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Sprint (s s) issued a press release Friday notifying iPhone 4S (s aapl) 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.