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Summary:

Sprint issued a press release Friday notifying iPhone 4S owners that their SIM slot will now be locked for devices on its network, even though they were sold unlocked. You can still put the world back in Apple’s first world phone with a special request, however.

sprint-iphone-feature

Sprint issued a press release Friday notifying iPhone 4S owners that their SIM slot will now be locked for devices on its network, even though they were initially sold unlocked. You can still have them unlocked again, so long as you’ve been in good standing for 90 days and you call Sprint to ask for the privilege, but it’s difficult to see anything other than a cash grab in this move.

To its credit, Sprint was always upfront about the fact that the originally unlocked Apple iPhone 4S handsets sold on its network would not remain so for long. It said following the 4S launch in a press release that “a SIM lock [would] be pushed to the devices shortly,” in order to bring the handsets in compliance with its policy of having the phone “locked to [its] network domestically and internationally.”

You can call Sprint via its Customer Care number to have the device unlocked again, as mentioned, so long as you’re in good standing, but Sprint also took the opportunity to point out that it has some very attractive international voice and data roaming plans of its own. In other words, it’d rather you just didn’t call and used its own services when abroad.

The iPhone 4S is Apple’s first true world phone, which is no doubt a selling point for international travelers. What isn’t a selling point is having to ask your carrier permission to allow you to use your device overseas ahead of actually traveling. Having the first iPhones get out the gates unlocked was likely a mistake on the part of Sprint and Apple, but it could’ve easily been spun as just a nice perk for customers. Sprint does have a lot of money-making to do before it can recoup its initial iPhone investment, however, so it makes sense that it wouldn’t leave a potential revenue source unexploited.

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  1. How is it a cash grab during the two year contract period?

    1. The lock happens on activation, which has nothing to do with a contract per se. I’m two weeks away from getting a 4S on Sprint. I was about to buy a 4S on Sprint for full price ($849 for the 64GB model–yes, I’m an outlier), so I’m affected by the SIM lock, despite avoiding a contract upgrade.

      If the SIM lock was specifically tied to on-contract provisioning, I’d accept the notion that it’s not a cash grab, but Sprint is now tying gotchas to activations rather than contracts. For instance, if you try to activate a smartphone you bought off contract, they’ll add on a $10/mo. “smartphone” fee

  2. I’m 19 and I don’t travel anywhere. Is this lock thing going to affect me anyway? All I care about is Internet, Icloud, Siri, and iOS 5.

  3. I don’t like it! I have a “white” iphone 4s…. I want to sale for market price… maybe $550.00. Anyone interested?

    1. I want a white 32g. But why don’t you like it? And how is it you already have it for sprint?

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