Very late last night, I chatted with Ryan Block of Engadget. At that time, he was happily engaged in making calls on his iPhone using a T-Mobile SIM. Today Engadget announces a full iPhone software-only unlock. According to Ryan, this unlock comes courtesy of iPhone SIM Free.com. I haven't personally tried out the unlock but Ryan writes that he can confirm "100% certainty that iPhoneSIMfree.com's software solution completely SIM unlocks the iPhone, is restore-resistant, and should make the iPhone fully functional for users outside of the US".
So what does this mean? It means that the iPhone just went International. You can use any SIM on the iPhone using tools like iASign and iActivator, and with the same limitations: namely no Visual Voicemail or YouTube video (at least not without a hack) and your minutes and data are charged per the plan associated with the SIM. Also the phone number seems to go MIA in iTunes, which lists it as "N/A".
The unlock adds a new option to Settings. See the picture at the top of this post. Ryan says you'll be able to use this to select your preferred network and avoid roaming. A new EDGE network settings appears in General > Network, allowing you to enter your carrier's access point name and username/password.
Is this method restore and upgrade resistant, as the iPhoneSIMFree guys claim? Ryan factory-restored his iPhone with the 1.0.2 firmware and the unlock stuck around.
The iPhoneSIMFree site is pretty light on details. They write that they intend to launch the unlock as a commercial product for both individual and bulk purchase sales.
Bottom line: is this for realsies? Ryan and Engadget says absolutely yes. They are standing by their tests.