Canada Apple Store iPhones Will Be Sold Unlocked

What a crazy week!

First Telus announces the iPhone, followed shortly by Bell. Then we reported about the new plans coming out and for all the latest price plan information, you can check out this consolidated post here.

With four carriers supporting the iPhone in Canada, there is now more choice than ever in terms of price plans from the various carriers. However, that is not all the choices that people have.

An Interesting Find

According to our anonymous tipster, and I would classify this in the highly-grey-area-category, the Telus/Bell iPhones and the next batch of Rogers/Fido iPhones may no longer have the SIM cards inside of the iPhone, as the Rogers/Fido iPhones currently have. In other words, an iPhone may no longer have a SIM card inside of it but instead, a SIM card will accompany the iPhone outside of the box in the hands of a sales rep.

At this time, this change only applies to Apple Retail Stores, as Rogers, Bell, Telus and Fido stores will still receive their respective iPhones with SIM card inside the device. Apple Stores on the other hand, will not. Confused? Good, you should be.

All About Inventory

To make inventory and the sales flows easier for Apple Stores, iPhones from all four carriers may come SIM card-less. These SIM card-less iPhones will also be UNLOCKED. Yes, UNLOCKED. However, once a Rogers or Telus or Bell or Fido SIM card is put into the iPhone, the iPhone is automatically locked to the carrier of the inserted SIM card.

In other words, Apple Stores across Canada may now be selling iPhone devices without a SIM Card installed. The iPhone will be unlocked until a carrier SIM card is inserted, at which time the iPhone will lock to that carrier’s SIM card. This allows Apple Stores to easily keep track of iPhones because they no longer need to be grouped by carrier. They are all universal, unlocked iPhones until a SIM card is put inside. Clearly this presents some interesting opportunities.

Of course, if you were to walk in and want to buy an outright iPhone, the Apple Store rep would make you choose a carrier but imagine if you could get one without having the SIM inserted.

Unlocking FTW!

At this time however, it is unknown if the Canadian iPhones can be used with outside of Canada SIM cards. It may be that the Canadian iPhones are unlocked initially but will only recognize one of four carrier SIM cards; those four carriers being Rogers, Fido, Telus, or Bell. If that is the case, then the current Dev-Team unlocking methods are vastly superior, but this find is nevertheless interesting.

In any case, I would LOVE to get one of these iPhones sent to the Dev Team so they can play with it and find out how an iPhone is truly unlocked. These iPhones leave Apple HQ unlocked and are only locked once the SIM is inserted. This is a huge departure from the current process and is very interesting.

Dev-Team, can you send your ninjas to retrieve one of these phones and dissect it? I am curious if something is found about unlocking that we did not know before.

More as the story develops…


Reports on iPhone news, reviews apps and accessories. Also an armed ninja with an iPhone 4S.

  • djelimon

    If you can get it without the SIM inserted you could (assuming your reverse engineering skills were up to it) theoretically find a way to alter the os/firmware to simply not lock. Since locking is a logical operation I don't think you can have a purely hardware based lock. At the very least there has to be a machine instruction from somewhere to set the lock.

    How to do this without multiple phones… If you could extract the firmware (I don't know if this is possible) and back up the os (definitely possible as all unix distros are just a bunch of files) then you could reflash the firmware and restore the os.

  • Matt

    I was living in Italy until last June. All the iPhones they sell there are unlocked because it's against their consumer laws to lock cell phones to one carrier..

  • montymon

    Now there's a law Canada could use!

  • Justin

    Yes. Send out the Ninja please. If necessary the dancing girls too. LOL

  • Daniel

    I'm going to speculate that if this is true Apple may have iTunes take care of updating the iPhone OS on Canadian activation on this side of the border much how Canadians are restricted from having access to some iPhone/Touch apps.Which leads me to wonder if just having a Canadian iTunes account one will be able to set up the phone to be used by either of 4 carriers.Which makes it a somewhat unlocked carrier but “Canada only” iPhone. This will fill the needs of a whole lot of Canadians!

  • Dusty


  • Dusty


  • bcb

    your headline is a bit misleading, isn't it? doesn't sound like anybody can actually BUY an unlocked phone as the headline implies at first glance. steal one, maybe…

    shouldn't the real headline be:
    “Canada Apple Store iPhones Are Unlocked until Just Before Being Sold” – not as eye-catching a headline, mind you 🙂

    anyhow, interesting info. but I'm sure the headline will get re-posted and re-posted and taken at misleading face value.

  • Ender

    They've been doing this for a while now with the rogers/fido phones so I don't get why this is all of a sudden big news. My friend and myself were both warned when we wanted to activate the 3GS at home to use the SIM card we want to use because the phone will lock to that carrier (rogers or fido) once activated through itunes.

  • Up until now, any iPhones you bought in Canada from official retailers
    had the fido/Rogers SIM inside and the device was locked to Rogers or

    The SIM was always inside and device always locked to the SIM carrier.

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  • Ender

    Maybe you should tell the Toronto eaton center apple store this because clearly you are right and I'm wrong. My 3gs did not come with a sim card and they specifically warned me about activating with a Rogers card(I'm on fido)

  • Well that may be the case, but it is a highly rare and isolated
    incident. Typical operations is that the iPhone comes with a SIM in
    box. Until now that is.

  • And Ender, it's not about being right or wrong. Try to be a little bit
    more positive, kay? It's good for the community, it's good for you and
    it's good for the people who are your friends and family.

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  • Ender

    It's not about being positive. I was just correcting you. It's not a once off thing as I know others that were warned about activating the sim card if they want to activate at home. Furthermore, people in other countries have confirmed that this is already how it happens in countries where there is more than one provider. I assume majority of the people weren't aware of this because apple usually activates the phone for you in store but if you wanted to activate yourself then you'd get the warning from them. That's all I was trying to say.

  • Thank you for your contribution.

    In other countries, yes but this is quite new for Canadians. That's
    what this post is showing.

    In terms of being positive, I am referring to your previous comments
    and comments made by you on other blogs.

    Have a good day

  • Ender

    And yet again you ignore the fact that this is not new in Canada. It was more hidden before because majority of the time they activate the phone for you in store.

  • I am not alone in that thought process. This unlocked find is new to
    many news sites and people and will (and is) posted.

    Thank you

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  • Maybe you should contact the service flashlight perhaps

  • DNA

    Whether or not they come unlocked has nothing to do with the hardware.

  • DNA

    @djelimon Ever heard of pwnagetool? or a Proxy-SIM 😛
    And firmware extraction is childs play, signing is the problem.

  • dd09

    Still 36 month contract? Forget it! in the UK it's unlimited data and only 18 or 24 months. What is the point of the CRTC when it won't go to bat for Canadian consumers!!!

  • I don't know why we always have to be behind Europeans when it comes to cell phones…

  • KnightFire

    When I got my original Robers 16GB iPhone 3G by mail the SIM card was loose in box and I had to insert it myself.

  • djelimon

    hey I'm just speaking off the top of my head based on general knowledge of computers. My only real point was that this could open the door to a soft unlock method that would be very hard for apple to block.

  • lisavee

    I have an unlocked iPhone from Europe. I use Rogers but I'm not crazy about their plans. So I just called up Bell and asked if I could use my unlocked phone with them.. and for sure she said NO…because I didn't buy it from them. lol

  • Curious

    Does anyone know if an iPhone from Telus can be unlocked and if it can, would it then work on the Rogers network?

  • ace

    yes it will work when u unlock it but it might not work wit telus again..

  • ace

    try telus they will let u its better if ur iphone is 3gs..
    thy have SIM cards now only $9.99
    rogers n fido charge u $30 bloody SIM card lol

    HPSA telus is fast. just need to be manully programed if you want to use with telus..
    thats the only headach..

  • ace

    yes it will work when u unlock it but it might not work wit telus again..

  • ace

    try telus they will let u its better if ur iphone is 3gs..
    thy have SIM cards now only $9.99
    rogers n fido charge u $30 bloody SIM card lol

    HPSA telus is fast. just need to be manully programed if you want to use with telus..
    thats the only headach..

  • ???

    if i buy an iphone from an apple store will it come unlocked?

  • Yes if you buy it outright and not on contract.

  • Ric_Flair

    If I buy an unlocked iPhone in the U.S., can I use it with a Canadian carrier in Canada?