Investigated: Unlocked GSM Palm Pre on sale

An unlocked, SIM-free, GSM version of Palm's Pre smartphone has cropped up for pre-order on US mobile store Mobile City Online. With a price! We've investigated

An unlocked, SIM-free, GSM version of the Palm Pre smart phone has cropped up for pre-order on US mobile store Mobile City Online. And with a price: $699 (£480).

We were enormously sceptical, so we contacted the Web site. We were told the smart phones were sourced from Europe, and originated on the Vodafone network. It expects to ship the phones in September.

Back in February at Mobile World Congress, a GSM version of the Pre was spotted with a Vodafone SIM card inside it. Perhaps the same version Mobile City Online is sourcing?

Interestingly, we reported just last month that -- a reputable UK store -- had begun offering unlocked iPhones for £549. These were sourced from outside the UK, and legal "due to EU legislation ensuring the sale of SIM-free mobile phones", according to a spokesperson. Mobile City Online is seemingly pursuing the same arrangement.

But the pre-order Pre is curious for another reason: it has a price. No-one knows how much the Pre will officially cost when released. But here it is, with an actual value slapped on its cheeky fat little face. The question is, without an inclusive data plan as part of the price, would you pay £480 when you can get a pay as you go iPhone for just over £340, inclusive of unlimited Internet usage?

The pieces of this puzzle certainly seem to fit with a curious level of accuracy: it's not the first time we've seen a Pre on Vodafone, it's not the first time we've heard a GSM version exists, and it's not the first time we've heard of stores importing phones for resale without SIM locks or contracts. 

But we advise caution. Until we hear something from Palm regarding official prices and availability, and until we see Mobile City Online listing the handsets as 'In stock', we couldn't confidently suggest you look to order just yet.

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