By Michael Evans
LOCKING phones to one carrier is an anachronism and shame on Apple for trying to squeeze the last cent out of partners by making it impossible, legally, to unlock the iPhone. Almost every other phone on the market can be unlocked for a few dollars and there are no warranty or service implications. And almost every other phone on the market can be bought unlocked (or SIM-free) at a price.
Already, in several European countries it is illegal to lock phones. In these countries Apple quite happily supply open phones than can be used on any network (surprise, surprise!). Locking phones to one network has only one benefit: it allows the consumer to get a cheap phone if he commits to a contract. And, having committed to 12, 18 or 24 months, there is absolutely no reason why the phone should remain locked. After all, the carrier is getting a guaranteed return for the contract period which compensates for the discount.
In those countries where locking is illegal, the phones do cost more. In Greece, for instance, the discount for taking a contract is little more than €100, so the phones cost between €300 and €600 depending on the contract or lack of contract. Many people buy iPhones from Vodafone in Greece and then use their SIM cards from OTE, Wind, T-Mobile or whichever.
If I am prepared to pay a reasonable price for an unlocked phone that I can use on different carriers throughout Europe, I do not see what objection Apple should raise. Roaming costs, even with the new European reductions, are exorbitant and many people spending chunks of time in other countries prefer to get a local SIM card. I have contracts with O2 in the UK and Vodafone in Greece, so no one is losing out.
Shame on Apple for continuing this idiotic and monopolistic practice which, I believe, cannot last long. To start the ball rolling, I have today written to the Blessed Vivian Reding in Brussels to ask her to insist that all manufacturers should offer unlocked phones in every country of the Union. I am not in favour of banning locking completely because it can benefit those who want a phone at a discount. For the rest of us, the opportunity to get an unlocked phone, even at €500 or €600, should be a right. Local carriers could well offer a small discount on these prices in return for a contract, but at least the phone could be used with other SIM cards while abroad.