Update: Readers, I checked with Walt Mossberg about the SIM card situation, and the mistake is entirely mine in misreading his report.
I never said there wasn’t a SIM slot or that the iPhone couldn’t physically accept SIM cards, even those from non-AT&T carriers. That means the cards won’t work, that they are useless when inserted in the phone, not that they can’t be inserted in the phone.
That said, I still won’t be buying an Apple iPhone, unless I can use my current AT&T SIM Card, and don’t have to sign-up for a draconian two-year-contract. Boy Genius has left a comment saying that it is possible to get the phone without a contract, except the phone company said otherwise. He says that “The iPhone will in fact be available without a contract — only if you fail their credit check.” In other words, if you are like me – with a decent credit, then you are out of luck.
The reason: the phone is not available to those who don’t want to sign up for a two-year-contract with the AT&T service. No No, I am not talking about pre-paid people, who don’t even have a prayer of a chance to get the iPhone.
If you are an existing AT&T customer – and I am – but have gotten out from under their thumb (aka) contract, Apple’s phone isn’t available to you. Oh, I checked with the AT&T officials and they said that it is true: no contract, no phone. And since it doesn’t have a SIM card, there is no chance of getting one from the gray market.
It only works with AT&T (formerly Cingular), won’t come in models that use Verizon or Sprint and can’t use the digital cards (called SIM cards) that would allow it to run on T-Mobile’s network. (Walt Mossberg’s Review)
It is actually pretty annoying that one-has-to-jump-through so many hoops, and it is almost not worth it. AT&T gets a lot of money with AT&T Wireless. I have been a customer for nearly a decade and to be forced into a contract, that just blows. Ditto for Apple!
Will my dollars are staying where they should stay: in the savings account. Hey maybe someone needs to set up a social network for those who are not buying iPhone!
55 thoughts on “No Contract, No iPhone for you”
According to Apple’s FAQ today, it does have a removable SIM card.
Yes it does have a sim card and you can buy it, put it on a contract and pay the early termination fee and then pop a T Mobile SIM card into it.
How are you out from under their thumb? I’ve got an AT&T plan, but am outside the subsidy window (e.g. eligible for a subsidy discount on a new device if I wanted to extend the commitment)…
Just not sure I understood what you meant. Sorry if it’s just a case of under-caffeination.
did apple really produce enough for people to buy two? or do they just want to see them on ebay? if they produced that many, the hype might die pretty quickly. im guessing they want them on the aftermarket.
Lack of simcard would be a serious drawback. I suspect that there is IM client because AT&T plans on making money through SMS. What is the bet that even if an IM client were introduced on the iPhone later, it will use the SMS messages instead of the data connection? The same thing goes for not being able to use MP3 as ringtones.
i mean “from under the thumb” means i can switch the day i get pissed with their service.
sorry for not being clear.
“Almost” being the operative word there. 🙂
Buy the OS iPod which will ship later this year (according to the internal steveNote) At least you will get some of your iPod fix.
I don’t get it– where can you possibly by a new, cool phone in the USA without signing a contract, or paying through the nose?
expansys.us and you can buy any cool phone or myworldphone.com or even gsmphones.com
they are all over the web. paying for the phone – that was not even the issue for me. i would have gladly paid $700 for it or whatever.
@Leigh: The phone is likely to be SIM locked to AT&T anyhow. Therefore another network’s SIM card will almost certainly not work.
Uncle Walt is incorrect about the SIM card. Several sources including David Pogue have confirmed the iPhone uses a regular GSM SIM card.
Is there anything more evil than cable and phone companies in this world?
Thanks for the link. The iPhone will in fact be available without a contract — only if you fail their credit check. Then, and only then, will a Go Phone option pop up. It is not Pay As You Go, rather a credit or debit card must be put on file and you will be billed monthly, but you will not have a contract. The iPhone most certainly has a SIM Card tray, and you can even slip a another existing AT&T SIM Card in, after you have activated the device through iTunes. What Walt, and everyone else is referring to, is that the device is locked to AT&T only. You can’t put another carrier’s SIM in the iPhone, but other AT&T SIMs will work just fine.
Why are you surprised that AT&T would dump on a current or former customer? Come on. That’s their MO. This is an acquisition play for them. Trust me, Apple will win big because it is a new market for them, while AT&T will be stuck with a bunch of pissed off current customers as well as network issues. You watch.
Even if it could be SIM-unlocked, didn’t we hear that it needs a server at the operator to work anyway? So my understanding is that you couldn’t get it to function properly in any event without the server.
Even if it is available unlocked, there is no sim card, which means you are stuck with that device – or in the apple ecosystem – if you sign up. basically right now i change phones as often as i change my shirts, which is not feasible if i give up the number to apple phone.
from what i gathered from T people, there are no contract free options for now, and if there are in the future, that’s a whole different story.
Om – aha! thanks for the clarification. i’d hate to think that someone with a free-and-clear account was out of luck…
Contract-free options are available to those that do not pass the credit check…it is all detailed in this 65 page internal AT&T/Apple document
Om, I am 100% with you on this.
It will be a shame if we can’t just buy the phone, put our existing cingular/at&t sim (with data plan) in it and get it going. 7 years ago, I joined cingular on a 1 year contract with a very basic phone. Since then, I have always bought unlocked GSM phones and just put the sim card in them.
I had always thought that $500/$600 is the price of the no-contract phone but I was wrong. I am very happy with my SE P910 (yups, it plays music too) and will be staying away this phone till it is free of any/all kind of contracts
thanks for the link. I am going to go through the PDF.
“The iPhone will in fact be available without a contract — only if you fail their credit check.”
Are you saying that people with good credit and non-contract customers can’t get the iPhone. because that’s what it seems.
It’s a bad apple.
You are correct in your assumption that a 2-year agreement is required. It is. The only difference is if you do not have good credit, and fail the credit check, you will be offered a postpaid option with no contract. You will still be required to select an iPhone voice and data plan. At the end of the day, they would rather sell an extra device and service plan, even if someone has bad credit history. You are correct in regards to you being out of contract though. If you want to buy an iPhone you must agree to a new 2-year agreement. If you were 23 months in though, you could purchase the device and simply add an iPhone data plan, keeping your existing voice plan.
Thanks for that explainer. I wasnt losing it totally 🙂
All good, anytime!
Here’s a very unique way to get an iPhone really cheap http://techuntangled.com/iphones-for-less-than-15-no-waiting-in-line
This would still be subject to the contract requirement. Nonetheless, very cheap for the lucky ones.
I guess for the first time, having a terrible credit might not be so bad. Go figure…
Check out the comment I posted on my blog about iPhone’s price and early termination fee.
Given that the iPhone rate plans are better than the existing AT&T rate plans if you want unlimited data, and why go iPhone without unlimited data, why wouldn’t you want a new contract? What would really piss me off, if I were an AT&T customer, is that you can’t get $20/ unlimited data on their other smart phones.
If you’re willing to pay %700 for a phone (assuming 8GB version), then it would only cost $75 more to walk whenever you wanted to.
So are you objecting on principle because there’s no subsidy on the phone for a contract?
There has to be a first version of everything. Think of it as the public Beta. The next version/s will of course offer more of what the actual market wants, more bugs fixed and better contract options. Deals come to an end. Things change. It’s just a matter of when (and waiting). If it doesn’t suit then don’t buy, it’s not like there aren’t any other mobile phone handsets out there try to offer what the consumer wants.
either way,ebay is sure to come up with a few. iMean look at our buddy in NYC, the first in line guy, mister packer, he doesn’t own an ipod or mac, but the hype… he’s got that down.
Om, send me your credit cards. My wife will be happy to ruin your credit in time for the launch. No need thank me.
I’d consider getting this if it wasn’t for the fact that it would be locked to ATT. It will be quite entertaining to see how quickly this is sim-unlocked and what other fun things you can do with it that Apple didn’t intend.
So we have a visual now of the SIM card slot within this puppy:
check out: http://www.ifixit.com/Parts/images/stream/images_large/9-21.jpg
wouldn’t it be nice eh..to see how quickly this is sim-unlocked and get a VoIP over WiFi client among other things that Apple & AT&T didn’t intend?
I picked up an iphone yesterday. Only to learn that because I get a corporate discount off my bill, (13%), if I agree to activate this iphone It will eliminate my discount. I was told this was due to an agreement APPLE made with AT&T / Cingular. “APPLE would not allow iphone users any kind of discount.” I’m on a family shared plan with five people. I can not make choices which will directly affect the $ any or all of these people spend , (unless it is to save $). I was told that I could split my line off of the plan, (so I would be alone). But to do so would require the primary acct. holder to authorize it and they would have to run my credit. . . I can not imagine any existing AT&T / Cingular customer, getting any kind of discount, would be willing to go along with this. It’s just crazy.
You CAN use the iPhone as an iPod, PDA, and WiFi internet tablet WITHOUT the AT&T service. I was fed up with AT&T 2 days after buying the iPhone and was ticked off I’d have to return thinking it’d cut off everything after I deactivated service with them. It doesn’t. If you plan to do this, DO NOT PORT YOUR CURRENT CELL PHONE NUMBER IF YOU WANT TO KEEP IT. Here’s how:
1. Activate the iPhone as required (recommend new phone number) in iTunes. This will UNLOCK the phone and all other functionality.
2. WITHIN 48 HOURS OF ACTIVATION (to avoid being charged the $39 activation fee and $175 activation fee; OR you can do it before the 30th day of activation, still have to pay the activation fee, but at least won’t get charged the $175 cancellation fee), contact AT&T customer service and tell them you want to cancel your iPhone’s service. YOU WILL BE BILLED A PRORATED CHARGE FOR THE NUMBER OF DAYS YOU WERE ACTIVE (ready to shell out $5-$7?).
3. Once disconnected, the phone, voicemail, and SMS features of your iPhone will no longer work. You’ll see “No Service” in place of the AT&T name with no bars shown. BUT all other functionality of the device will work (including WiFi).
Too expensive anyway without the phone? Think again. You’d need to buy these items to get the same functionality:
-8 GB iPod Nano: $250 (doesn’t play movies, lacks widescreen, and battery life isn’t as good as iPhone)
-Nokia Internet Tablet: $400 (only has about 400MB of memory and lasts only 3 hours on battery; so you’ll need to buy an extra battery to match the life of the iPhones: ADD $50 and 2x 4GB SD cards to get same memory (but your purchased iTunes music won’t work in it): ADD $100
-PDA (since the Nokia & Nano lack comparable PDA of iPhone): $100 (cheapest Palm)
To match the iPhone WITHOUT it’s Phone features active, you’d have to pony up $800 not to mention add an extra pound or so of additional gadgets.
So far there aren’t any snags and this is working for me. I’ve even hard-reset the iPhone (by holding down the standby button on top and the home button on bottom for 10 seconds) and removed and reinserted the SIM after cancelling service, trying to find any way that would return the iPhone to it’s preactived, iBrick “locked” state. It looks like if you’ve done the initial activation, even if you cancel AT&T service, it won’t be turned back into an iBrick ever again.
This statement is backed by such classic bs reasoning:
“To match the iPhone WITHOUT it’s Phone features active, you’d have to pony up $800 not to mention add an extra pound or so of additional gadgets.”
You hand-picked gadgets to prove your point, instead of looking to see if there were any examples out there to disprove your point. For instance, any high-end PocketPC phone can do everything iPhone does (not necessarily with the same panache, or as well) right out of the box for $400 or less. Add that $100 for 2 x 4gb of memory, fine … but that’s not $800. That’s $500 at the most.
For that matter, if you bought a Nokia N800 and memory cards, why would you need the nano? Want a nano? Sure. But need it to replicate iPhone’s functionality? No – N800 has a music player built in. So, again, we’re looking at $550 at the most by your calculations (n800 + memory + extra battery).
And your argument about PDA functionality is totally bogus. N800 gives you access to installable software and web apps that can provide PDA functionality.
I’m not trying to argue against iPhone. I just hate bad writing.
Oh oh… Johnny Appleseed’s recipe for using all iPhone features except the phone might cost him $500…
On AT&T Return Policy at:
“If you cancel service within the return period but do not return the equipment within the return period or if equipment is not returned in like-new condition, you may be charged the full retail price of the equipment.”
so Johnny may still be charged $500 because he canceled the service without returning the iPhone 🙁
“…, you may be charged the full retail price of the equipment.”
You pay for the equipment at the Apple or AT&T store before you sign up for the service. So, that isn’t a concern (I don’t think).
I just wonder what Apple will do down the line to screw the people that have done the cancellation. If they drop a new firmware update or a OS X:iPhone update, could they brick the phone again?
These are the questions that all of us in the areas that AT&T doesn’t cover want to know. I am still considering doing the sign up and cancellation just for the wifi, but I just don’t know yet.
does the map thing, notes, and mail all work? otherwise i’m thinking i’ll just wait for the real 6th gen iPod.
I think the method you described is very interesting. Can you please answer the following. During the entire process of activation, does the iPhone ever communicate back to AT&T. The reason I am asking this is to know if the activation can be done outside the US. I live in India and need to use the iPhone for a web-app we have developed. Your method seems to be the simplest and cleanest I have seen so far.
I dont understand what you mean because in August I purchased an iphone and I didnt have to renew my contract. It was simple and easy!