Unlocked iPhone 5 provides opening for T-Mobile stalwarts

Apple will begin selling an unlocked, contract-free version of its popular iPhone smartphone. 

The Apple iPhone 5. Apple has begun selling an unlocked version of its flagship smartphone.

Apple has begun selling an unlocked version of the iPhone 5 smart phone. 

Beginning today, consumers can order a contract-free iPhone 5 at three price points – $649 for a 16GB version, $749 for a 32GB version, and $849 for a 64GB version. (Freedom comes at a price, folks!) 

It's important to note that the unlocked iPhone 5 will not work on CDMA networks like the ones operated by Verizon and Sprint. It will work on GSM networks such as the ones operated by AT&T and T-Mobile. Since T-Mobile does not currently sell subsidized iPhone 5 handsets, the announcement from Apple kinda/sorta paves the way for a T-Mobile iPhone 5. 

So why would someone want an unlocked iPhone 5, anyway? Well, it gives you more options.

"If you don’t want a multiyear service contract, or if you prefer to use a local carrier when traveling abroad," Apple wrote on its website, "the unlocked iPhone is the best choice. It does not come with a micro-SIM card for iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S, or a nano-SIM card for iPhone 5, so you’ll need to get one from any supported GSM carrier worldwide." 

In related news, the iPhone 5, which was hard to come by in the first few weeks after launch, is now readily available at most brick-and-mortar Apple stores, according to a new survey from Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster

"We believe the iPhone 5 has finally reached a point where consumers can walk into an Apple Store and walk out with a phone," Munster wrote in a note to investors obtained by Apple Insider. 

The iPhone 5 has received a warm reception among critics. "On balance," one reviewer wrote, "I still consider the iPhone the best smartphone on the market."

So do many consumers, apparently: Kantar Worldpanel recently reported that blockbuster sales of the iPhone 5 have helped Apple's iOS to put Google's Android in the rearview, and become the most popular mobile OS in the US. 

For more tech news, follow us on Twitter @venturenaut.

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