Alright, there’s been a lot of conflicting information floating around regarding Sprint’s iPhone 4S and its locked/unlocked status, but a Sprint spokesperson has just offered Macworld her official word. The iPhone will indeed be unlocked at first, but a SIM lock will be “pushed to the devices shortly after launch.”
She goes on to say that after the update goes out, Sprint users looking to do a bit of globetrotting can use an included microSIM to roam internationally, albeit with Sprint’s added roaming costs.
The upshot to this situation is that Sprint will unlock your iPhone 4S if you’re a customer in good standing. Presumably this means that your bills are paid promptly and in full for a certain period of time, but the spokesperson offered no further detail.
The big question here is why Sprint didn’t just lock the phone down from the beginning and perform the procedure for certain customers a la Verizon. It’s a system that’s worked just fine for all of Sprint’s other CDMA/GSM phones for years, so it certainly wouldn’t have ruffled any feathers. PhoneScoop thinks it’s simply a technical error, and I think that’s the only convincing explanation at this point.
The unlocking issue will go unnoticed by a vast majority of iPhone users who are used to signing multiyear contracts and leaving it at that. It’s the avid travellers who’d like to save a little on their monthly bills that lose here, unless someone figures out a way to block the update.