The End of iPhone Unlocking?

The Macalope, arguing with Todd Sullivan over whether the iPhone 3G is actually cheaper than the original iPhone, hits on a point that I think many others haven’t realized yet — that the unlocking phenomenon may be over. Sullivan wrote:

Also Mac[alope], what about the 1/4 to 1/3 of iPhones purchased that are eventually unlocked? Aren’t they stunningly cheaper, or are we just ignoring them because they do not fit our argument?

The Macalope replied:

Actually, those would be cheaper, obviously… if you can actually get out of the door with one without being tasered by AT&T’s jack-booted thugs. See, Todd, AT&T has wised up and will be forcing customers to activate their phones before leaving the store.

Got it? You won’t be able to leave the store without a contract. A two-year contract. One you must pay for. Contractually. For two years. With money.

In the short-term, the main effect of the original iPhone’s “activate it at home through iTunes” model was that you didn’t have to waste 15 or 30 minutes in a store waiting for your old number to transfer and new one to activate. In the long-term, though, the main effect is that it allowed people to buy iPhones with no intention of ever activating them on AT&T. This is apparently no longer the case with the iPhone 3G.

The big question is what AT&T’s contract cancellation fee is going to be.

Update: Apparently AT&T’s standard contract termination fee is $175; let’s see if the same applies to the iPhone. If it does, I don’t see how reports like this one, claiming AT&T is subsidizing $325 on every iPhone, make sense.

Thursday, 19 June 2008