8GB iPhone 3GS Available For Preorder, iPhone 4 To Be Unlocked?

Alongside the USA and select international country iPhone 4 preorder launch this morning, Apple Canada has made a massive change in its iPhone sales policy.

Before today, if Canadians wanted to buy an iPhone 3G or iPhone 3GS from Apple, they had to go to an Apple Retail Store. Once there, they could choose to purchase the iPhone 3G/3GS with contract or without, but the point being that consumers had to go in-store.

This morning, the 8GB iPhone 3GS in Black appeared on the Apple Canada Online Store for preorder for $549 (outright price) with a ship date of June 24, 2010. The $549 price tag is also down by $50, from $599, for the previously available outright 8GB iPhone 3G.

In other words, Canadians can now buy an outright iPhone 3GS (and hopefully the iPhone 4) directly from the Apple Canada Online Store instead of going to the actual store.

Unlocked iPhones?

Reading into the Apple Canada Online Store iPhone preorder page, it seems that any iPhone (in this case, the iPhone 3GS) may be sold unlocked. The Apple FAQ are extremely vague but it definitely sounds like any iPhone purchased from the Apple Canada Online Store directly at outright pricing will be unlocked.

The FAQ continually make a reference to the fact that a purchased outright iPhone from the Canadian Online Store will be “commitment-free” and that customers can switch to any carrier they want, at any time.

Typically speaking, a commitment-free iPhone just means no contract and does not mean the device is SIM-free or unlocked. However, the FAQ on the page make it sound as if any iPhone purchased outright will be unlocked by indicating that users can switch SIM cards among local carriers and switch carriers at anytime.

Check out these FAQ’s from Apple Canada (bold/red emphasis added):

When you purchase your iPhone from the Apple Online Store, you’ll get it commitment-free. So you can sign up for service with the carrier of your choice and change your carrier at any time. Questions? Call our iPhone experts at 1-800-MY-APPLE.

Do I need to commit to a long-term contract for my iPhone?

Buying a commitment-free iPhone from the Apple Online Store allows you choose your own carrier and change carriers at any time. iPhone may also be available at a reduced initial price with a contract directly from your wireless carrier.

Why does the price of iPhone from the Apple Online Store differ from its price from a carrier?

Carriers typically sell the iPhone with a contract that subsidizes the initial purchase price of the phone. By purchasing your iPhone without a contract, you can use any SIM or micro-SIM card from a compatible carrier, including your current one.

Can I use my iPhone outside my home country?

Yes. iPhone is enabled to work on carrier networks using GSM around the world. Because the iPhone sold by the Apple Online Store is commitment-free, you can purchase a SIM or micro-SIM card and service from a local carrier at your destination. Or check with your home carrier regarding international roaming charges.

The second and third FAQ’s are probably the most compelling.

By contrast, the USA online store makes no mention of a commitment-free iPhone and requires a contract from AT&T to even buy the iPhone 3GS/4. In other words, the iPhone 3GS/4 does not seem to be available for sale without a contract at outright pricing in the USA.

Is this a Canadian first? Will Apple be the pioneer to launch unlocked smartphones of this caliber? It will be interesting to see what develops here.

[Apple Canada]

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