Q: Is Apple selling an unlocked version of the iPhone 4S or do I have to buy it through AT&T? If I buy an iPhone 4S without a contract from AT&T will it be unlocked?
A: The iPhone 4S is being sold unlocked directly by Apple in several countries such as Canada and the U.K. likely due to the presence of multiple GSM carriers in those countries. In the U.S., however, the iPhone 4S will initially be sold on contract and locked to AT&T, Verizon or Sprint. Apple has indicated, however, that it will begin selling the unlocked iPhone 4S in November directly from the Apple Store, starting at $649 for the 16GB model.
If you’re in a hurry for an unlocked iPhone 4S and live near the Canadian border or plan to travel to Canada or another country where it is being sold unlocked, this may be an option as well. The iPhone 4S is being sold by Apple in Canada for approximately the same prices as it will be sold in the U.S. and there are otherwise no differences between the iPhone 4S models sold in different countries.
Note that you will most likely need to purchase an unlocked iPhone directly from Apple. Even though you’re paying full price for a non-contract iPhone, models distributed via carriers such as AT&T are normally already locked to those carriers.