O2 just announced what seems like a fairly magnanimous gesture on its part today, in preparation for the launch of the iPhone on other UK carriers and the end of iPhone exclusivity in that country. That should mean that O2 customers who want to take their business elsewhere can have their phones unlocked as early as tomorrow, since Nov. 10 is the stated launch date for Orange UK’s iPhone offerings.
The news, which comes via The iPhone Blog, is a promising sign for all iPhone users. If Apple is at all a party to the decision to allow unlocking of its devices in countries where the iPhone is available on multiple networks, then hope exists for countries like Canada, too, where the iPhone recently became available on Bell and Telus, as well as Rogers, the original carrier.
O2 CEO Matthew Key describes in an interview with the Times Online how customers will be able to unlock, though that won’t relieve them of their contractual obligations:
Once the iPhone becomes available on other UK networks, we will allow O2 customers to unlock their iPhones, although of course they will still need to honor any outstanding contract period they have. At the end of their contract period, they are entirely free to move to another operator — though naturally we hope they won’t want to!
It isn’t clear how the unlocking procedure will actually work. Will users have to physically visit an O2 store, or can it be done over the phone using iTunes at home? Whatever the method, O2 is doing the right thing by providing its customers a choice, which is a good faith gesture which should end up building customer loyalty and avoiding resentment. No word yet on whether or not other UK carriers will be offering the same service for their iPhone devices.