After two years of O2 exclusivity in the UK, the iPhone franchise is being extended to Orange on November 10 and, early in the New Year, to Vodafone. Even 3 has said that they expect to have the iPhone in their lists before the end of 2010. Presumably, though, all these suppliers will be offering phones locked to their particular network. What we really need is the ability to buy unlocked phones, as in many other European countries. I see absolutely no reason why someone who is prepared to pay a reasonable price for an unlocked phone should not be able to buy one in the UK.
In fact, I see no logic in locking in any case. Users signing a long contract get a discount on the phone and, frankly, does it matter if that phone is locked or unlocked? The service provider has 18 months or even two years of revenue, irrespective of whether or not the user changes to another network. Anyone who is happy to pay full price for the phone should be able to buy it without signing a contract. It is about time the European Union made it illegal to lock phones.
The main reason for owning an unlocked phone, of course, is the ability to use a foreign SIM card when travelling or living abroad. I have an unlocked phone and know how convenient this can be. In most European countries I can buy a cheap pay-as-you-go SIM card which is worth having even for a brief one-week stay. If you spend a long time in another country, as I do in Greece, it even makes sense to have a contract there, but it is only possible with an unlocked phone.