Apple’s Official iPhone 3G Unlock

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.

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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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