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What is an unlocked iPhone?

When you buy a iPhone it is normally 'locked' to a specific network. This means that you will only be able to use a SIM card for that particular network. In the US it is normally AT&T and 02 in the UK. If you wanted to use a SIM card from a different network you would need to get the iPhone unlocked. This is great freedom for a user as the iPhone is currently only available on selected networks, and unlocking it allows you to use any SIM cards you may already have. Some companies offer additional extras, such as a certain bandwidth limit - to find out more get in touch with your network. Unlocking an iPhone is not the same as jailbreaking one. Jailbreaking makes the iPhone do what Apple won’t let it do, it allows you to read and write to places on the hard drive normally inaccessible. Jailbreaking an iPhone is frowned upon and will leave your iPhone unsupported whereas unlocking one is perfectly legal and simple to do.

Buying an unlocked iPhone

There are plenty of places you can buy an unlocked iPhone. Most of the time when you purchase such a phone it doesn’t come with a SIM card, so if you don’t already own one you will need to buy one. Unlocked iPhones can be bought on the internet, one of the most popular sources being eBay.

For an unlocked original 2G iPhone the prices tend to be around £80. Compared with a non-unlocked handset you’ll be paying around £30 more. This is the cheapest model available and if you want an iPhone but don’t have a big budget, this one would suit you fine. Definite good value for money - even though the technology inside the phone is now a little outdated and the internet connectivity is slowe,r it is still a bargain.

The iPhone 3G and 3GS are still quite pricey but offer more than the original iPhone. If you were going to purchase one of these unlocked you be looking at paying around £400 to £500. You won’t be tied into any monthly contracts. Simply get the handset, pop in your SIM card and you’re good to go. The price reflects the performance of the handsets and an unlocked version is worth more as it can be used on any network.

The iPhone 4 is the latest and most advanced iPhone out there. An unlocked one of these will cost you quite a large sum of money! Searching on eBay or on Google’s shopping feature, you will see that an unlocked iPhone 4 it will cost between £600 and £800. However, at this price you won’t be tied into any contracts and if you already own a SIM card it should work straight away, avoiding any time consuming activations and registrations.

Refurbished unlocked iPhones

A refurbished phone is one that had a broken part in it, had it removed and replaced with a new one. This could be a new screen, a new battery or a new Wi-Fi card. Refurbished phones are cheaper than brand new ones and could be a way of getting a newer phone for cheap. For example, a refurbished unlocked iPhone 3G will set you back around £200 which is almost half the price of a brand new one. The refurbished iPhone 3GS is only slightly cheaper at around £350 - £390, but it is still a saving none the less. Getting your hands on a refurbished iPhone 4 at this time will be difficult as it has only been in circulation for a couple of months, but searching around on eBay and using Google’s shopping feature should find you the best deal on the latest iPhone.

Unlocking an iPhone

If you already have an iPhone it is simply enough to get it unlocked. You can either ring your service provider, such as 02 or Orange, who should help you with your request. Alternatively, we know that you can go through the unlocking process on certain mobile service provider’s websites. Unlocking an iPhone can take a couple of weeks and a charge might apply. Depending on the amount of time left on your contract the unlocking charge could be quite high. For a pay as you go model, the unlocking fee is generally around £15.