News by Dan Seifert on Wednesday October 12, 2011.
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The Apple iPhone 4S is the first Apple smartphone to feature both GSM and CDMA support within one model, allowing users of Verizon Wireless, and now Sprint, to take their phones overseas and use them on GSM networks. Traditionally, this requires the users to pay high roaming fees, as they are usually forced to use their home carrier's roaming partner for service when traveling. However, Macworld is reporting that Sprint will offer the iPhone 4S with an unlocked SIM slot, letting users purchase a local microSIM card when they travel. Verizon Wireless has confirmed that it will offer a similar option for customers in good standing.
Sprint has said that the iPhone 4S micro-SIM slot will be unlocked right out of the box, allowing users to use a micro-SIM from any carrier when they are not in North America. The advantage to this is much lower voice and data rates when traveling, as users are not required to pay roaming fees when abroad. The disadvantage is that using a local SIM card results in a local phone number, and those calling the user's home area phone number will not be able to reach them while they are abroad.
Verizon Wireless will not be offering the iPhone 4S unlocked out of the box, but it will offer an unlocking option for customers who are in good standing for at least 60 days. The carrier did point out that this is its standard international unlocking procedure, but that this is just the first time it has applied to the iPhone.
AT&T users will be stuck paying high roaming rates for data and voice services when traveling, as AT&T does not traditionally unlock the micro-SIM slot for its customers.
Those who are looking at purchasing the iPhone 4S and are frequent travelers now have a better option with Sprint and Verizon over AT&T, ironically enough. Of course, this is only one factor to consider when making a decision as to which carrier to go with, but assuming all other things are equal, it looks like Sprint and Verizon have the upper hand here.
Update: Sprint has denied that the iPhone 4S will be offered with an unlocked micro-SIM slot.
Dan is MobileBurn.com's Editor-in-Chief. Based in Poughkeepsie in New York, Dan can be found on Twitter as @DCSeifert.