Can I buy an i-Phone destined for Russia?

A family friend is staying with us for a few months. She wants to buy an i-Phone, but only if it will work when she goes home (St. Pete). Apple tells me they’ll only sell me one if it’s connected to an AT&T contract — obviously no good. If she has to wait to activate until she goes home, that’s fine, but she’d like to buy it here.



(Sorry if this is a basic question — we work from home so have little experience with mobile electronics.)

Any iPhone you buy in the US will have to be jailbroken once she gets it back to Russia. This invalidates any service warranties.

Jailbroken? Do I have to rent a helicopter? Is it anything like housebreaking?

An easy fix? Do we have to buy the whole contract with AT&T first or can I get one from BestBuy?

Jailbreak = hack. (Not exactly legal, invalidates warranties, and potentially opens the phone up to mobile threats.)

However, I may have spoken hastily - this was the situation when when iPhones were unavailable in Russia. Now that they are available, things may be different. Will check and get back to you, unless someone more knowledgable comes along.

Thanks. She knows someone who got their iPhone here, so thinks it must be possible. And since I’m the one with the technical bent, of course I know all about iPhones as well. I know there’s an XKCD out there somewhere with this theme, but I can’t find it. Anyway, thanks!

There is nothing illegal about unlocking a cell phone.

What she wants / needs is a unlocked iPhone.

While they are not officially sold by Apple in the US as AT&T has a exclusive contract, There are parallel imports available from Europe and Hong Kong where they are required to be sold unlocked.

Apple has a list of Wireless carriers that carry the iPhone, Here and it also states which are locked to the network. The list includes Russia which apparently has unlocked phones.

Now if she want to buy the unlocked phone in the US its going to be pretty expensive because it’s been probably re-exported from Europe and the poor price of the dollar compared to the euro does not help. Still both the 3G and the 3Gs are available from importers like Expansys who are generally considered reliable.

The prices start at $640 for a iPhone 3G (8GB) upto $1200 for s 3GS (32GB).


Jailbraking an iPhone is NOT the same as unlocking the iPhone! When you jailbreak the iPhone, you are changing the software in such a way, so you can modify the operating system. This includes changing the look and feel, downloading programs on it that are not available from iTunes, etc.

What you want to do is UNLOCK your iPhone. That doesn’t change the basic OS. It just allows you to put in a non-AT&T GSM chip.

First question you want to ask yourself: Do I want to break my software agreement with Apple and possibly void my warranty? This is really a theoretical question since you can easily restore the phone to its original condition, so no one will know about your dastardly criminal act. No one that is, except of course, God who will punish you with internal damnation. God and Steve Jobs are close friends. (And according to certain Apple fanboys, there is no distinction between the two).

If you’re willing to live with eternal damnation, you can probably find someone locally who’ll be happy to do it for you for a few bucks. If not, someone in Russia who’ll do it for you for a few bucks. If you’re in New York, go down Broadway between 32nd and 15th and ask if someone in one of the phone stores can help you unlock your iPhone.

And, if you’re iPhone is at the end of its two year contract, you can have Apple unlock it for you right through iTunes.

There is a company called Mooglex that sells unlock adapters. I haven’t seen any reviews, but the installation is easy and unlike other self-solutions, doesn’t require you to jailbreak your iPhone.

All other solutions I’ve seen require you to first jailbreak (i.e. modify the software on your iPhone to allow you to download other programs), and then unlock your phone.

I am not a big fan of jailbreaking since if you don’t know the technical details, can put your phone in a state that is vulnerable for attacks. If you do jailbreak your iPhone. Please, please change the damn root password. The iPhone Dev Team created the basic iPhone jailbreak software and has complete directions on how to do whatever you need to do with your iPhone.