Who'd Buy an Unlocked iPhone?!

Why would someone spend $800 on an unlocked iPhone? It's a mystery to me.

Perusing eBay recently, I stumbled onto several ads for unlocked 8 Gigabyte iPhones going for $800. What I can’t understand is why anyone would pay a 30% premium on list price to buy one of these gadgets, offering limited functionality when not hooked up to AT&T’s service.

Unlocked, these devices can only access the Web and download music off of iTunes via Wi-Fi hotspots. Unless they are locked up again (to do that, users must take the devices to an AT&T store and sign up for service), they don’t work over cellular networks. Is Wi-Fi functionality alone worth $800? I don’t think so.

A $125 device from Netgear or Linksys would do nearly as well. While these gadgets don’t provide access to iTunes, or brag the cool iPhone interface, they do allow users to surf the Web, message friends and place calls via Wi-Fi networks. And, unlike unlocked iPhones, these devices do have a warranty.

It’s my understanding that Apple, like most electronics manufacturers, voids warranties on tampered-with devices. So my main concern in buying an unlocked iPhone off of eBay would be that the device won’t work at all — and that I will be stuck with a pretty paper weight and an $800 hole in my bank account.

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