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Apple Confirms: iPad 2 3G AT&T Model from US Unlocked

by on March 6th, 2011

We confirmed that the iPad 2 3G will be unlocked in Canada, thanks to Rogers via twitter. What about the iPad 2 3G from the USA? Lots of Canadians will be heading across the border this week to buy the iPad 2, and want to know if the 3G microSIM model will be unlocked. There’s been some confusion on the web–let’s clarify that today.

Apple Confirms: iPad 2 3G GSM Model (AT&T) Will Be Unlocked

I’ve been calling around to US Apple Stores and Apple support lines to ask about the iPad 2 3G and its unlocked status. Some said yes, and the ones that didn’t understand said refer to the website, but the Fifth Avenue store in New York City (the ‘Mecca’ of Apple Stores) confidently confirmed that the iPad 2 3G model, the GSM model will remain unlocked, as verified through a lead tech in the store. The employee answered my question before I even had a chance to finish asking it.

The Apple Store employee went to to explain that the confusion lies with the iPad 2 3G model meant for Verizon’s CDMA network. This model can’t be unlocked since its CDMA chipset is built in. Whereas, the AT&T model has a microSIM slot, which will allow any worldwide carrier microSIM to be inserted. She reiterated the original iPad is unlocked, and this won’t be changing.

This quote from Apple.com’s website leads to confusion:

If you decide on an iPad with Wi-Fi + 3G, be sure to select the model that corresponds with the carrier you’d like to use for 3G service. The iPad model you purchase is specially configured to work with either AT&T or Verizon — not both. So while you don’t have to activate 3G service right away, you should choose your iPad with Wi-Fi + 3G according to the carrier you prefer.

My interpretation here is you need to choose one specific 3G model because iPad 2 3G won’t work on both (GSM vs CDMA). The same goes with the iPhone 4 in the US–it’s either AT&T or Verizon, not both.

The Original iPad 3G is Unlocked–Why Would iPad 2 Be Locked?

Currently, the first gen iPad 3G is unlocked–Apple would be stepping backwards if they started to lock their new 3G GSM models. If we think about this, why would Apple start locking iPads to carriers?

Apple is liberating consumers from carriers (think of factory unlocked iPhone 4s in Canada). They want iPads to be sold freely and widely used everywhere. From last year’s original iPad keynote, Steve Jobs dropped a bomb when he clearly mentioned iPad 3G models are unlocked–I don’t see this changing:

Even CNET confirmed the iPad 2 3G AT&T model will be unlocked, when someone asked about using it in Europe:

It is possible to roam with your iPad 2 while traveling in Europe, but it’s only possible for the AT&T 3G version of the iPad or iPad 2 and not the Verizon Wireless version of the iPad 2. (Verizon uses a network technology called CDMA, which is not compatible with other carrier networks in Europe.)

The iPad 2 3G AT&T model will be unlocked for use around the world, as long as your carrier supports microSIMs with data plans. Obviously, we’ll find out the answer on Friday, but right now the evidence is pretty clear that the AT&T iPad 2 3G model will be unlocked.

Are you heading to the USA to buy iPad 2 3G?

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