Tim Cook Gets AT&T to Unlock Customer’s iPhone

Unlock iPhone

One of the problems of buying a subsidized iPhone from a carrier like AT&T is that even after completing the 2-year contract, they won’t unlock your iPhone for free (or for a small fee) like in other countries.

It looks like the best way to unlock an AT&T iPhone is to email Apple’s CEO Tim Cook as AT&T seems to make an exception when he requests for it on your behalf, according to a report on 9to5 Mac.

9to5Mac reports that one of their readers who moved to Canada for work was frustrated that he couldn’t use his iPhone 3GS on the Canadian network as AT&T refused to unlock his iPhone even though he had finished his 24-months contract.

Frustrated, he sent the following email to Apple’s Tim Cook:

Hi Tim,

My family is immersed in the Apple brand. All 4 of my children (aged 2 to 8) have been using iPod touches, iPhones, iPads, and iMacs since they were a year old. Our television is a 27” iMac using eyeTV. My kids talk to their grandmother every second day via video Skype on the iMac. All of our computers are Macs (we have 4 in the house). Apple has touched every aspect of our lives and made it richer!

My company recently moved me to Canada for a work assignment for a few years. My wife’s iPhone 3GS had finished its contract with AT&T so I bought her an iPhone 4 the day we moved to Canada. I took her iPhone 3GS and I contacted AT&T to see if I could have it unlocked so that I could use the phone with a Canadian carrier with a “pay as you go” plan for casual use (I’m forced to use a Blackberry for work, but I hate it so I’d like to use the iPhone for phone calls). This is where my problems began.

Basically AT&T told me that they couldn’t unlock it, only Apple could. I called Apple (but was routed through Apple Canada) and they told me “ask to talk to a supervisor at AT&T because the customer service rep won’t know the process, but AT&T definitely can unlock it”. So I called them back and the supervisor was adamant that they couldn’t help me. “Just jailbreak your phone” was their advice.

I didn’t want to jailbreak my phone, I like Apple’s curated experience and I don’t want to stray from that. However after several more calls to both AT&T and Apple, I made no progress. So I’m turning to you for a final plea.

I love Apple and will continue to buy your products regardless of what happens with this situation. However, I did pay $600 some odd dollars for this device (even though I bought it on contact and they say its subsidized, I’m basically paying for the device in my monthly payments) and I’d like to be able to use it.

My thanks to the Apple team, keep innovating!

To his surprise, he received a response from AT&T Partnership Operations that informed him that they got a request from Tim Cook to unlock his iPhone.

9to5Mac confirmed the emails are authentic. After AT&T confirmed the IMEI’s for the device, an AT&T representative told the reader that the carrier made an exception to unlock the iPhone. The reader was given instructions to tether his iPhone to iTunes to complete the unlock. 

He also claims that he received a call from Tim Cook’s assistant to make sure AT&T had indeed unlocked his iPhone:

Mid day my wife sent me an e-mail at work saying “Um, Tim Cook’s special assistant just called and she wants to know if AT&T has unlocked your phone yet??? Why does Tim Cook care about your phone?”

9to5Mac reports that this is not an isolated case, after they ran the story, other users are also reporting that their iPhone was unlocked after sending an email to Tim Cook.

We have received upwards of six emails from readers confirming an email sent to Cook’s office resulted in a response from AT&T Partnership Operations informing them the carrier would make an exception to unlock their devices. Like the original reader, our tipsters have not received responses directly from Cook, but they did receive an email with instructions to tether their iPhone to iTunes to complete the unlock.

Though it is nice to see Tim Cook going out of his way to ensure that the user’s iPhone is unlocked, we can’t understand why users have to escalate matters to get their iPhones unlocked after they’ve completed their contractual obligation. It is high time regulators in the U.S. look into such issues, as carriers in quite a few countries unlock the iPhone for free (or for a small fee) after the contract period.

Until then as 9to5Mac points out, the best option to get your iPhone unlocked is to send an email to Tim Cook at tcook@apple.com.