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Summary:

While most iPhone users are aware of unofficial unlock methods, you may be surprised to discover that it’s possible to legally unlock your device, courtesy of Apple. The above image is the not-often-seen official unlock notification, as displayed in iTunes. The dialogue succinctly confirms that the […]

While most iPhone users are aware of unofficial unlock methods, you may be surprised to discover that it’s possible to legally unlock your device, courtesy of Apple.

official_iPhone_3G_unlock

The above image is the not-often-seen official unlock notification, as displayed in iTunes. The dialogue succinctly confirms that the user’s iPhone, in this case a 3G, has been unlocked and can now be used on any carrier. Note the Apple logo at the top left — this is a result of an official unlock sanctioned by Apple.

Read on to find out how I legally unlocked my iPhone 3G.

In June, while over 1 million early adopters in the U.S. picked up their brand new iPhone 3GS devices, I was anxiously waiting for the official launch in my current country of residence, Finland. I picked up my iPhone 3GS in Helsinki just two weeks ago, when it was finally launched by Sonera.

Regarding Sonera, think of it as a less-repugnant version of AT&T. As the exclusive distributor of the iPhone over in Finland, Sonera has turned out to be a somewhat benevolent carrier. The carrier’s unlimited data plan is reasonably priced, and home hacking your iPhone to tether to your Macbook is positively encouraged.

And now I’ve discovered that Sonera is also happy to lend a helping hand in unlocking your old iPhone 3G. When the 3G was released last year, Sonera customers had to sign up for a two-year contract. When upgrading to the iPhone 3GS, those same customers are given the option to pay off the remainder of their original 3G contract. Paying off the contract, and thus completing the two years prematurely, entitles the customer to have their iPhone 3G unlocked.

The helpful assistant at the Sonera store made a note of my IMEI number and then passed it onto his boss — after that there’s a special piece of software that only his boss is authorized to use. This mystical application submits the IMEI to Apple, which in turn authorizes the device for unlocking.

I was advised that when the iPhone 3G was next synced with iTunes, it would be unlocked. Minutes later, back at home, I connected the iPhone 3G to iTunes and received a new carrier settings update. After downloading and installing the update, Apple’s official iPhone unlock screen appeared.

Going the legit route was a much more painless process than using a proxy SIM or the Dev Team’s unofficial unlock. Also worth noting is that, unlike some of the illicit approaches, this unlock is permanent: I’ll be able to keep updating the iPhone’s OS without losing the ability to use any carrier SIM in the device.

It was a surprisingly quick, easy and free unlock for me, although I’d be very interested to find out if any of our readers around the world have had similar success in unlocking their iPhones.

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  1. How is this free? You still have to payoff the two year contract.

    1. The way I see it, you’re paying off a contract that you are obliged to complete. They’re letting me out of the deal early (whether or not I think it’s a good deal is irrelevant in this case – I signed up for it).

      To upgrade to the 3GS, I had to pay off the rest of my two year contract, note that this amounted to a cost of €24, approximately $34.

      The unlocking wasn’t a part of the contract or upgrade deal as far as I knew. Sonera offered it to me and I accepted, it was a welcome bonus as part of the upgrade process.

      1. Yeah I agree, this worked fine for me on my 3GS. I got it unlocked. For other models of iphones you can go to
        http://how-to-unlock-your-iphone.blogspot.com/
        They have links to unlock your iphone within minutes

    2. If you got your 3G when it was released in July 2008, on a 2-year contract, and you paid off your contract in June 2009, you had 13 months left to run on it.

      My question therefore is if the cost to pay off the remainder of your contract was a mere €24 (for 13 months), how the hell much do you pay each month!?!?!?

    3. Hey Tim, it was 2 euros a month – I paid around 500 euros for my iPhone 3G when I first got it, forgoing crazy high monthly fees.

    4. Mobile Phone Upgrade Jeroen Tuesday, August 25, 2009

      That is sweet. Will have to give it a go…

    5. OK. So the author of this article is a little slow, I love just how pretentious he is as well. So quick to bash AT&T. So lets think about these comments. Let see your Finnish carrier support 15 million of those devices and then tell me that you don’t have any bandwidth issues or call drops. Go ahead and find anyone who uses 2 GB of data transmission in a month on any other phone. Go ahead and try, you wont find that like you will with the iphone. Also the price of the data plan is because they subsidize 400 dollars off the price of the equipment. 30 multiplied by what gets you back up to 400? After you grab your calculator to do some simple math that is in month 14 until they have even made back the 400 and that doesn’t even count towards the cost of the data services that you have been using over those 14 months. As far as teathering, if AT&T were to release that onto their network at this point they would bog down the network with so much data traffic that you wouldnt be able to make a 3g call at all. So before you just start vomiting out “facts”, check your research.

      1. AT&T gives the largest donations to the Tea Party here in the U.S. than any other single contributor.

        If you think AT&T is so wonderful, you must be thrilled at all of the social services the Tea Party is now cutting from our once democratic country.

        The Tea Party is waging a war on women’s rights, the poor, the working class, social security, worker’s rights to unionize, unemploying thousands of school teachers, police and fire-fighters, while backing tax cuts to the rich and an increased spending on the military budget, which is already the largest in the world.

        AT&T sucks and I will never, ever, support them again as long as I live. (Verizon is just as bad – they support John Boehner as well as the Senator who is trying to make it legal to MURDER abortion doctors.)

        If that’s all good in your book, well, enjoy your stay in hell.

    6. Ryan: Are you a major stock holder in AT&T or have some emotional ties to it? So what if AT&T has more customers. This is irrelevant, then they should have setup their network accordingly.

      Calling a personal PDA plan unlimited is false advertisement. You have a 5GB limit on it. How is this unlimited?

      You get your facts checked.

    7. Free as in unchained from AT&T click my name to see a new company in the USA that is offering unlimited SIMs for data and voice with overseas capability to over 200 countries coming soon.

    8. hey jerosen this web i give u.
      u need to watch it.heheheh
      http://www.iclarified.com/player/desktopplayer.swf?enid=2538&meid=10478
      i tu chu

    9. Don’t forget the bandwidth in Finland on average is 3 times what we get in north america. There is a website that shows these statistics and it was posted on digg. Finland is 3rd in the world behind Japan and South Korea in terms of quality of mobile or wi-fi network and get average 25mbit speeds. Therefore unltd. transfer is a lot likelier at lower prices. Plus don’t forget in North America we get most expensive rates and poorest service among developped (and some 3rd world countries)…believe it or not

    10. Its pretty easy to unlock a phone. Well with my provider anyways.

      I simply just state that I’m going overseas and that I would like to use a local sim card there. Whoaala! No questions asked and they unlock it for me.

      I’m still waiting for the 24-48 hours till it unlocks though.
      I’m still paying for my 24 month contract, but with the ability to use other providers. =]

    11. You stupid bastard!!!!!!!!!
      He is talking about free unlocking, not a free phone…….grow a brain for god’s sake

    12. My story:
      I bought (paid £269) the first mobile phone with O2, had an upgrade six months later (paid £89) for the Iphone 3G, then promptly moved to Italy six months later. O2 would not allow me to ditch my contract (this only happens if you die), so I was tied in for another year, with a useless phone contract that I had to pay for at £45 per month, so the total cost of the phone has been £898 for me. The moral of this story, is to think twice before you tie yourself into a contract, because peoples circumstances do change!

      On a lighter note:
      I contacted O2 a month before my contract expired and asked them to unlock the phone, they sent me a text message to let me know it had been unlocked a few days later (though they say it can take 10-21 days), I then removed the O2 sim, replaced it with a new PAYG sim, connected to Itunes through my computer, waited a couple of minutes, disconnected the Iphone and then reconnected it again, then it was unlocked and I am very happy, I can now use my Iphone all over Europe without have to pay extortionate fees to receive and make calls. Hope this helps someone.

      1. Hi Faye,
        Thanks for your information. I have contacted O2 after my contract expired. I have been asked to fill a form and been told will be unlocked in 14 days.

        Thank you very much.

    13. Or you could just buy one in New Zealand, where they are factory unlocked from new :-D

      1. Is it possible to purchase an iphon from apple store in new zealand and have it shipped to my usa address. I’m assuming that they won’t ship it to me…

    14. so can u unlock it and use it in another network other than at&t

    15. Hi Guys
      Apple like Microsoft want the monopoly of their product that is why they are these type of techniques. If any product is bought by a customer, the choice is his/her how to use it. No manufacturer has the right to decide, how it is used. Customer may use, or through or use like a paper weight. that is his/her sole discretion. But companies like Apple & Microsoft wants to control their product even after the sales.
      I don’t think this is good

      1. The locking of the phone to a carrier has nothing to do with Apple’s wishes so this is false information. It is only at the request of the carrier that this happens. The carriers I’m sure would prefer that it was impossible to buy unlocked phones.

    16. How do I get Apple to Unlock my phone, Im from USA Michigan…

      1. Try jailbreaking you iphone. And unlock your fone for free..

    17. This may sound like the “french” corner, but I’ve got a similar question. I moved from the UK to France 6 months ago, and I’m using a pay-as-you-talk Orange phone as well as my monthly contract UK Vodafone Nokia handset. My daughter in the UK has just upgraded from Iphone 3g to 3gs with O2, and is offering to sell me her old 3g, which she says she can get unlocked by O2. My question is… how do I get this 3g to work as a fully functioning iphone in france… just go to Orange and ask them? Any other thoughts? I don’t think my current france orange sim is for anything but basis phone and sms.

  2. bah. this is no help for us in the US.

    1. Bah…

      It’s no help for us in Denmark (North Europe, too). :(

      No seriously…
      There’s a lot of iPhone and Mac owners all around the world and I think it’s great to see some blogs about other countries than the USA. ;)

    2. if you want a iphone just go to the apple store or carrier and tell them you just want to buy one outright and they will sell it to you (IN THE US AT LEAST)
      3g 499usd 3gs 16g 599usd 3gs 32g 699usd just got of phone with an apple rep just now

    3. Nice try, owning an I phone outright in the us you are still required to use the official carrier and Att is the one with exclucivity.

      Not only that, they still make you sign a 2 year agreement. Not for a cheaper plan, but any plan even on a shared phone plan.

    4. Not true pmheart6. If you own your iphone, when you start a line of service with at&t, all you have to say is that you own your device, and they will uncheck the box for 24mo contract. so when the exclusivity between apple and at&t is gone…tada! cancel your contract. or if you get deployed again(me), or like my mom, you move to bfe in the mountains of western va where you dont get a signal till you get to the highway, you can just cancel.

  3. I updated my 3G to 3GS and the salesperson said that I only have to call Sonera to get the unlocking code for 3G. I made a new 12 month contract with Sonera for 3GS.

  4. Actually in Singapore, the laws states that all phones sold must be unlocked. So purchasing an iPhone, and then terminating the contract at an additional SGD850, you can have an unlocked phone, without a contract.

    1. hey ervin, SGD 850 for Iphone that’s totally unlocked, is good price? is it for 3G or 3G s? where did you buy it? sim lim square?

  5. From the title, I thought there some new trick discovered, but there’s nothing special or new said here, this is old stuff known and possible since back with 2G iPhones.
    For technical details how this works – and why it’s impossible to permanently unlock without Apple’s cooperation – see this link: http://www.hackint0sh.org/f203/76047.htm#post419358

  6. Hello !
    I’m french, I have an Iphone 3G contract with orange. In France, it is possible to unlock any phone (including the iphone) after 6 months of contract, legally, with Itunes. We don’t have to wait until the end of the contract to get the unlocking code.

    :-)

    1. I heard the cellphone plan sux in France. You spent lots of $ but only get so little talk time. Maybe that explains it? =D

  7. I think you should share you IPCC file :) at least with me…

  8. As Sophie said. Me too in Paris I unlocked my 3G officially by Apple for 100€ and I did not wait
    for
    the 6 months :-)

  9. Not helpful for any one else rather than you

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