You've always been able to buy an unlocked phone with no crapware and no restrictions. The problem with the iPhone is that even the unlocked phones are restricted and locked-down, which is a first.
That said this conversation is about unsubsidised, unlocked phones. Not phones bought through carrier channels. Apple are breaking new ground by selling an "unlocked" phone, for an unsubsidized price, but still pushing carrier restrictions on it.