Apple begins selling unlocked iPhone 5 in the US, starting from $649 (update 2: yes, AT&T LTE)

It's that special time of the year... that is, when Apple decides to unfetter the iPhone for US shoppers. The Cupertino crew has quietly started selling the iPhone 5 in an unlocked, off-contract form that will work on GSM, HSPA+ and (if you're in the right countries) LTE networks. There's few surprises versus what we've seen in years past, or in other regions: the unlocked iPhone 5 ships in the same capacities and colors as the carrier-bound model, and starts from $649. That's still expensive for those still used to buying on an agreement, and it won't represent as much bang-for-the-buck as a $350 Nexus 4. If you're yearning for the LTE the Nexus 4 lacks and don't mind living in an iOS universe, however, Apple is ready and waiting.

Update: Apple doesn't explicitly say which LTE bands this iPhone covers, although its sharing a similar core part number with the Canadian unlocked variant (MD293) suggests it might be the A1428, which offers LTE on AT&T and Canadian carriers. We're working to confirm this, but we wouldn't count on LTE beyond North America.

Update 2: We've confirmed it directly with Apple: this is the A1428, so you'll get full data speed on AT&T and for any trips across the border up North.