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O2 Considers Unlocking iPhones

Gordon Kelly


O2 Considers Unlocking iPhones

It looks like the arrival of the iPhone on Orange and Vodafone could have a second, initially unnoticed, benefit...

O2 is considering changing its position on unlocking iPhones at the end of a user's contract. Previously the network had no need/obligation to legally unlock the handsets since it was the sole network to offer them. Now the Orange and Vodafone deals mean O2 could come under extreme pressure once a user completes their contract.

Speaking to The Register an O2 spokesperson explained: "we did not offer unlocking at the end of a customer's iPhone contract as we had the exclusive contract for the iPhone in the UK. Obviously, that situation has changed... and we are currently working through what will happen."

Unlike France, there is no legal ruling that handsets must be unlocked by networks at the end of their contract (though there should be), but it would be nice to see O2 get some press for the right reasons for a change.

On the other hand, judging by reader reaction to the Orange and Vodafone iPhone deals, it appears a large percentage of you have had enough of O2 and if the network unlocked your handset you'd probably just be off even faster. Still, following the Ofcom exposure of O2's limited 3G coverage coupled with some worryingly frequent data outages who could blame you...?


via The Register


October 5, 2009, 4:55 am

I'll eat my hat if o2 start unlocking phones for free..


October 5, 2009, 11:00 am

Would you like some cream with that :-)


October 5, 2009, 11:33 am

We really need a ruling to change this. Its totally unacceptable that a phone which is now your property is still controlled by one company, limiting your choice. If it were up to me, I'd ban the whole practice of handset "exclusives" in the first place.

Barry Ward

October 5, 2009, 11:58 am

My friend will be first in the queue for an Orange iPhone after I showed him the 3G Ofcom maps. He is already on Orange anyway. Trouble is, I am with O2 till next Xmas (new contract with new 3GS), so I will have to wait a while. I went with O2 because I heard good things about them. While their phone service is adequate (no signal in hospital waiting room while everyone else was busy chatting on their phones) the 3G signal plain sucks. I am getting a £5 p/m O2 broadband discount for having an O2 phone, and will be happy to pay that extra £5 and go to Orange if it will mean getting a better service.

So unlocking the iPhone at the end of the contract will be handy. Saying that, I am sure a bigger and better iPhone will be out by then.


October 5, 2009, 12:39 pm

I don't understand what difference it makes that O2 have lost their exclusive. Surely you should still have been able to unlock & go to another network at the end of your contract.

Hamish Campbell

October 5, 2009, 1:28 pm

I assumed this was common throughout Europe (i.e. phones must be unlocked after contract). Sounds like a good candidate for the european parliament/commission.


October 5, 2009, 3:54 pm

The locking of handsets at all is ridiculous. When I buy a phone on contract, my only obligation to the network I buy it off is to pay my monthly charge for the term of the deal. I have no obligation to use the network at all, so what difference should it make if I choose to use a different one?

Paradoxically though - I don't see why, given the current EU/UK regs, that o2 would offer unlocking at all - rather I would expect the other networks to offer it when you approach them for a new payg sim/no phone contract.

For me though the main problem with iphone unlocking is apple - in that they threaten "jailbreakers" with bricked phones if they try and unlock. That's the only thing that has kept me using the o2 network on my handset, as I'm not techy enough to feel comfortable doing what I've done with a lot of other phones.

Andy 10

October 5, 2009, 5:12 pm

I use an old iPhone as a movie player when I'm travelling. The last iTunes update locked the iPhone and the only way I could get it working again was to insert an old O2 SIM card. Luckily I had one around. Outrageous!


October 5, 2009, 8:59 pm

Out of interest, my contract has just run out and I fancy an iPhone for a change of pace from bottom of the range nokias. Is now not a good time to jump in bed with 02 for 18 months?


October 5, 2009, 10:51 pm

@JJ I would wait and see what the other network operators will have to offer before committing yourself!!

Barry Ward

October 6, 2009, 11:54 am

"For me though the main problem with iphone unlocking is apple - in that they threaten "jailbreakers" with bricked phones if they try and unlock"

So don't jailbreak! It's not Apple's fault that you illegally altered your device, so don't blame them.


October 6, 2009, 1:20 pm

Cheers Ataripower, that is what I was thinking is the sensible option. I'm just impatient now that I've actually decided to do it, I want it yesterday!!


October 6, 2009, 6:01 pm

What threats? In the 2 years I owned an iphone i must have missed them. Read your warrenty apple does not cover software in its terms.

Must be pretty hard to brick an iphone nowadays, and ive been doing it since the beginning and most problems can be resolved by putting it in DFU mode and restoring the firmware.

Not to mention its not illegal.


October 6, 2009, 6:14 pm

@Barry Ward

I can do what I want with a phone I buy - it's just some metal and plastic I own. I might invalidate my warranty, or forfeit my right to support, but in no way is it illegal to change it. The act of 'bricking' phones is actually far closer to illegal than the activity it is designed to prevent in many territories.

The fact is that I don't want access to the OS or anything - I just want not to use o2's poor excuse for a network. I think it's weakness by ofcom and their equivalents that allow networks and manufacturers to get away with it.

I think it's like if BMW sold you a car and then told you it would stop working if you used any other petrol than Shell premium unleaded - totally ridiculous.


October 6, 2009, 7:20 pm

only in the UK can you own something yet have someone else legally stop you from using it phones, internet, car clamping, ect.

Barry Ward

October 6, 2009, 7:45 pm

@ Purephase:

Okay, "illegal" was the wrong word to use. However, I really don't blame Apple at all for not supporting jailbroken iPhones that may get bricked. They don't like people messing with the software that they programmed for it- fair enough in my book.


October 8, 2009, 2:16 pm

Did you see about the chap from America on holiday in France. He only took his i-phone out to take pictures as he did not want to be caught for roaming charges.

But Apple had him anyway. They sent him an update as his phone was switched on & then billed him for over $500.

You might think that's fair, but as far as I am concerened that is plain sneaky.

I wouldn't have an i-phone if you gave it to me. (well I would sell it straight away)


October 8, 2009, 3:00 pm

@mark: That sounds like a very tall tale. For one, you can simply turn all roaming data off on the iPhone, eliminating the possibility of this happening. Two, so far as I'm aware the phone only updates when plugged in. Three, Even if it did try an update, there would be some kind of warning that he could say no to. Four, data roaming charges are a problem for all phones.


October 8, 2009, 4:34 pm

I can not vouch for it, but here is the article & link, & true or not I still fail to be impressed by the i-phone, & yes I have tried one!

During a trip to Paris, Nathan Oventhal used his iPhone only to take photos, and not email, internet or voice calls, yet was still billed by AT&T some $550 for accessing 20MB of data, which apparently is the equivalent to 10 high-res pictures or 10,000 pages of text, reports the LA Times.

Oventhal of Santa Monica asks&#8230&#8221How on God&#8217s green earth did I use 20 megabytes? All I did was use the camera.&#8221

Apparently when Oventhal used his iPhone a second time while in France he was faced with a text message from AT&T which stated that his international data usage was &#8220very high&#8221, on his return home he contacted AT&T and a rep said he&#8217d run up $550 in roaming charges while abroad.

Apparently according to the rep, as Apple sends software updates to iPhone users routinely, when Oventhal switched on his iPhone to use the camera the update happened and thus a fairly large charge for roaming.



October 8, 2009, 7:51 pm

According to the original LA Times article, his roaming was switched on, and his handset downloaded his email merrily while he was on the move. Seems like he didn't understand that while email was being received, he was in fact using his internet connection.

There's an interesting angle there that they found several iPhones in their office which have never been used for roaming, have the roaming switched on. They're concerned that AT&T might have updated the software to change the default from "Off" to "On".


October 9, 2009, 12:29 am

Thanks sockatume for that clarification.

I was interested, particularily after that episode when I think it was Amazon managed to delete books off customers e-readers after they had bought them.

It seems to me to be wrong that a manufacturer should be allowed in any way, to control what I do.

Once I have bought a phone, a computer, or an e-reader it is mine. I should be able to choose who I deal with & when & why.

I do realise that if you have a contract phone, then Orange for example, would be able to control me to the extent that I should use them for the duration of the contract, but afterwards it should then be me in control.

It's back to who is in charge, & does as far as I am concerned start to impinge on our freedoms.

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