We heard from 9 to 5 Mac that Apple was due to begin selling a contract-free variant of the iPhone in the near future "at list price." And guess what happened when we inquired to an Apple store? That's right folks -- you can now pick one up for $499 (3G), $599, or $699 (3GS). We've confirmed this info at no less than five stores, so you should be hearing the same message at your local Appletorium. Given the current unfriendly climate between Apple and Google, this could be seen as nasty jab, though the devices are still carrier-locked to AT&T, so you're not being given much freedom... and it's certainly not much of a statement. In many parts of Europe (France and Poland, for example) you can pick up the carrier-unattached device (and we mean totally unlocked), but that doesn't appear to be the case here.

Update:
We're getting mixed reports on the unlock status of these phones. One store says yes to the unlock, while others are saying they're still AT&T-locked devices being sold off contract. We're digging for more info on this now, so stay tuned.

Update 2: It's looking like those initial reports of unlocked devices are inaccurate. It sounds like these devices are still locked to AT&T -- so you're just looking at an off contract pricing scheme. Which is also totally lame.

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Official: Apple now offering iPhones contract free (updated: not unlocked)