Apple Unlocks the iPhone 5

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has begun offering factory-unlocked versions of the iPhone 5 through its U.S. web store, a fairly clear indication of the smartphone’s improved supplies. The phone has been priced between $649 for the basic 16 GB model and $849 for the high-end 64 GB version, with all units seeing estimated shipping times of one week. Carrier-subsidized iPhones cost between $199 and $399 for the different memory configurations.

Unlocked devices have all the features of a standard device, and can operate on any GSM connection in the U.S., such as networks of AT&T (NYSE:T) and T-Mobile. Buyers do not need to sign a contract. Unlocked iPhones currently don’t support CDMA networks such as those belonging to Verizon (NYSE:VZ) and Sprint (NYSE:S).

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According to, unlocked iPhone 5s made a brief appearance on the Apple web store in September, but were quickly removed, presumably because of supply constraints. Apple is limiting current orders to two handsets per customer.

The first unlocked iPhone was made available by Apple in June 2011, when a contract-less iPhone 4 went on sale. An unlocked iPhone 4S was first offered in November 2011.

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