In the past week there have been negative comments about iPhone sales. After Apple announced less than 4 millions units sold, AT&T then announced that they have under 2 million subscribers. Add in a few hundred thousand units sold in Europe and the difference is around 1.3 million. Where are missing iPhones, asked the cynical reporter, are they still on the shelf in the Apple Stores?
Well, I don't have a window into this, but my guess is based on the fact that every iPhone I have seen so far (not many mind you, I don't exactly live in the center of ground breaking technology) has been unlocked and replaced with a non-linked SIM.
These iPhones are turning up in places a long way from AT&T and the European providers. Try Viet Nam (where I understand there may already be 100,000s in use) and the Congo (where I personally have seen two). And from what I understand, the firmware updates do work.
(With this in mind I might just get an unlocked model!)
Back to my point here. Apple's sales figures suggest there may well be a huge underground market for the unlocked iPhone. Apple, AT&T and the other cell phone companies don't want you to know this as it would hurt their contract derived revenue streams. Their business model has been criticized but does it matter all that much if an unlocked phone not only works but also will accept firmware upgrades? Apple actually is the winner here because they would benefit either way.