Last Friday, AT&T announced that it would start unlocking customers' iPhones. In a statement given to 9to5Mac the carrier said:

Beginning Sunday, April 8, we will offer qualifying customers the ability to unlock their AT&T iPhones. The only requirements are that a customer’s account must be in good standing, their device cannot be associated with a current and active term commitment on an AT&T customer account, and they need to have fulfilled their contract term, upgraded under one of our upgrade policies or paid an early termination fee.

Given the lengths that customers have gone to in the past to get their devices unlocked, we're sure the new policy will come to a relief to many. But how does the unlocking process work? Well, according to The Next Web, exactly the same as everywhere else in the world:

  • Navigate to Settings > General > About on your phone, and make a note of its IMEI number
  • Visit your local AT&T store and give them the number (this can also be done via online chat on its website)
  • Within 72 hours you should receive an e-mail saying your unlock is ready
  • Follow the instructions in the e-mail, which usually consist of plugging your device into iTunes and running a backup and restore cycle.

It's a pretty simple process, and one that's been tried and tested in the UK and beyond. Initial reports from AT&T customers indicate that in general the process takes around an hour, but a small selection of customers are being told to wait one week. The delay appears to be an issue with customer accounts rather than the phones themselves. AT&T has set a limit of five unlocks per account, per year, and will check to ensure there is no existing contract on a device before unlocking it. Given how painless the procedure seems to be, and the speed at which it takes place, you have to wonder why it's taken AT&T so long to agree to unlock out-of-contract iPhones.