Officially unlocked iPhone goes on sale

[intro]Thank heavens for the European courts, who have forced Apple to sell an unlocked iPhone. In Germany. For £717. Verflucht![/intro] After lots of

[intro]Thank heavens for the European courts, who have forced Apple to sell an unlocked iPhone. In Germany. For £717. Verflucht![/intro]

After lots of talk of an unlocked iPhone going on sale in France on November 29th, it seems the Germans have pipped their continental rivals to the post. A preliminary court ruling - in a case brought by Vodafone - found that it was illegal to tie a phone to a single network in Germany.

While it has vowed to fight on in the courts, Apple's German partner T-Mobile has decided to offer an unlocked version of the phone to consumers - for a whopping 999 Euros, or £717. When I suggested that Apple launch a more expensive SIM-free version of the iPhone in the UK, I wasn't thinking 'at the price of a 42in plasma'...

But hey, it's a start. Unlocked iPhone buyers - Germany's super-rich early adopter community - won't get Visual Voicemail, because that's a network-specific technology. Nor will they get a free Wi-Fi subscription. But they will get the chance to choose their mobile provider and EDGE or GPRS network.

It's a lot to pay for such a privilege, sure, and it's hardly likely to put blackmarket iPhone unlockers - most of whom charge somewhere in the region of £50 - out of business. But at least it's a start.

Apple will now have to officially support unlocked iPhones in some form, which could mean it'll be harder to re-lock SIM-free iPhones with new software updates. Particularly if the official SIM-free firmware is copied and distributed on the web (this would also get around Apple's argument that unofficial SIM unlocks could damage iPhones).

You can read T-Mobile's press release here. Let's hope it's the start of worldwide iPhone liberation.