I suppose it was bound to happen sooner or later, now that it is possible to unlock the iPhone for use on any GSM carrier, but Play.com is now officially offering a sim-free version of the 16GB iPhone (s aapl) for sale on their website without having first unlocked it from O2. According to Play.com, the offer is completely above board, and takes advantage of EU regulations which ensure the availability of sim-free mobile phones to all networks.
This news isn’t to say every barrier is now removed from any UK resident owning an iPhone. There’s still the little issue of cost, and with the iPhone that’s actually not a little issue at all. Play.com is selling the sim-free version for £599, which works out to about $882 U.S. dollars (using today’s conversion rate). That’s a heck of a lot more expensive than the $599 no-contract AT&T model we’ve been hearing about lately. But can you really put a price on freedom? I sure can, and it’s a lot less than $900.
Unfortunately, I don’t really have a choice. There are no import options for North American customers, so over on this side of the pond we’ll have to stick to paying out the nose on eBay for less-than-legit alternatives. Still, I can’t help hoping that this is only the beginning of a loosening of the locked-down distribution model of the iPhone. I understand that Apple (s aapl) can’t be seen willfully encouraging sim-free sales, in the interest of keeping their carrier partners happy, but there’s nothing wrong with quietly giving up the goods when someone like Play.com points out a legal necessity, is there? Of course Canada, where I live, has the most draconian cellular racket in this or any other hemisphere, so I shouldn’t hold my breath.