Apple has authorised Bharti Airtel to 'unlock' its 3G iPhones, launched earlier, enabling the Indian company to sell it through their stores to any user, not necessarily only an Airtel subscriber.
This is in contrast to the existing practice of Apple in offering the iPhones - launched in two versions, 8 GB and 16 GB - bundled with the services of only two operators, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone-Essar.
According to Apple's global support site, Bharti Airtel has been authorised to legally unlock the iconic handsets in the country. Vodafone in Australia, Orange in Austria and Movistar in Argentina are among the 40 global carriers (Airtel is the only one in India) authorised to unlock the handsets.
The companies may also charge an additional fee for the unlocking, the website said.
When asked, a Bharti Airtel spokesperson declined to comment. Apple's spokesperson could not be spoken to.
According to sources, this means Bharti Airtel will continue to sell the handsets in the country, but it necessarily would not be exclusive to its user. A user can walk into Airtel's retail showrooms and buy an iPhone and use it with his or her existing connection. Airtel had a signed an agreement with Apple in May 2008 and was the second provider of the service in the country.
Meanwhile, bloggers said that unlocked iPhones were available in India at certain select retail outlets, and the phones were being sold at the prices at which Airtel and Vodafone were selling the locked ones. However, this could not be confirmed.
In India, the 8 GB model costs around Rs 31,000, while the 16 GB is priced at Rs 36,000. Apple will also launch the latest version, iPhone 3GS, billed as the "fastest, most powerful iPhone yet", on August 9.