While all iPad tablets sold by Apple online and in store are not unlocked because Apple does't know on which network they will be used, it seems that high street retailers like Phones4U (and possibly others) have failed to warn their customers about this potential issue.
The Register reports that one of its reader purchased a 64GB 3G iPad 2 only to find out much to its disappointment that it is locked to Orange while the instore representative was adamant that this was not possible, in other words, that the iPad 2 is not locked to any particular network since there is no subsidies.
It looks as if Apple has decided to allocate more tablets to mobile phone operators (because they're likely to bring more revenue per user) but that somehow, the carriers decided to tie the tablets to their respective networks and even, in some cases sell the tablet for more than Apple.
We're unsure as to whether there is a case for customers who received locked iPad 2 devices to return them to the retailer but this is an interesting scenario from a consumer and a middleman point of view.
The Register bestows a charming piece of advice as a conclusion; "if you want an unlocked device, don't buy it from a carrier or one of its agents. You wouldn't expect a phone sold by O2 - or any other operator - to be unlocked, so don't expect 3G iPads - or any other tablet - to be either."