Hate commitment? iPhone 4 goes SIM-free and unlocked in the UK

Next Story

Casio shows off the Green Slim Projectors, for gamers

Today is the day that most of the UK mobile carriers are taking iPhone 4 pre-orders. But, if like me, you’re afraid of commitment – well the 2 year mobile contract kind, anyway – then you might want to hold off for now.

Apple today has announced the availability and pricing of its latest smartphone SIM-free (sans contract) for British iPhone-touting wannabes shy of signing on the dotted line.

It’s not going to be cheap though, with Apple’s shiny new toy starting from £499 for the 16GB and £599 for the 32GB version, although both come ‘unlocked’, leaving you free to jump networks on a whim or stay price-savvy with the latest SIM-only or pre-pay deals.

But still, 500 quid is a lot of cash to lay down up front and runs counter to British mobile culture where we are very accustomed to subsidized handsets and lengthy contracts.

And with not all of the UK carriers revealing their hand yet when it comes to their iPhone 4 tariffs, it’s difficult to compare the potential cost saving or premium paid for going commitment-free. That’s likely to change later today.

  • DJ

    So could I buy this from Apple, cut down my existing Orange SIM to MicroSIM and use it in the iPhone 4? Would that work? Would it cause registration problems?

    • http://twitter.com/danielsamuels Daniel Samuels

      Does anyone know how to get an Orange MicroSIM that will go in the iPhone, I can’t see anywhere on their website any information about getting one.

      Perhaps I should just give them a ring?

    • pels

      It’s so easy to announced that in UK, but here on USA — an announcement like this would take forever.

      You got to applaud the Apple for releasing this product despite of all the leaks before. This is a great smartphone indeed. In the end, it will be up to your preference of what will you’re going to choose. All the questions about iPhone 4 answered..

  • James Holden

    I don’t get the price variation between the UK & USA? £599 for 32GB in the UK and $299 in the US?

    • Steve O'Hear

      The US-pricing is with a contract and not SIM-free/Unlocked. The UK has similar pricing for contract (subsidized) iPhones.

    • Richard

      The 16GB iPhone is $599 without a contract. Convert to pounds = £406. Multiple by 1.175 for VAT = £477.05.

      Leaves £21.95 (or 5%) mark-up because we live in Britain and Apple (like most other companies) can get away with charging us a bit more than everyone else.

      • Nicolas

        It’ exactly the same in France 629Euros
        $599 = 500euros
        => + 19.6% = 600euros
        => +29 euros (for I don’t know… shipping ?)

      • http://tech.phreadz.com kosso

        where have you seen the iPhone 4 without contract in the USA?

        I want! ;)

    • Darren

      The USA prices are for contract phones mate. The prices in UK are PAYG sim free phones bought out right.

  • Shane

    People would love this in Ireland if they do it here. For some reason most people here are pay as you go especially teens. I only know a handful of people on contracts (iPhone owners). It also means Meteor SIMs can be used.

  • http://www.lobstur.com Iain Haywood

    I know it’s been said, but *wow*. I think I’d just stump up another £250 and buy a macbook!

  • David

    Everyone stupefied by the price tag might be overlooking the even higher price that carriers manage to extract for the same device over the lifetime of a contract.

    • http://www.greenstreet.net PaulH

      True, but not many people can stump up £600 in one go.

  • http://www.faffies.com Akintayo A. Olusegun

    This would have been great news but MicroSim? #fail #fail #fail

  • strongfist

    Hey! the iPhone 4 is finally here…or is it?
    According to this article at http://getyourgadgetsgoing.com/ AT&T has the options to pre order but the iPhone 4 isn’t there yet…its really confusing but go check the link out to keep updated.

  • Alexander Hektor

    I’ in the US (L.A.) from August to January. If I buy an unlocked iPhone, which prepaid card should I buy in the US?! Any suggestions?

    • Nicolas

      You won’t find an unlocked iPhone in the US…

  • http://www.shopanprobe.de Denis

    Seriously, MicroSim isn’t a problem since you can easily cut down a normal Sim to MicroSim format yourself.

    (DIY worked great for my iPad)

  • Umit

    £599 doesn’t sound too much to me. Because in Turkey the price of 32 GB 3GS is £750. So the price sounds ok to me. Can someone buy and post to me please?

  • http://www.thehouselondon.com Darshan Sanghrajka

    Well the way I see it:

    Here are the rough prices using o2 or Vodafone’s sim only deals in relation to a unlocked iPhone – which is roughly £25 a month with the right data package for the sim only on a 30 day rolling contract.

    It works out without contract as:

    16gb £499 for handset + £600 line rental (£25/pm x 24) = £1099

    32gb £599 for handset + £600 line rental (£25/pm x 24) = £1199


    Similar package on Vodafone:

    Contract £45 per month x 24 = £1080

    So really any comments about the price being roughly way more over a contract – doesn’t hold true in this case.

    Or am I missing something?

    • http://www.thehouselondon.com Darshan Sanghrajka

      ps that Vodafone monthly pricing is for a 16gb – for the 32gb just add £89 for the handset. – so again roughly the same as a contract free phone.

    • Richard

      Your numbers look right. Two advantages to buying outright.

      (1) You’re not tied into a 24 month contract and can switch to iPhone 5 after a year – selling your old one on eBay.

      (2) Although on the contract you could re-sell your old iPhone after 24 months, you’ll get less for it because it’ll be 2 years old and be locked to one provider.

    • http://wordskill.com donnacha | WordSkill

      Existing O2 iPhone users should buy an unlocked iPhone 4 because:

      1. That it is the only way to keep your unlimited data.

      2. The £360 you save on monthly payments will cover most if not all of the additional cost of buying an unlocked phone over the same model subsidised.

      3. You can use the phone cheaply in any other, simply pop in a GSM sim, no need to hack or otherwise interfere with it.

      4. You have the luxury of being able to cancel your account with 30 day’s notice, representing a huge saving if your life takes an unexpected turn and you have to move to China or something – with a subsidised phone, you would have to pay every penny of every month left on your 18 or 24-month contract, even though you wouldn’t be using a single minute of it.

      5. If you’re iPhone is lost, smashed or stolen, you must continue to pay every penny of every month left on your contract.

      How I came to the above conclusions:

      Anyone whose old iPhone contract has run it’s course is entitled to call O2 and change to a rolling 30-day Simplicity (sim only) deal that is exactly £15 cheaper than the equivalent in-contract price i.e. if you were paying £35 for 600m plus unlimited data, you can now pay £20, 1200 minutes plus unlimited data would be £30,

      Only existing O2 iPhone users whose contracts have completed are entitled to these specific Simplicity prices, new Simplicity customers must pay £5 more per month OR agree to a 12-month contract. Existing O2 iPhone owners get the cheaper price AND the 30-day rolling contract.

      O2 are not, however, spreading the word about this to existing customers, don’t expect them to simply do the right thing – you have to know about the deal, phone them and specifically ask for it.

      Once you have your cheaper deal in place, you will be paying £15 less per month than customers under equivalent 24-month contracts and £20 less than those under equivalent 18-month contracts PLUS you retain your unlimited data. The only way to lose your entitlement to unlimited data is if you get O2 to subsidise another iPhone for you, because that means you are starting a new contract and, therefore, agreeing to the new conditions.

      The higher monthly tariffs if you get another subsidised iPhone amount to £360:

      £15 saving x 24 months = £360

      £20 saving x 18 months – £360

      ( … and probably a little more if, like the vast majority of people, you forget to change your tariff once your new contract completes, you’ll probably end up paying that extra £15 for quite a while).

      In a nutshell, this means that O2 considers the subsidy part of both their 18 and 24-month contracts to be worth the same amount, £360, regardless of what plan you are on although, of course, you will pay slightly less for your phone if you commit to a higher tariff.

      £499 for the 16GB and £599 for the 32GB are hard prices to stomach but the contract prices are also scandalous, just better hidden. Increasing the 18-month contracts by £5 and reducing the data allowance from “unlimited” to half a GB is fairly predatory, especially when you consider that increased competition is meant to lower prices, but the mobile companies know that the iPhone 4 is highly desirable, they know that they can afford to turn the screws.

      For me, the faster CPU (the same one that the iPad has), the much better screen and the very handy video feature (same resolution as a Flip but with decent editing right there on the device) make this a more valuable phone; I can just about rationalise £599 when I consider how much I use my existing iPhone 3G and I’m pretty sure that it will be possible to sell a legitimately unlocked iPhone 4 for a decent price when the iPhone 5 is released next year.

  • Matt

    Interesting. Nexus 1 was priced at about £300 unlocked/sim free when it was launched.

  • Ringo

    The price is ok. I paid 599 € for a 3GS 16GB from Italy last year. It’s very common to buy phones without a contract in europe.

  • Mark A

    That’s pretty reasonable to be honest. You’re going to pay anythigng from £300 to £500 for a decent 16GB unlocked smartphone these days so it’s not outrageous by any means.

  • Mike

    Why, why, why are Americans so happy to shovel out thousands of dollars to phone companies?

    I use a pay as you go cell in the U.S. and it costs me $100 a year versus $500 or so for a contract per year. I’ve had it for 4 years and it keeps on going. I’ll probably have it for another 4 years. The service is just as good (or bad) as a contract phone.

    If only Apple would do this in the U.S.… I’d pay $800 for a (upper level model) iPhone. If it lasts 4 years, that’s $300 a year, so to speak.

    • http://www.thehouselondon.com Darshan Sanghrajka

      See my post above. In this case, the phone on contract is cheaper than buying the phone unlocked and going on pay as you go or a simplicity sim!

  • http://www.macstories.net/news/iphone-4-unlocked-sim-free-expensive-in-the-uk/ iPhone 4: Unlocked, SIM-free, Expensive In the UK

    […] it’s around $730 for 16GB and $883 for 32GB.Are you sure you don’t want to commit? [via TechCrunch] Subscribe to our RSS feeds. You can also follow our official Twitter account @macstoriesnet.Share […]

  • http://www.droidbob.com.br/?p=523 iPhone 4 livre, leve e solto … no Reino Unido | Droid Bob Blog

    […] TechCrunch AKPC_IDS += "523,";Popularity: unranked […]

  • chendu

    Looks reasonable by cost.. I bought a iphone 3GS 16GB couple of months back for Rs.35000 in India which is around 500 GBP…

    Couple of years back I ended up throwing 600 USD for a Nokia N95 8GB compared to which iphone is a steal and a deal…!

  • http://ongoingissues.wordpress.com/ Angel

    This is great news as I was thinking that the price of the phone was going to be a lot more. This price will not put of Apple fans that’s for sure, but those weighing up the options of may be getting an iPhone 4 or and HTC desire may end up on the side of HTC.

  • http://cellphonehome.co.de/?p=616 Live in the U.K.? You Can Get Your iPhone 4 SIM-Free - Best Cell Phone Deals - Cell Phones & PCs

    […] plenty of choices for their carrier, they can even buy a totally unlocked, SIM-free handset, too.TechCrunch Europe is reporting that, along with iPhone 4 pre-orders on Tuesday comes the good news that the new handset is also […]

  • Daf

    Anyone know whether it’s only the UK version that will be sim unlocked? i.e. if you bring a US version into the EU, it won’t work with any other network sims, even if those networks carry the iPhone?

  • http://www.buzzintechnology.com apppad

    interesting. AT&T says contract free phone is avaialble, but Apple says no to contract free phone in US (yet). confusing?
    check this here

  • pel
  • Dan Muir

    I’d like to echo Daf’s post. I’m in the US this September and was hoping to snatch up a 4G there, contract free (if they’re for sale at the time!).

    • Nicolas

      They are contact free, but they are locked to AT&T…

  • http://smartphonetips.co.cc/2010/06/15/hate-commitment-iphone-4-goes-sim-free-and-unlocked-in-the-uk/ Hate commitment? iPhone 4 goes SIM-free and unlocked in the UK « I love Smart Phone

    […] Read this article: Hate commitment? iPhone 4 goes SIM-free and unlocked in the UK […]

blog comments powered by Disqus