Unlocked Apple iPhones - a million and counting

Popped out to a local coffee shop late yesterday to keep my caffeine count up, as I'm in London today for a show.

I noticed a couple of kids using their iPhones to surf the Net, but I was intrigued to see they were both using the T-Mobile network, using the the networks' flat-rate data tariff.

The two kids were originally from Australia, and had bought their iPhones in their home country. Only problem is - for Apple - the iPhone isn't officially available there!

Industry estimates suggest that around a million iPhones have been unlocked and shipped internationally. And this on top of the unknown numbers that have been unlocked and resold in the UK.

Is reselling unlocked iPhones widespread? You betcha. There was a sign up in the local Apple store here in Sheffield the other weekend to say that a maximum of six iPhones could be purchased per customer.

What's interesting is that it's possible to sign up for an iPhone inside an Apple store, but you can't activate the handset until you get home and get on to the O2 Web site.

This is a recipe for fraud as it's possible for fraudsters to buy a clutch of iPhones, signing on the dotted line for the O2 contracts, and then take the handsets away.

Apple is then left holding the baby. Not only has it lost the cost of one or more iPhones, but it has to account for fraudulent airtime contracts to O2.

Now you know why the iPhone is so expensive and, until the start of this month, the airtime deals were so ludicrously high...