Nov. 30, 2012 at 11:32 AM ET
If you really want an iPhone 5 but don't want to sign a two-year agreement, there's some good news for you this Friday morning: You can now buy an unlocked iPhone 5 from Apple. There are some catches though.
For starters, the out-of-contract iPhone 5 is pricey. While a carrier-subsidized device costs you between $199 and $399, the unlocked — but otherwise identical — iPhone 5 will set you back $649 to $849.
On top of the painful news for your wallet, there's another annoyance: The unlocked model being offered by Apple "only works on supported GSM networks, such as AT&T in the U.S."
This particular phone won't run on carriers that use CDMA networks, such as Verizon and Sprint. If you are on one of those carriers, you're better off purchasing a device from them at full price and calling them to get it "country unlocked" (assuming you're intending to use it internationally).
And if you want an unlocked phone to use on T-Mobile, the only major U.S. carrier without an iPhone, keep in mind that the device won't offer the brisk 4G LTE data you'll see on the supported carriers. (T-Mobile is working on upgrading its network to change this though.)
If you are travelling internationally, you'll instantly be able to throw a local GSM carrier's nano-SIM into the unlocked iPhone 5 and use it with out any issues, but top speeds will vary depending on whether that carrier has a 4G LTE network or not. (If you were to purchase a full-price device from a carrier, you'd have to wait for a certain time period before you can get it unlocked for use outside of the U.S., which can be annoying.)
The unlocked iPhone 5 model will take about a week to ship, according to Apple's website. Coincidentally, the regular, carrier-locked versions of the smartphone are now expected to ship within the same timeframe, which is great news for folks who have been frustrated by distant estimated delivery dates.
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