News came in today that the Apple Store will start selling iPhones to customers without first requiring them to have AT&T contracts. Notice I don't say "unlocked iPhones," as you've probably seen 'round the web. There's been a lot of speculation that this could mean that Apple and AT&T are finally parting ways.
While that could be true, TechCrunch's MG Siegler has a more reasonable interpretation:
This morning, the Internet was abuzz with the news that Apple would begin selling unlocked iPhones. The only problem? It's not true. In fact, it's no different from what Apple did last year at this time: sell contract-free iPhones at unsubsidized prices.
But that doesn't mean this move is entirely uninteresting. You may be wondering why Apple is doing this? And why now? Well, it seems fairly obvious that's it's an attempt to move inventory before a new piece of iPhone hardware launches in the June or July timeframe.
An announcement covering new iPhone hardware jives with us, as we were treated to the same June of last year. We'll have to wait to see what ultimately comes of this, but moving old inventory probably would have happened regardless of Apple's plans.
There are really only three things you need to know about these iPhones. For one, they're damn expensive as they're unsubsidized: the various models start at $500 and peak out at $700. Also, it's up to you to unlock them, if that's what you're after. That, and the iPhone's hardware really only lets it function of AT&T or T-Mobile's networks, as it doesn't have the CDMA chip that would let it work with Verizon or Sprint.
You can read Apple's official document detailing the contractless iPhones here.