Skip to main content

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Apple (AAPL) - Get Apple Inc. Report  on Tuesday started selling iPhones without SIM cards or pre-determined monthly service plans from a U.S. carrier. It's a boon for iPhone users who prefer not being tied down to any one particular carrier or do a lot of travelling abroad.

Image placeholder title

Apple started offering a new, unlocked iPhone model through official retail channels on its Web site and in stores. The SIM-free purchase option now allows users to "activate and use the unlocked iPhone on the supported wireless network of your choice, such as AT&T (T) - Get AT&T Inc. Report , T-Mobile (TMUS) - Get T-Mobile US, Inc. Report , Verizon (VZ) - Get Verizon Communications Inc. Report , or Sprint (S) - Get SentinelOne, Inc. Class A Report in the United States." In the recent past, there was only one unlocked model sold by T-Mobile and made for use on its GSM cellular network.

Apple shares were down 0.56% to $105.65 in early trading Tuesday in New York.

Apple explains that the new, SIM-free option is perfect if "you don't want a multiyear service contract, or if you prefer to use a local carrier when traveling abroad."

Although the unlocked iPhones can be used with all four major carriers, there are differences. Apple warns "if you choose T-Mobile, your iPhone comes with a T-Mobile SIM card already installed" and you need to contact T-Mobile or visit an Apple retail store to activate the handset.

TheStreet Recommends

Otherwise, unlocked iPhones (the iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 5S or 5c) do not come with a nano-SIM card and you need to obtain one from any supported carrier. After inserting the SIM, the set-up procedure consists of turning on the phone and following the on-screen instructions.

Apple warns that purchasing an unlocked iPhone means you won't qualify for the lower iPhone price associated with a contract or a carrier installment plan.

Prices for a new, unlocked, SIM-free iPhone 6 range from $649 for a 16 GB model to $749 for a 64 GB model; the 128 GB goes for an eye-opening $849. Add $100 to each of those prices for an unlocked iPhone 6 Plus. Apple estimates all SIM-free phones purchased online will ship within three to five business days as compared to one day for carrier-locked models.

-- Written by Gary Krakow in New York.

To submit a news tip, send an email to

Gary Krakow is's Senior Technology Correspondent

This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.