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In what’s becoming the standard move for Apple (s aapl) as it approaches the launch of a new generation of iPhone hardware, the company has begun to offer the iPhone 3G/3GS for sale without contract at full price on its websites and at its brick-and-mortar retail stores. Without contract, but not unlocked, so don’t get too excited yet Sprint (s s) fans.
Of course, there are ways to unlock the iPhones that are simple enough for many computer users, but there lies the tricky mess of possibly voiding your warranty, so tread carefully. It’s likely you’re probably familiar with jailbreaking, risks and all, so I won’t belabor the point.
Buying the iPhone models off-contract won’t be cheap, since you don’t have a carrier helping out via a hefty subsidy, but as any contract-averse individual will tell you, you’ll end up paying far less for the hardware if you can avoid signing your life away for two whole years. Also you might sleep better at night knowing AT&T (s att) hasn’t successfully sunk its claws into you.
The now aging 3G 8GB iPhone will cost you $499, while the 16GB 3GS lists at $599 and the 32GB 3GS sells for $699 without subsidy. Those prices start to look a lot less reasonable now that Apple has announced the pricing for the iPad, even though when I bought the iPhone 3GS last year I had to pay full price since I was only a year into my three-year contract, it seemed perfectly fine to drop $700.
As for when you can get these unlocked devices, according to PC World, you might be able to do it right now. PCW writer Sarah Jacobsson called her local store and was told that they were already selling the devices unlocked. Apple hasn’t yet made an official announcement regarding the devices, or updated its web store to reflect the changes, but 9to5 Mac got early wind of the move, and Gizmodo later confirmed via official internal Apple documents.
It’s unclear exactly why Apple seems to do this every time the end of its current iPhone iteration is in sight, but a reasonable guess is that the company would like to sell off as many of the on-hand units it has before it has to deal with an influx of new 4th generation iPhone stock. Even if Apple plans to continue selling the iPhone 3GS alongside the next iPhone, which is likely considering the retention of the 3G last time as a low-priced budget option, Cupertino still probably wants to clean house and bolster sales ahead of the launch.
You’re only allowed to buy one per day, up to a maximum of 1o total phones, so if you’re aiming for an even dozen you’ll have to enlist the help of a friend.