Is the iPhone really locked to Cingular?

So, I've had some time to reflect on the iPhone announcement yesterday and my gushing post on it. June seems really far away, but of course, I had to laugh at Ethan Kaplan's comment on the news that Zune will play games in July 2008. What will the iPhone do in comparison by that time?

RalphM points out in my comments that the iPhone is essentially a closed platform: call Apple if you want to build something on top. Ouch. I can understand, as they have to own making the device a vertically integrated experience that fits the "just works" category, and Google and Yahoo are major players that they wouldn't want displaced by some brilliant third party hack. Except, of course, that there *might be* brilliant third party hacks. This will happen over time, and Widgets seem the easiest way in. Lower level access will take much longer, which is a shame...

Dave Shea talked about new interaction models with the touchscreen, with which I have to agree, and then goes on to talk about the big issues: Cingular contracts and lockage aka how can we get it in Canada before it's "officially" here. Chuqui has a good deep dive on this and how the FCC fits in, too. Graham Fair covers this in my comments as well.

Apple could go two paths with this. What they've announced, is that the iPhone will be available in June only with a contract from Cingular.  In the US, most people (not even most consumers -- most people in general) don't understand the whole locked phone / SIM card thing. I heard a comment in passing that it may have been actually illegal to try and unlock your own phone, that you own, because of DMCA issues.

OK, so the Apple bundle. Does it just come pre-installed with a Cingular SIM card, and "just works"? That's what I expect. I expect that Apple in fact will not allow locking of the iPhone at all: they're using a business contract to control the Cingular relationship, but haven't actually built anything into the OS that facilitates locking. That's path number one.

Path number two is that Apple does have locking built in, and we'll have to find a way to circumvent it, which would suck. 

Remember, this is pure speculation, but if the iPhone doesn't have locking capabilities, it means we could buy one, pay for a Cingular plan, then take out the SIM card and replace it with a Canadian/European/whatever one, and it would "just work". Knock on wood.

Now, data. Dave Shea mentions "Somehow there has to be reconciliation between a bandwidth-hungry device like the iPhone promises to be, and the bandwidth-stingy mobile plans that many of us are stuck with". This is the case in Canada. Again, a few people are lucky enough to have a grandfathered plan that has unlimited data. But in the US, there are unlimited data plans that are really quite reasonable. And there's always WiFi...

Expect a horde of Canadians to be visiting in June....