Unlocked iPhone 4S: What You Need to Know

Apple began accepting preorders for the new iPhone 4S on Friday, and while the phone includes everything it needs to work on GMS networks like AT&T, along with CDMA networks like Verizon, it’s still locked to a single service provider. Just as it did with the iPhone 4, Apple will be offering an unlocked version of the iPhone 4S, but there are a few limitations. Read on to see what you need to know about the unlocked iPhone 4S.

iPhone 4SApple’s new iPhone 4S

Availability The carrier-locked version of the iPhone 4S will ship on October 14, but the unlocked version won’t be available until some time in November. Apple isn’t saying exactly when in November its new smartphone will make it into customer’s hands.

Compatibility Just because Apple designed the iPhone 4S to be compatible with CDMA and GSM networks doesn’t mean everyone gets to take advantage of that. The unlocked iPhone 4S will be compatible only with GSM-based cell services, so that leaves carriers like Verizon and Sprint on the sidelines.

Like the iPhone 4, the iPhone 4S uses a micro-SIM card for GMS cell networks. If you plan on traveling internationally with your iPhone, you’ll be able to pick up a micro-SIM from local carriers to avoid expensive international roaming charges.

Some cell services aren’t fully compatible with the iPhone, so not all of the phone’s features may work. Visual Voice Mail, for example, isn’t available through carriers that aren’t already Apple partners, and T-Mobile’s network in the U.S. doesn’t support the iPhone’s 3G data frequencies so you’ll be limited to EDGE speeds.

Price Looking for a US$199 iPhone 4S? Don’t look at the unlocked model. The unlocked iPhone 4S doesn’t include carrier subsidies, so you’ll have to pay full price. That means $649 for the 16GB model, $749 for the 32GB version, and $849 for the 64GB model.

If you’re fine with the price of an unlocked iPhone, you don’t have to sign two-year contracts for service.

The iPhone 4S is available for preorder through the Apple Web site.