German iPhones Unlocked by iTunes
MacNotes.de (German) provides early notes and experiences from customers who have bought unlocked iPhones in Germany.
The first SIM-unlocked iPhones went on sale in Germany on November 21st with a considerable (600 euro) premium over the usual SIM-locked iPhones. "Unlocked" simply means that the phone is not tied to any one network provider (such as AT&T or T-Mobile) and can accept any SIM card.
The unlocking process is as follows: You simply buy a regular iPhone ("locked") and pay the additional premium (999 euro total). Your iPhone's IMEI number is recorded and sent to Apple. After 24 hours or so, Apple's database is updated. At this stage, once you connect your iPhone to iTunes, the iPhone is automatically unlocked in a process that is described as taking only "seconds". You can then proceed to sync your now-unlocked iPhone with iTunes. The firmware remains at version 1.1.2 after the unlock. The process raises a number of questions and also opens the possibility of unauthorized unlocking solutions to become readily available.
The sale of unlocked iPhones in Germany was forced by a temporary injunction against T-Mobile, and could potentially be overturned at a future court date.
Regardless, Apple is required to offer unlocked iPhones in France after 6 months according to French law, so the infrastructure must remain available in iTunes. The iPhone will launch in France on November 29th.