Confirmed: iPad 2 will NOT be carrier-locked in Canada, or anywhere else
At first glance, wording on Apple's Canadian website would seem to imply that the iPad 2 will be carrier-locked in Canada. "The iPad model you purchase is specially configured to work with either Bell, Rogers, or Telus," the site states. "So while you don't have to activate 3G service right away, you should choose your iPad with Wi-Fi + 3G according to the carrier you prefer."
This had GigaOM up in arms claiming that the "iPad 2 is a step backward for carrier choice." The original iPad was never locked to any specific carrier, but GigaOM took the wording on Apple's Canadian site to mean that the iPad 2 would be locked to whichever carrier you chose when you bought it.
Let's be absolutely clear on this: just like the original iPad, the iPad 2 will not be carrier-locked in Canada, or anywhere else. If you buy the UMTS/GSM model of iPad 2 (known in the US as the AT&T iPad 2), you can swap out the iPad 2's micro-SIM and replace it with one from another carrier at your leisure. Unlike the iPhone, which usually is SIM-locked to a specific carrier and often requires a jailbreak in order to use it on a different carrier, the iPad and UMTS/GSM iPad 2 are both carrier agnostic out of the box.
Website iPadinCanada has confirmed directly with Canadian mobile provider Rogers Wireless that the iPad 2 will not be carrier-locked in Canada. The same site also confirmed the AT&T iPad 2 won't be carrier-locked to AT&T, as did numerous requests for info from Apple Experts, a CNET article on international roaming with the iPad 2, and my own phone call to Apple's US support center.
The only iPad 2 that is carrier-locked is the Verizon model, and it's only "locked" to Verizon because its 3G chipset won't work on a GSM network. If you buy the UMTS/GSM or "AT&T" model of iPad 2 on March 11, you will be able to use it almost anywhere in the world without having to worry about being locked to one specific carrier. It's unclear why Apple chose to word things the way it did on the Canadian site -- no other country's site contains similar verbiage, at least not in any of the languages I can read -- but both the Canadian carriers and Apple itself have confirmed that the UMTS/GSM iPad 2 won't be locked in to any specific carrier when you buy it.
Update -- Some more details on Canadian activation: Each Canadian carrier requires slightly different software (the carrier settings file). This update will not download over the air after swapping SIMs, and getting the new carrier settings file requires plugging the iPad into iTunes before its 3G service will be usable with the new SIM. Current iPads cannot connect to Canadian carriers until they are plugged into iTunes with a SIM installed and have the proper carrier settings file synced over through iTunes.
What's not clear is if this is a situation specific to Canada or not. I know I was able to switch SIMs between a New Zealand and Australian wireless provider without having to sync to iTunes before using my iPhone 4's 3G service, but this apparently isn't possible when switching between providers in Canada.
Apple's verbiage on its Canadian website seems to be addressing this limitation and attempting to avoid customer confusion by having iPad 2 buyers choose a carrier when they purchase the unit. The iPad 2 should ship to Canadian customers with a micro-SIM from their carrier of choice already installed, but the iPad 2 will not be locked to that specific carrier, despite what the somewhat confusing wording on Apple's site may appear to imply.
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