Sprint Offers Clarification on iPhone 4S International Micro-SIM Unlocking

Earlier this week, Macworld reported that the Sprint iPhone 4S would ship with an unlocked micro-SIM slot allowing users to avoid costly roaming fees when traveling internationally by simply inserting a micro-SIM card from a local GSM carrier. But Sprint later disputed that report, claiming that the iPhone 4S will not be sold unlocked for international use.


Sprint has now offered further clarification to Macworld, outlining how the carrier will ultimately unlock the micro-SIM slot for customers in good standing but still leaving a number of questions unanswered.

Indeed, the Sprint iPhone 4S will ship with its micro-SIM slot unlocked. However, Sprint now says that it will be locking that slot “shortly after launch” via an update pushed to those devices. After the slot has been locked, Sprint says that it will allow customers in good standing to unlock the SIM for international use in the future.

So far as I can tell, this means that after a short period of the phone shipping completely unlocked, Sprint will revert to a policy more or less in line with Verizon’s. If you are a good customer and pay your bills on time, you can call Sprint and ask the company to unlock your microSIM so you can slip in a foreign, pre-paid SIM.

Sprint and Verizon iPhone 4S models will ship with "roaming SIMs" from the respective carriers, allowing customers to access the networks of their international carrier partners but at the higher roaming prices. But customers who request that the micro-SIM slot be unlocked will be able to remove that card and insert lower-cost local cards when they travel.

Still, Sprint's explanation seems to lack some detail, including the reasons behind the apparently convoluted process of shipping the slots unlocked and then locking them, only to later unlock them upon request for customers in good standing. It is also unclear how Sprint plans to lock the micro-SIM slots and whether users will be able to avoid applying a carrier settings update or other update that would lock them.

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
118 months ago
Apple uses the activation record to control device locking. Every iPhone of a specific model number is created equal at Foxconn, but apple takes the IMEI and other identifiers of a batch of phones and designates them for a certain carrier.
Upon activation, a cryptographically signed plist is sent to the baseband with a list of allowed carriers.
This means that sprint's only method is to wait for devices to sync with iTunes to query activation state or use new OTA-based activation info in iOS5.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
118 months ago
I don't understand why US carriers are so strict about unlocking. You're tied into a contract anyway! O2 in the UK unlocks your iPhone free of charge on request - a simple web form. Seriously, if you're on a contract, why does it matter to them if you're locked or not?!?
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
118 months ago
A perfect example of why, sometimes, government regulation is a GOOD thing.

In Israel, a recent regulation forces all carriers in the country to unlock a phone for any customer without paying any fees or any other requirements. You simply go to any service center, say you want to unlock your iPhone (for example), and they do it. End of story.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
118 months ago
Does this make Verizon/Sprint iPhone 4S More Valuable

If Verizon and Sprint will facilitate GSM unlocking of iPhone 4Ss for their customers, it seems to me that they're more valuable than their ATT counterparts. Even though Apple will be selling an unlocked version of the 4S in November, when customers want to resell the phones they received on contract, having them unlocked will make them much more attractive to international eBay buyers and the like.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
118 months ago
Good lord is the U.S. cell market just a giant ass reaming for customers.

Insane pricing and dubious "locked after you buy it unless we deem you arbitrarily somehow to be a good customer or something" policies. Unreal.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
118 months ago
"It's unlocked!" "It's locked!" "It's unlocked but we're going to lock it!" "After we lock it, we'll unlock it if we like you!"

Which is it, Sprint?

I'll tell you what it is. It is pure nonsense. And proof that all carriers are equally bad and consumer-unfriendly.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

Apple References Unreleased 2020 16-Inch MacBook Pro in Boot Camp Update

Monday October 26, 2020 8:42 am PDT by
Last week, Apple released an update for Boot Camp, its utility for running Windows on a Mac. While this update would typically be unremarkable, several of our readers noticed that the release notes reference an unreleased 2020 model of the 16-inch MacBook Pro. While this could easily be a mistake, the 16-inch MacBook Pro is nearly a year old, so it is certainly a worthy candidate for a...

Google Reportedly Pays Apple $8-12 Billion Per Year to be Default iOS Search Engine

Sunday October 25, 2020 2:59 pm PDT by
The United States Justice Department is targeting a lucrative deal between Apple and Google as part of one of the U.S. government's largest antitrust cases, reports The New York Times. On Tuesday, the Justice Department filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google, claiming the Mountain View-based company used anticompetitive and exclusionary practices in the search and advertising markets to ...

iPhone 12 Pro Allows You to Measure Someone's Height Instantly Using LiDAR Scanner

Saturday October 24, 2020 11:12 am PDT by
iPhone 12 Pro models feature a new LiDAR Scanner for enhanced augmented reality experiences, but the sensor also enables another unique feature: the ability to measure a person's height instantly using the Measure app. You can even measure the seated height of a person in a chair, according to Apple. When the Measure app detects a person in the viewfinder, it automatically measures their...

MagSafe Charger Only Charges at Full 15W Speeds With Apple's 20W Power Adapter

Monday October 26, 2020 3:38 pm PDT by
Alongside the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro models, Apple introduced a new MagSafe charger that attaches to the magnetic ring in the back of the devices, providing up to 15W of charging power, which is double the speed of the 7.5W Qi-based wireless charging maximum. Apple does not provide a power adapter with the $39 MagSafe charger, requiring users to supply their own USB-C compatible option. Apple...

Early iPhone 12 Tests Show Ceramic Shield is Stronger and More Scratch Resistant Than iPhone 11 Glass

Friday October 23, 2020 1:21 pm PDT by
Apple's new iPhone 12 models are protected by a Ceramic Shield cover glass that has nano-ceramic crystals infused right into the glass to improve durability. According to Apple, Ceramic Shield offers four times better drop protection than the glass used for the iPhone 11 models. YouTube channel MobileReviewsEh conducted some tests on the iPhone 12 using a force meter to compare its performance ...

iPhone 12 Six-Foot Drop Test Results: Ceramic Shield More Durable But Not Damage Proof

Monday October 26, 2020 5:00 am PDT by
Apple's new iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro feature a new Ceramic Shield screen that Apple says offers 4x better drop performance. To test that claim, Allstate Protection Plans put the two models through a range of breakability tests and recorded the results. In a face down sidewalk drop test at six feet, the iPhone 12 suffered small cracks and scuffed corners and edges, leaving sharp grooves in ...

Bloomberg: New AirPods and AirPods Pro Coming in 2021, AirPods Studio Delayed, Third HomePod Model Also Possible

Monday October 26, 2020 3:34 am PDT by
Apple plans to update its AirPods line next year with two new models including third-generation AirPods and second-generation AirPods Pro, according to a new report from Bloomberg. The Cupertino, California-based technology giant is working on two new models: third-generation entry-level AirPods and the second version of the AirPods Pro earbuds, according to people familiar with the plans. ...

Report: Apple Silicon iMac Featuring Desktop Class 'A14T' Chip Coming First Half of 2021

Tuesday October 27, 2020 4:14 am PDT by
The first iMac powered by Apple Silicon is set to arrive in the first half of next year and will feature a desktop class "A14T" chip, according to Chinese-language newspaper The China Times. Codenamed "Mt. Jade," Apple's first custom-made desktop processor will be twinned with its first self-developed GPU, codenamed "Lifuka," both of which are being produced using TSMC's 5-nanometer process, ...

iPhone 11 Pro Outlasts iPhone 12 and 12 Pro in Extensive Battery Life Test

Friday October 23, 2020 8:36 am PDT by
Arun Maini today shared a new side-by-side iPhone battery life video test on his YouTube channel Mrwhosetheboss, timing how long the new iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro models last on a single charge compared to older models, with equal brightness, settings, battery health, and usage. All of the devices are running iOS 14 without a SIM card inserted. In the test, the iPhone 11 Pro outlasted both ...

Apple Warns MagSafe Charger Can Leave Circular Imprints on Leather Cases

Friday October 23, 2020 3:23 pm PDT by
If you keep your iPhone in a leather case while charging with Apple's new MagSafe Charger, the case might show circular imprints from contact with the accessory, according to a new Apple support document published today. Apple's leather cases for the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro are not available until November 6, but a MacRumors reader has already shared a photo of a circular imprint on...