Earlier this week, we mentioned that Sprint would keep the GSM micro-SIM card slot unlocked, whereas Verizon will unlock the micro-SIM card slot by request after 60 days.
Macworld has received an update from Sprint explaining that this was not exactly the case, and that the micro-SIM card slot in Sprint iPhone 4S would be locked.
According to Macworld, the micro-SIM card slot of the Sprint iPhone 4S will be unlocked at launch and a carrier update would be pushed out that will lock this capability of the device.
Sprint’s policy is to have the iPhone 4S SIM locked to our network domestically and internationally. At launch, the International SIM will be unlocked. We do expect a SIM lock to be pushed to the devices shortly after launch.
However, if you are a customer in good-standing, then you can contact Sprint and they will unlock the micro-SIM card slot again.
Sprint is likely trying to put focus on its own international roaming plans. Sprint charges flat rates for voice, SMS, and data while abroad. However, subscribers of their International Plans – $2.99/month for Canada, $4.99/month Worldwide – get discounted rates. For example, Sprint’s regular voice rate for roaming in Canada is 59 cents a minute, regardless of where the calls are going to. With the Canada roaming add-on, that rate falls to 20 cents/minute.
However, customers without outstanding balances should be able to have their phones unlocked. This means they can pop in a SIM from a local carrier while travelling internationally and pay the local rates, which are usually drastically cheaper. The move kind of puts the company in line with Verizon, which will unlock phones after a 60-day wait period for customers.
A lot of unanswered questions remain, however. It is also not clear if domestic SIM cards can be used if the micro-SIM card slot is unlocked or it is only applicable for international roaming. We’re assuming it is the later. There’s also no information as to why Sprint will originally go ahead and sell the iPhone 4S unlocked and then lock them with an update, only to unlock them at customers’ requests. It will be interesting to see if Sprint customers can ignore the update so that they can keep their micro-SIM card unlocked.