Unlocked Vs. Locked Phones
Unlocking phones used to be clearly illegal without your carrier’s permission under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. However, there is a provession in the Act that the Librarian of Congress decided not to renew, and that has created a lot of questions.
A locked phone prohibits a consumer from moving a phone number in their phone from one carrier to another. The reason for locked phones is that high-end Smartphones are expensive, and to entice customers many service providers would subsidize the cost of those phone purchases through service contracts.
If a consumer left that carrier to go to another, the carrier would lose money on the discounted price that they sold the phone for. This was the reason for the Early Termination Fee if you broke your contract.
Having an unlocked GSM device (phones with SIM card slots)phone would allow you to easily pop out the SIM card from one carrier and pop in a new one from the compatible carrier around the world that provides GSM serviceo. It’s literally as easy as popping out your current SIM card and putting the SIM card of your choice in the phone.
If you had AT&T service you could quickly and easily swtich to T-mobile with an unlocked phone.
According to an article on C|Net “The U.K. Web site Mobile Unlocked, which sells unlock codes to consumers, says sales of unlock codes are up 71 percent.”
Most cellphones come with Carrier Locks, regardless of whether you buy it direct or through a retailer, like Amazon or BestBuy, for example, and whether or not you enter into a dicounted long-term contract with the carrieror pay full price.
You can buy some phones unlocked. Apple has ‘unlocked’ version of its iPhone, and Google Android Nexus branded phones come ‘unlocked’.
A Locked Phone
When they refer to a lock, it is essentiully apiece of softwrae code added to the phone by the manufacturer in accordance with the policies of the carrier that sells the device. To use another carrier the software in the phone has to be changed.
In the U.S.A, Europe, Asia, Canada, Africa, and certain places in Latin America, GSM networks are the standard, of which HSPA and HSPA+ are based on. If you have an AT&T or T-Mobile phone you’re operating on a GSM network, which uses the common SIM card.
Other networks usee CDMA, which uses EV-DO 3G technology. These include Verizon and Sprint in the U.S.A. Phones using this technology can not be used on a GSM network, and if you wanted to switch carriers you’d need to have that carrier reprovision the phone for that purpose.
Typically CDMA carriers don’t reprovision devices made for other networks for use on their own networks. Thus if you have a Sprint phone you won’t be able to use it on a Verizon network simply because they have the same technology.
So locks are not really relevant for 2G and 3G phones that operate on CDMA and EV-DO netwoks.
Marguarite Reardon noted that there is a new technology currently being used for data called LTE, and that like GSM it too uses a SIM card. However, not all LTE services operate on the same radio frequencies. So unlike GSM carriers they use different slivers of spectrum and are not interchhangeable. This will likely impact chip manufacturers; they may begin including multiple radios on their semiconductors. Wireless operators may also incorporate different spectrums into their LTE networks, and overlap with competitors. The convergence of these may create more converged devices as well as faster speeds in LTE services.
According to Marguerite, “many of the smartphones being built today for Verizon and Sprint also include GSM capability on top of CDMA and LTE. If a device also supports GSM, then it has a SIM card, which can be swapped out to access almost any GSM network.
Remember that in the U.S., Verizon and Sprint customers use either a Verizon or Sprint CDMA network. The GSM radio is included in these phones so that subscribers can roam onto networks in Europe and other parts of the world. Verizon and Sprint subscribers can choose either to sign up for international roaming plans with their U.S. carrier when they travel, or, if they can get their devices unlocked, they can swap out the SIM, put in a SIM card from a local provider, and get new service that way.
Verizon 4G LTE devices are unlocked out of the box
One thing to note here in terms of software phone locks is that all Verizon 4G LTE smartphones come unlocked out of the box. The reason why is that the spectrum Verizon is using to build its 4G LTE network had restrictions put on it by the Federal Communications Commission, which required the company to allow “open access” to the network. So as part of this provision, Verizon has decided not to lock those devices. That said, its 3G devices are locked.”
Still confused? Stop in to We Fix Phones and talk with a representative and they’ll sort it out for you.