apple accounts for about 17 per cent of the overall market share, but hasn’t made much of a dent in the business sector, so this latest announcement could position Apple to continue making strides in that direction.

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