I’ve almost reached the end of my contract for my iPhone4 with AT&T. Last week, after reading Jacqui Cheng‘s article for ArsTechnica, “AT&T unlocking some under-contract iPhones—for now,” I filled out AT&T’s official web form to request an iPhone unlock. I received an email that my request could not be completed because my account number could not be found, so today I called AT&T customer service. The service rep was very helpful, and was able to fulfill my unlock request over the phone in just a few minutes. He instructed me to backup my iPhone and then restore it with iTunes, and then my iPhone should be unlocked. I followed those instructions tonight, and it worked!

Congrtulations, your iPhone has been unlocked - iTunes

What does this mean? Specifically, my son will inherit my iPhone4 in a few weeks when my new iPhone5 arrives, but since my iPhone4 is now unlocked he won’t have to be on AT&T’s cellular service. AT&T requires every iPhone user pay for a data plan, so that would mean paying a minimum of $30 per month ($10 for the extra line and $20 for the cheapest data plan) if he stayed with AT&T. My plan is to put him on the T-Mobile $15 per month unlimited texting, 10¢ per minute talk plan which does not require a contract. According Kevin Fitchard’s article last Friday, “T-Mobile may not get the iPhone 5, but it’s getting its SIM cards,” T-Mobile is updating its network so iPhone users will not (as they have been to date) limited to just Edge network speeds. I’m not going to get an iPhone data plan for my son, so that won’t affect him, but if you’re considering a switch for yourself or members of your family using iPhones to T-Mobile that could be significant. At some point my son may opt to pay for his own data plan, and if he’s with T-Mobile it’s good to know he should have faster connectivity options (although not 4G/LTE yet) down the road.

It’s great AT&T is offering this option for iPhone users. According to the AT&T documentation I read today, AT&T lets customers unlock up to FIVE different phones per year. Note this option does NOT require “jailbreaking,” this is something AT&T will do for customers directly and officially once contracts have expired or (as in my case today) are almost finished. This kind of unlock does NOT void your iPhone warranty with Apple, either.

If you ARE still under contract for an iPhone, there are several options for unlocking your phone. GEVEY Ultra is a hardware unlock solution which Joe White highlighted for Mashable in July 2012. “Jailbreaking” an iPhone is also an option. Sherman Nicodemus has written a series of guest blog posts here addressing jailbreak situations, and his January 2012 post, “Avoiding AT&T’s Ridiculous iPhone Data Fees by Switching to T-Mobile” provides more specific information about jailbreaking and T-Mobile.

I’m delighted AT&T unlocked my iPhone4 today, and look forward to (hopefully) reporting in the weeks ahead how Alexander’s experiences will be on T-Mobile using my old iPhone!

'Uitverkocht' photo (c) 2008, Thomas van de Weerd - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

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