iPad 2 is Unlocked – Swap in a New Micro SIM Card and Go
We’ve received a few questions from those outside of the USA asking if the iPad 2 3G model from the USA will work in their home country. The answer is generally yes, assuming your local cell provider is a GSM compatible network and that you have a micro-SIM card that will fit into the iPad 2 3G (you can also carefully cut down normal SIMs to fit, see link at the bottom of article).
This is also great news for international travelers, since you can just swap in a new sim in a new country and you’ll be online. Of course just because you can use elsewhere doesn’t solve the problem of actually finding an iPad 2 in stock somewhere, and you must buy the 3G AT&T model which is one of the most popular versions.
Unlocked iPad 2 works in the USA with T-Mobile
The iPad 2 being sold unlocked is not just useful to those outside of the USA though, being unlocked means the device can also be used with T-Mobile in the United States. This is just a matter of plugging in a T-Mobile compatible micro-SIM with a data plan and activating it on the TMO network. That said, the number of users activating iPad 2′s on US Tmobile is probably small since the data plan that AT&T offers with the 3G model is a pay-as-you-go plan.
What about the iPad 2 CDMA model?
As of now, the CDMA iPad 2 is not unlocked. It’s possible that someone will figure out how to do this in the future like Cricket and ChinaTelecom have with the CDMA iPhone 4, but for now you should get an iPad 2 3G model if you want to use it outside of the USA on a cellular network.
What’s the deal with locked hardware anyway?
Unlocked cell hardware is somewhat unusual in the United States, which goes partially to explain the popularity of the jailbreak and unlock movements, and those who setup iPhones as pay-go phones. Carriers here typically like to lock devices to their network to prevent people from leaving their service with the same hardware. The thought goes that since you’d have to buy a new phone for a new network, you’re more likely to stay on your existing one. The plus side to this is the locked carrier will usually subsidize the hardware price in the USA, which is why you can get a new iPhone for $199 with a 2 year contract. Carrier unlocking is rare elsewhere in the world, with many countries in Asia, the EU, and elsewhere in North America allowing users to go to whatever network they want.
If you want to cut down a normal SIM card to be a Micro-SIM, here’s a nice photo guide that shows how to do this with a meat-cleaver.