At the end of their contract, customers can now switch to other GSM carriers

Typically, smartphones using the GSM 3G standard can simply swap out SIM (subscriber identity module) cards to switch between carriers.  This is good news for those wishing to jump to a different GSM carrier when they move or when their contract expires.  But the bad news is that many manufacturers allow carriers to "SIM-lock" the phones, adding provisions to the firmware that prevent users from swapping SIMs.

The anti-competitive move effectively cripples users' phones to an extent and has drawn pushback from consumer advocates.  Recently, new Apple, Inc. (AAPL) CEO Tim Cook took a stand against the practice.  Much as Steve Jobs personally responded to a handful of emails a week, Tim Cook personally came to the defense of a customer whose iPhone 3GS was locked by AT&T, Inc. (T).  Pressure applied, AT&T caved and did the unlock.

Now it looks like things have been taken a step further, with AT&T annoucing plans to unlock all customers' iPhones who wanted to leave when their 2 year contract was up.  This was a big deal because for some time now the iPhone has been the only phone that AT&T does not allow to be unlocked at the end of their contract.

iPhone 3GS
iPhone customers can now easily hop from AT&T to T-Mobile USA at the end of their contract.
[Image Source: Gizmodo]

AT&T revealed the policy in a statement to MacRumors, commenting:

Beginning Sunday, April 8, we will offer qualifying customers the ability to unlock their AT&T iPhones. The only requirements are that a customer's account must be in good standing, their device cannot be associated with a current and active term commitment on an AT&T customer account, and they need to have fulfilled their contract term, upgraded under one of our upgrade policies or paid an early termination fee.

MacRumors was also the first to report Tim Cook's personal efforts to convince AT&T to unlock the aforementioned emailer's iPhone.

The move makes it easy for U.S. customers to move to Deutsche Telecom AG (ETR:DTE) subsidiary T-Mobile USA -- the other major GSM network.  T-Mobile offers cheaper contracts and no data overages, both of which may attract iPhone customers.  AT&T's biggest selling point of super-fast LTE doesn't apply to iPhone owners, so there's little incentive to stay, except for those with grandfathered truly unlimited data plans or those who get their phones through an employer.

Source: MacRumors

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