Apple began selling the latest version of its iPhone this week in the United States and while the device will not be sold in Canada until mid-July, Canadians will be among the few that will have the opportunity to purchase it "unlocked" so that it is not tied to any specific wireless carrier. The unlocked versions will come at a premium price, but in return consumers will be able to avoid the long-term contracts that have typified the Canadian wireless marketplace for many years.
My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes the issue of locked cellphones has long been a source of consumer fear and frustration since some wondered whether unlocking phones that were rendered unusable when switching wireless providers was legal. In certain respects, this was an odd question to even have to ask. No one would ever question whether consumers have the right to tinker with their car or to use the same television if they switch providers from cable to satellite, yet the wireless industry somehow convinced the public that unlocking their phones – consumers' own property – was wrong.
That perception is rapidly changing with several developments paving the way for an unlocked iPhone.