News today that because of local laws, T-Mobile will offer an unlocked iPhone for 999 euros — a 600 euro premium above the locked version. That is US$862 in extra expenditures. However, it also saves a US$1440 AT&T contract; that may be a pure saving if you already have an existing contract.
Now apparently, Apple were making $18 a month off the AT&T contract or, in total over 24 months, $432. What this means is that, say, T-Mobile in the US, could to say to its customers, buy an unlocked iPhone and sign up with us and you get a $15 per month discount on our basic plan. This is a discount that would arguably leave them with plenty of profits still for them compared with losing a customer to AT&T. Looking at their web-site, that might be around $40 per month so, with the discount, the total cost of a 2 year plan would be $600. They could include their Wi-Fi access in that but not visual voice mail but what the hey?
So you have a choice (i) an iPhone + 2 year AT&T plan = $1,840 or (ii) an unlocked iPhone + discounted T-mobile plan = $1,862. Hmm, this suggests that it could easily be worth people’s while paying for an unlocked iPhone. (Note that without the discount that T-Mobile or other carriers could potentially offer, this would add $360 in costs.)
[Update: seems I was overly conservative in the discounts that might be given. A T-Mobile rival in Germany is offering to compensate users fully for the unlocking fee.]