What started as a rumor just a few moments ago is now official, Apple is about to reverse its policy regarding contract requirements for new iPhone purchases in the US.
As you probably remember, the original iPhone 2G was available for sale from Apple without the requirement to sign-up for an AT&T two-year iPhone contract. While you still officially needed a contract to activate and use it, anybody could easily jailbreak and unlock these and use them on other carriers or overseas. This is actually how I was able, as an European, to acquire one almost a year before it even officially hit the old continent.
Unfortunately, with the introduction of the iPhone 3G Apple decided to no longer allow this, and anybody willing to buy an iPhone was required to sign-up for a contract. A policy, that Apple has now decided to reverse.
According to internal files found by Gizmodo, and later confirmed by Apple employees to Engadget, iPhones will be once again be sold contract-free. Don't get your hopes too high though, as the units will still be locked on AT&T's network and require a contract or the jailbreak to be activated.
Since we're still waiting for someone to find an unlock for the 3.1.3 firmware, you also won't be able to use these units on any other carrier than AT&T for now, so in the meantime, this will mostly just get you an expensive, contract-free iPod touch with a camera.
How to explain this move? Well, some are seeing it as a response to Google's recent move to sell its Nexus One unlocked on AT&T. In my opinion however, this is just a move to simplify their iPhone sale process. Without an unlock, it almost doesn't matter if they require a plan anymore.
On the other hand, we are tempted to think they're getting rid of their stock for the upcoming 4G.
What do you think?