More Claims of Unlocked 3G iPhones... Belgium, India, Australia?
In February, Apple's COO, Timothy Cook said that Apple was "not married to any business model" with regard to the iPhone. Specifically, Apple's has received some criticism about their exclusivity contracts with specific mobile carriers, preventing customers from easily using other networks.
It appears this model appears to be eroding, at least in some countries. A recent report claimed that the 3G iPhone would launch in Italy as an unlocked phone, available for use with any carrier. The side effect of this move, however, could be higher retail prices for the iPhones. With the exclusivity deals Apple has in place, Apple earns a portion of monthly subscription fees from their network partners, such as AT&T.
Another report from Belgium makes identical claims that a 3G iPhone will be arriving by the end of June. Again, the iPhone is expected to be compatible with all Belgian operators, though is expected to launch on Mobistar first as early as May. The decision may have been forced upon Apple, however, as Belgium specifically prohibits the sale of "locked" mobile phones.
Still, other reports have hinted at similar distribution models in India and Australia later this year.
Despite technical measures in place to prevent the use of the iPhone on unauthorized networks, the practice of "unlocking" iPhones has become a big business with reports that as many as 400,000 unlocked iPhones running on China Mobile's network.