Reminder: starting Saturday, unlocking your phone will become illegal


Here’s some good ol’ doom and gloom news for you folks. Starting this Saturday, January 26th, 2013, it will become illegal for users to unlock their mobile phones for use on carriers other than who it was originally intended for. That means buying a Samsung Galaxy S3 on AT&T and performing a carrier unlock on it to use on T-Mobile will technically be breaking the law.

I should clear one very important thing up — the process of unlocking your phone refers to the act in which you apply a code or a software process to allow your phone to run on like-minded networks. This does not prohibit us from doing things like rooting our Android phones and unlocking our bootloaders.

This doesn’t mean we’re nearing the death of unlocked phones, of course. Carriers can still unlock or grant users permission to unlock mobile phones, users can still buy phones which come unlocked out of the box, and if all else fails — well, chances are there won’t be task forces of active police and military bodies looking to enforce these things like they would drugs and weapons.

Despite all that, though, we’re still just as bummed about this news as we were when the additions were first added to the DMCA. Users feel their independence from the control of their wireless carriers slipping away from them in many forms, and being told that you could be prosecuted or sued for unlocking your own phone is about as extreme as it’s going to get.

[Federal Register via TechNewsDaily]

Quentyn Kennemer
The "Google Phone" sounded too awesome to pass up, so I bought a G1. The rest is history. And yes, I know my name isn't Wilson.

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  1. I hate the DMCA for reasons like this. Copyright in general does more harm than good. Information wants to be free. #CantStopTheSignal

    1. Copyright in general assures that people are paid fairly for the things that they create. Copyright, implemented to massively favour large corporations over individuals is the problem.

      1. I said “in general”, not “always”. That being said, however, I feel that it should be up to the content creator to find a buyer for their work that pays what they feel is fair. Once that initial transaction has been done, however, the buyer should own it. He paid for it. As such, he can do with it what he wishes. Like any other product. That means giving it away for free to others if he wishes. If the creator isn’t alright with that, they shouldn’t sell their creation, or they should ask for more money from the buyer. It really is this simple.

        To then monitize creativity, you simply offer subscriptions for online content (much like how Google is doing with Android, or NetFlix is doing with video streaming) or provide physical media. I pay NetFlix for access to their library of videos. I would continue to do so because it’s a hell of a lot easier than torrenting something, if NetFlix has it available. Imagine if all the hollywood movies were available from their studios on-line for streaming. Will it hurt DVD sales? Probably, but not that much. In that case, you’re paying for the physical media and the convenience of owning it. Read a book? You’re paying for the paper it’s printed on, and the convenience of keeping it on your bookshelf.

        You’ll be very hard pressed to find anybody who gives a damn about piracy or the fact that it is illegal – it’s too widespread to be enforced in all but the grossest violations (where people are turning a profit). Nobody in today’s society believes it’s morally wrong or views it as stealing, except the people who are making a ton of money off a broken system. Yes, I’m saying that the IDEA of copyright is broken. It can not be fixed, it’s defective by design.

        Most people will do what is easiest for them – that means paying if it’s fairly priced and not a hassle. The harder they have to work for something, the less they’re willing to pay for it. Nobody’s making it easy to pay for content, thus, piracy is up. The players who are making it easy are doing exceptionally well. Look at iTunes. Music piracy is higher than it’s ever been due to leaps and bounds in file sharing technology and the internet. Music profits are also at record levels. Coincidence? I don’t think so. Like it or not, iTunes is to thank – they’re offering music at reasonable prices that is easy to pay for, DRM free so people can consume it however they want, and even give it away for free on their website, or to friends, etc (just not legally, but again, that isn’t stopping anything). And music profits have gone through the roof because of it. The numbers don’t lie. The data isn’t defective. The copyright philosophy and belief is. It isn’t needed, nor wanted by consumers. A large number of younger artists also feel this way, too. It’s mostly the older artists (who grew up in a different era), and the people making a ton of money off a broken system, who are against this idea. Food for thought, I hope.

        1. You make some interesting points but I’m not convinced. There is a clear difference between being able to pass on a licence and physical media as you can with a DVD or book or using a device for which you have paid however you want, versus duplicating and distributing content created by someone else either for your own profit or for free. You suggest that if big media offers simpler way of consuming content then people will use it instead of piracy but I personally know more people who are willing to put in the extra effort of torrenting than are willing to pay even Netflix’s low subscription price and not everyone has the luxury of such effective distribution channels.

          Just because someone doesn’t view something as stealing doesn’t make them correct or any kind of valid moral compass. Personally, I don’t give the war in Mali a second thought, not because it doesn’t matter but because I’m not affected by the consequences. There are a people out there who struggle to survive as it is from the proceeds of art, writing, music and other media yet still suffer the effects of others willing to simply take their work for free and pass it on. I would counter that even the majority opinion of a morally ambivalent society with an ever-growing sense of personal entitlement should not be the basis of lawmaking any more than an array of corporations that are able to push vast sums of money into political coffers. Of course that’s assuming I accept your ability to speak on behalf of ‘most people’.

          As for the relationship between content being freely distributed and record industry profits I would challenge you to prove a causal link rather than simply extrapolating one from data and assuming an arbitrary intermediate step (i.e. the sharing of DRM-free tracks from iTunes) to be true simply because it is possible. What you suggest here is not unreasonable but there is a yawning gap between suggesting a credible explanation for data correlation and proving causality and it absolutely must be bridged before you can claim this as fact.

          1. I don’t believe in “licenses”. It’s either mine, or, it’s not. If it’s mine (I’m paying for it, for permanent ownership), I can do what I want with it (whatever I want) for the lifetime of myself, or the item (and in the case of the former, dictate who gets it upon my death). If I’m renting it (I’m paying for it, for a duration of time, during which I own it – I just have to give it back afterwards), I can do what I want with it (whatever I want) for the duration of time I’m paying for, and must return it (in full, identical condition, unless other stipulations have been made such as “reasonable” wear and tear, use, etc) at the end of the term. There is no other option. Own permanently, or own temporarily. None of this “You can use it, but I don’t want you to do A, B, C, or anything else I might feel differently about or form an opinion about in a month or so.”. No ambiguity. For this to succeed, the entire world (or at least, the country) would need to be on board with that mindset. Copyright is the same way, though – if nobody respects it, it has no power. Right now, nobody is respecting it. It’s a broken system, based on restrictions, rather than rights.

            You asked for a casual link, and so I shall provide: – there are many more. This explores the argument that a pirated copy does not equate to a “lost sale”.

            Netflix is an option, and has limitations. I pay for it because it’s easier. But I can’t watch Netflix on my computer, only my tablets. They’re lack of support for my OS disappoints me. I pay for Hulu and Crunchyroll, too, for similar reasons. Crunchyroll supports all my computers, tablets, phones, and devices (even my Google TV). It’s cheap, it’s effective, and they’re boasting a profit in an area that otherwise had no legal recourse. If as many people were against paying, and pro torrenting (even if it was more work) as you’re claiming, they’d have gone bankrupt with in months after they launched. There was no market for streamed anime prior to them opening their business. If you wanted to watch anime that was airing in Japan (still running series on TV Tokyo), you had to either wait for the US release, or torrent from a group that recorded it when it aired, and translated the dialog to subtitles for you. So while some people still pirate their anime, the number of paying customers went from 0 to whatever the number of users Crunchyroll boasts, which is obviously enough to keep them in business.

            I love your comment that basically just because somebody doesn’t think it’s wrong, doesn’t mean it isn’t. The reverse is also true. Just because the government says something is wrong, doesn’t mean it is. I don’t allow the government to think for me. I also challenge their notions on what is moral – most of their actions these days aren’t it seems. I know there are the infamous “struggling artists”, and there always will be. Those are people who rely on a broken system to try to make ends meet. Get rid of copyright, and replace it with content delivery, at the national level, and I bet those artists might not be starving any more, unless they’re unpopular, which is an entirely different argument. Anybody who does a poor job shouldn’t expect to get paid well for it. I have to wonder how many of those “starving artists” would see enough income off their work, given a perfect world with no piracy. As I stated before, a pirated copy does not always mean a lost sale. A number of the people who pirate do so because they have no other choice – they can’t afford the content they’re pirating, they can’t legally obtain the content they’re pirating, or they wouldn’t buy the content they’re pirating regardless of them pirating it. So given those conditions, how many of those people are even capable of making a living based on their creative output in the first place? You have to take that into account before claiming that they’re being hurt by piracy.

            I’m talking about a copyright revolution through abolishment here. I’m not talking about a free-for-all anarchistic society when it comes to creative endeavors. The argument I am attempting to make is that the current system is just not working, and is not in consumer’s best interests. Nor is it in the artists best interests, either, in my opinion. It does more harm than it does good, and like other systems that didn’t work, should be retired in favor of something better. Chivalry gave way to the Monarchy, which gave way to the Democracy. The phonograph gave way to the 8 track/tape, which gave way to the CD, which gave way to the MP3. The people who benefit embrace change, while the people who stand to lose fight it. In the end, the majority wins, and progress is made. Copyright law will change to a more open system, some day. It’s just a matter of time. Mark my words.

          2. If you abandon the idea of licences then the whole thing breaks down into chaos. If I decide that a picture or a book that I’ve bought is mine to do with as I will then I am perfectly within my rights to sell on new copies while claiming that it’s my original work. With enough unscrupulous people around willing to undercut the author, nobody needs to be paid for the enormous time and effort taken to create such works. There are ways around this of course such as enforced attribution a la Creative Commons but that’s… well, a licence. Consider, for instance, this week’s news about Jonathan Coulton. He releases all of his original music through CC but he’s more than ready to defend his work (yes, I know, in this instance it isn’t a track licensed through CC) when someone else is passing it off as their own. Maybe there’s something to be said for allowing people to pass on content they’ve bought but don’t you think it’s right that the people who did the work that should be paid, not the lazy opportunists ready and willing to cash in on it. You cite Netflix as an example of modern media but let me counter that with Spotify. Independent artists’ music played through Spotify pays those artists a tiny fraction of what they’d receive from sales and radio broadcast. Unless such distribution channels are highly regulated (or as you suggest entirely operated by government – and I don’t see that happening, if only because it would require global agreement on a scale far beyond GATT) then the companies behind them will all be even more free to bite the hand that feeds them than Sony, Warner and EMI are with Spotify.

          3. I think you are spot on… for the most part. We need licenses, for our own use. But when that license says that I can’t own a bluray movie, rip it, and then put it on my mobile device without buying ANOTHER license for it, THAT is the problem. I will happily pay for one license, but when I am having to pay for the license to run a lower quality version of said movie, music, or whatever on a different device, no thanks.

            It all boils down to an abuse of power. These companies see a way to get people to pay for the same exact content multiple times over and they take it. I am certainly not ok with that.

            As for your piracy statements, there will certainly be people out there who will pirate regardless because they just want that content to be free. Just like a big chain store writes into their business model a certain expected monetary loss to theft, so should digital goods companies. The point that this person was making was a good one. I believe that if we were given the ability to stream any released blurry/dvd for a monthly rate (not the exorbitant prices of pay per view), many “pirates” would opt for that option. There are already huge numbers of people using newsgroups, which they pay for, to get at this content easily and conveniently. Some people are paying upwards of $30/month, divided amongst various services, to get this content easily.

            Let’s take a look at Netflix, a streaming service that millions of people use. How many MORE people would use that service if it included today’s blockbusters? I am not suggesting keeping it at $7.99/mo. Perhaps even a tiered system would work. I think it is a virtually proven model…

            But, as you mention, we would have to see global acceptance. And if not global, at least country by country. What we are seeing now are ridiculous offshoots of services like Netflix sprouting up from various companies. HBO GO? It’s an awesome service, but yet ANOTHER subscription requiring you to login to yet another portal/app to get to the content you want. Meanwhile one can have everything downloaded and presented to them in a rpgram, such as XBMC or Plex without much more work than telling the system what you, as the user, are interested in watching. As I mentioned, piracy will likely always be around. But making content more convenient for the user stands only to help these companies in the long run, so long as they can get over their ridiculously strict licensing definitions.

  2. I’m curious as to how they would actually enforce this law?

    1. Ya really, I can imagine a judge reading the charges of “using your AT&T phone on T-Mobile”

      1. It can be used to prevent sales on eBay and such…

    2. Maybe a fine, that is, if you get caught… It won’t be anything serious, and I doubt anybody would care enough to call the cops on you. lol

      1. But, I mean, how do they actually prove that you unlocked the phone and that it wasn’t unlocked beforehand? If you unlock it without an active SIM card installed, they would never know how long it’s been unlocked.

  3. Nexus 4… nuff said

    1. Bleh…

      1. How do those sour grapes taste?

      2. Clearly hasn’t held one. Although, I understand the bitterness over the shipping. I had to wait too.

        1. PFFFF… what about lack of LTE? no SD

          1. Geez the article was about carriers and you troll about phone features?
            LTE isn’t like air (i.e. available everywhere but China) and SD isn’t a must with 16GB onboard (for some people). Some folks don’t need their entire dvd collection on their phone.
            Just keep on believing what applies to you must apply to everyone. Meanwhile… So worth the wait. Loving my Nexus 4!

          2. He always does this whenever someone mentions the Nexus 4.

          3. NS13 has done it twice just on this page. I’d like SD on a Nexus as well, but that is not all there is to the issue.

            Not enough was said, but NS13 nonetheless said it again and again . . .

          4. You’re the one trolling. And yet you proceed to do the same thing you accused me of doing! You’re ALSO off topic, TROLL

          5. My problem with the nexus 4 isn’t the SD card slot or the LTE. Its the fact that LG made it lol. If the next Nexus is Samsung, Sony Xperia, or HTC I’ll be interested.

          6. It’s actually better made than the last nexus from samsung, I’ve owned both.

    2. No LTE, No SD. Nuff said

      1. he’s got a gun so we must do as he says.
        prick !!!

        1. Fack you too

      2. ya I like how they make the GN LTE but then make the N4 a none LTE device, and still say they are making the device future proof.

        if it was future proof, it would have LTE…. like the iPhone 5, iPhone 5 has LTE but the google phone that is supposed to be head to head with apple doesnt? come on.

        every single android phone now is LTE, why wouldnt the N4 be also? you made the last one, no reason why they shouldnt.

        if the razr maxx can have LTE and a long ass battery, why cant the N4?

        no excuse.

        1. Because AT&T has never once carried a nexus device, you could buy it unlocked, but they’ve never carried it. and Verizon and Sprint to a lesser extent can’t keep up with nexus style updates.

          Also let’s not be so us biased, LTE is only up and coming in most parts of the world, the last GSM galaxy nexus didn’t have LTE either, the GSM nexus has always been a global device.

      3. Nexus phones have omitted the SD card for years, please stop harping on that.
        and HSPA+ on T-mobile provides a comparable real world performance to LTE.
        I know I left Verizon LTE for T-mobile HSPA+ and I was glad to, I pay half the price for 2x the data and don’t have to worry about overages and my battery life is once again reasonable. Moral of the story, lets stop pretending that one feature is a deal breaker for everyone, for some it’s not. Not to mention I think Google aimed this phone at T-mobile and mvno’s. Buying an unlocked phone outright and prepaid plans go together like butter and bread.

        1. To have LTE in the Nexus 3 and then to skip it in Nexus 4 sounds like something Apple would do

          1. G-Nex is the Nexus 3. Need grade school math lessons?

          2. LTE was only available for 2 versions, Sprint and Verizon who aren’t getting the nexus 4 because cdma makes it impossible to deliver timely updates.
            Timely updates and Vanilla android are what define a nexus.

            For the Nexus 4 they have only released their GSM worldwide version, the last GSM didn’t have LTE either, they aren’t going backwards, they are just dumping Verizon and Sprint as they’ve proven their cdma technology can’t handle a nexus the way a nexus is supposed to be supported directly from Google.

          3. Sorry, that is a STUPID explanation. To imply that somehow LTE as a technology is somehow responsible for timely OS updates, is asinine. It is not the technology’s fault, but the carriers fault.

          4. I think what Wentworth was saying is that if you take a step back and look at the Galaxy Nexus it was HAVING the LTE that was strange. Verizon/Sprint had a “Galaxy Nexus LTE” made for them and I use parentheses because in doing so it basically became not a real Nexus device, hell it being branded with Verizon just takes that away for me.

            Yes you are right that it is the carriers fault, like most things are.

          5. Imagine if the iPhone 6 came out without LTE. Wouldn’t you rip on them? The iPhone 5 FINALLY got LTE, and if the 6 comes out without, YOU will be the first in line to throw a stone. If you want to come here with this logic, then the Nexus 3 should not have had LTE. But it did, so to not have LTE is a successor is hampering innovation.

  4. hmmmm… first I heard about this. every phone i owned has been unlocked. hurts small pay as you go companies don’t you think?

  5. More people will buy unlocked phone’s carrier’s hoping to retain customers BS won’t happen!

  6. Does this apply to iPhones as well?

    1. Yeah

    2. Ha!! I’m sure Apple already has some way to tell if an iPhone has been unlocked.

  7. Good luck with that. I will continue using my device that i paid for as i see fit.

    1. You probably could, without getting busted. If anything, telco’s won’t be after you. They have bigger fish to fry, like the people releasing said unlocks and the people selling them online auction sites. Unless you are clever enough to unlock a phone with your own made from scratch code, you will likely be SOL here soon unless that laws are changed in our favor.

  8. this is the most F***ing retarded thing I’ve heard since the possible banning of assault weapons in america. Try and stop me from unlocking my property.

    1. +1 x 1,000,000

      1. Additional X 1,000,00

    2. Well, if you buy on contract, you’re buying the device at a fraction of what it actually retails, and it’s a given that you’ll be with that carrier. That way the carrier can make their profit. But if you unlock your device (by yourself) and choose to be with another carrier, the original carrier would lose out on their profit…

      I don’t see why this shouldn’t be illegal… If you want to be unlocked, buy unlocked.

      1. After you pay the subsidized phone price and ETF, the carrier isn’t exactly losing profit. They’re just not exactly making profit, either.

        1. They’re making a profit from what they charge you for being on their carrier… and even after the discounts, $200 is still cheaper than what they have to pay per phone… I know it’s not much, and the carrier can get their money back quickly with their overpriced plans, but you are still technically stealing if you unlock your device by yourself

          1. How is unlocking a phone stealing?

          2. Because you’re buying a phone on contract cheaper than the subsidized phone the carrier gets and by unlocking your phone (by yourself), you are basically no longer with the carrier and essentially stealing the phone since the carrier gets the bad end… I think this stuff is in the contract you sign when signing up with a carrier and a contract phone…
            But correct me if I’m wrong… I’m just going off from a friend of mine who works at T-Mobile and some prior knowledge

          3. When you sign the contract, you and the carrier both agree that you are free to break the contract, at any time, as long as you pay the ETF. Paying the ETF fulfills your obligation to the contract in its entirety. You would be stealing the phone only if the contract demanded that you return the phone if you break the contract early, and you do not.

            A sleezy tactic to save a few bucks, maybe, but nothing illegal or wrong with it (yet).

          4. Trying to redeem yourself? You got embarrassed by Christopher Houser, now you are exiled…Go.

          5. Correct me if I’m wrong, but when you get a subsidized phone, you’re extending your contract by another two years and buying the phone at a cheaper price in exchange for the extension right? If you decide to use it on another network, then you would still be with your original carrier….you would just be paying two phone bills every month, so it is not exactly the smartest thing in the world to do. And if you cancel the contract you just extended, you will be paying back all of the money you saved on the phone, so it’s still not feasible.

            What I think this law is for (besides thieves) is people who already have a nice phone, but they are using their upgrades to get the latest, greatest phone out there at a cheaper price, and then they turn around and sell this brand new phone for huge profit to someone else instead of using it themselves. I.e. they get the $700 for $250, and then sell it to someone else for $575-600. That would be some easy cash in anyone’s pocket, and the person that bought it could then unlock it.

          6. The 2 year contract (or ETF) pays for the subsidy. The carrier loses nothing if you unlock, as long as you either complete the 2 year contract or pay the ETF.

          7. David,
            I think the issue is that people are getting stuck up on the word “stealing”. There are plenty of legitimate uses for unlocking, such as when you want to travel abroad. Sure I can use my phone overseas with my current carrier, but I will be destroyed by the exorbitant fees if I use the phone for any amount of time.

            What people don’t understand is that they are getting a subsidized phone. They can’t have their cake an eat it too (but they certainly want to!). The carrier is going to charge you the same monthly fees whether you subsidize a phone with them or not (speaking of the big three). I can buy my phone outright, purchase it used, or I can subsidize it. It’s not going to change my monthly fee AT ALL. So the argument people are using and saying that the company is still making their money off of you is a pretty flawed one. They are giving you monthly service. Nowhere in there are they obligated to give you a device on which you can use that monthly service. But in order to get you to KEEP using their monthly service, they lock you into a contract by offering you a brand new, heavily subsidized handset. They also lock the device, unless otherwise prohibited by law (see Verizon and their LTE phones).

            I guess the real question is, how much harm can selling an unlocked phone (on contract) possibly do to the company? They already do a credit check. If you credit is poor, or you have a bad reputation with a telco specifically, they will either make you pay a huge down payment (basically close to buying the handset outright anyway), or they will just decline to give you any service whatsoever. The people who are hurt here are those who fully intend to keep the service throughout the contract and just want to sell their handsets, OR those who are going overseas for whatever reason and just need the ability and convenience of popping a sim into the phone and being able to use it. That basically IS the selling point of the sim card, yet we cannot do that on a locked phone.

            At the end of the day, I wouldn’t call it stealing, as you put it, but more of a breach of contract. If I unlock my phone, but have no intention of defaulting on my contractual obligations, I am not really stealing, am I? Instead, I am getting screwed by the telco because I might be a bad Apple, even though I have been paying my $100+ monthly bill on time for the better part of the last decade. THAT is why so many people are against your terminology. Because you are calling them thieves, and while I am sure there are plenty of dishonest people out there, I would argue most are just honest people wanting to use their phones the way the technology was meant for them to be used.

          8. Yeah I agree with you. I should have re-worded it a bit…

          9. Don’t be naive. That’s what the 200-300 dollar early termination fee is for. They’re only subsidizing up to about the cost of the early termination fee, and that’s only with high end phones. If you’re a dummy and go with a free phone, you’re potentially losing out on a lot of free subsidizing, making this even more idiotic. This law’s only purpose is to make it less rewarding to steal phones and then sell them. It hurts consumers, really. But at least your carrier can still unlock your phone and most will do it after 3 months. But still, there are better ways to handle this as it only harms the consumer. Laws do nothing to stop crimes, only act as deterrents. If we wanted to actually fix the damn problem, then we’d force carriers to check IMEI numbers and ensure that any phone reported as stolen becomes useless.

            Again, the carriers already get their money out of you if you hop early, so they don’t lose anything. And it still allows thieves to sell the phone to subscriber of X service. This law is poorly thought out in its entirety and any defense of it will force me to judge your intelligence. I apologize, but these things should be super obvious to anyone familiar with the systems in place.

          10. Yeah, they’ll unlock it after 3 months now.. and then January 26th will happen and suddenly they don’t unlock phones anymore.

          11. You just owned David Varghese

          12. Oh mmokay
            You’re cool

          13. OK, let’s be clear: unlocking a phone by using a carrier supplied SIM unlock code isn’t illegal. If the carrier chooses to let you unlock it, whether they charge you an ETF or not, then you can legally unlock it.

            If, however, you use hacks or stolen codes to unlock a phone without the carrier’s permission, you will be breaking the law. And yes, technically it is theft and/or breach of contract since the contract you signed granted you a subsidized price in exchange for a guaranteed period of service in which the carrier can recover their investment.

            @DavidVarghese, $200 is not in way cheaper than what the carrier pays for the phone! Carriers make little to no profit from phone sales. Carriers make money from selling services. Phones are just a gateway to get you on their network. The phone a carrier sells to you for $200 costs them closer to $600. Manufacturers don’t have large margins either, making their profits on volume, not individual sale markup. In some cases, Manufacturers and carriers actually take a loss on phones to shore up market penetration, etc.

          14. Didn’t I say that carriers have pay more than the $200 price tag that consumers see, and that the carrier makes their profit from their service plans?
            I should have been more clearer…

          15. Well, call me stupid… I still don’t see why this is such a bad thing… It won’t affect much people at all, other than thieves.

          16. David Varghese you just got owned.

      2. Because there is such a thing known as cancellation charges with which the carrier recurs those costs.

        1. You are absolutely right. AFAIK, most carriers will unlock your phones once the ETF (or the contract) has been met in full. It didn’t used to be this way (iPhone was a notorious device on AT&T for years), but that has since changed. I feel that allowing carriers to put a lock on their phone is fine UNLESS the buyer chooses to buy off contract OR ends up paying their ETF.

          To complicate matters, however, sometimes, although rarely, will even subsidize off contract costs of a device. A good example of this may be the Lumia 920 on AT&T. Off contract, that phone can be had for $450, directly from AT&T. That is hundreds cheaper than in any other country. While I don’t know the exact terms of AT&T’s acquisition of the 920, they certainly did something to sweeten the deal for Nokia so that they could sell these phones at a lower off contract price. The catch is that the phones are sold locked, and they will not unlock them, even if you did buy off contract. Again, do I agree with this? No. But I can say that if AT&T were required to sell their off contract phones unlocked, it’s a pretty safe bet that the 920 wouldn’t be selling for $450, thus hurting those that want an inexpensive (for the hardware) phone without renewing their contract.

      3. Because it’s your money, and your property, that you paid taxes on. You should spend it as you see fit. It’s not crack, but a legal purchase.

      4. When your contract is done, you should be able to unlock. If you pay the ETF, you should be able to unlock.

    3. Now I have to worry about MULTIPLE possessions of mine being taken away!

    4. hahaha…guess you’ll take em out with the assault weapons you clearly aren’t too angry to keep

    5. +1 + 1,000,000+1,000,000 doesn’t even cover it, the right to bear arms and do as you like with what you own.

    6. (As liberal as I can possibly sound) the banning of assault weapons (rifles) and larger magazines is justify by multiple deaths annually that are contributed with such weapons, they’re not needed for home security whatsoever, a handgun can do the job perfectly, and if you want bigger, Remington can be just as successful.

      1. That was a pretty good liberal impression, Sir! But to liberals that really think that though, it’s not about what anyone thinks we need. It’s about our constitutional right to bear arms. And if the government is truly about saving lives, they need to turn their focus away from guns and focus on tobacco. Tobacco is a top killer. Tobacco will kill WAY more people than all homicides involving a gun in any given year.

        1. Wow, it’s no wonder your government is having such a difficult time if it can only address one issue at once.

    7. The way they WILL stop you is by shutting down websites that offer an unlock. Unless you write the code to run an unlock yourself, you would literally be SOL. Not saying it’s right, just saying it’s likely the way it will be done.

  9. I hope this prompts people to buy unlocked devices and show the carriers that without customers, they are nothing.

    1. It’ll show the customers that they can’t live without cell service.

      1. They don’t welcome the money of people with unlocked phones?

    2. exactly from now on im buyin only from the play store

    3. The vast majority of phone buyers don’t even know what “unlocked” means. This will have little impact on the carriers at all. Unfortunately.

  10. so who payed off the government for this one? lets see tmobile is encouraging unlocking sprint and verizon are cdma and incompatible lte that just leaves at&t and they have the most to loose by customers unlocking since their customers have a way out and can keep their device once fed up.

    1. verizon and sprint also sell phones that have simcards that can be use on a gms networks so they also paid the government for this.

  11. soon it will be illegal to unlock the door from the house I’m renting…
    I dont understand. can carriers unlock phones or not ?? if they can, hows that illegal if they’re the ones that do it.

  12. Oh this applies worldwide? I’m guessing not, so it might be less pretentious to mention which country this applies to.

    1. You’re on an American site. Sure, they do stories about other countries, but this is still basically US territory.

      1. what nonsense you speak :)

      2. i believe the world wide web to be open and with no defined “countries” (even if some country enjoys restricting access)

        Besides, it doesn’t say anywhere on the site that it is american. (unless i make a whois lookup maybe)

        Also Phandroid is a major android news website viewed by a lot of english speaking people all over the world, so it would make sense to add “in the US” at the end of the title.

        Anyway it’s just a detail, and you know it as soon as you see “AT&T”

    2. The letters DMCA should provide a clue. If it helps, think of it as an acronym for Dominion by Media Corporations of America.

  13. That’s why you buy them unlocked. :D

  14. What if your phone is “already” unlocked? Do wii have to “relock” it? Is that explained already?

    1. Of course not lol

    2. do Wii? LOL

  15. Just another reason to buy a phone unlocked and bring to a provider.

    1. that is only good for tmobile customers, every where else even if you bring your own phone you still be paying the same for rate plans, so why pay full price if you still be paying the same amount as if you bought the phone subsidized? but this is as close to a dictatorship as it gets, for example i had a sprint phone that i bought on ebay it was the htc evo lte and sprint not only i would have to sign a 2 year commitment but the plan was still 79.99 the same as if i had bought the phone from sprint.

      1. Thatis why I have Solavei and right now only pay $29 a month for unlimited talk text and data. I would rather have the chance to move when and where I want and the chance to shrink my bill. Just starting Solavei is just $49 a month. It is very freeing.

  16. Okay so imei unlock services for iphones and the like, are illegal? Like the one I recently got for an iphone 4 that let it unlock through iTunes?

  17. Quick, throw the hard drives in the microwave, FBI is coming!

  18. wtf? this is crap. YOu buy the phone, you should be able to do what you want to it.

  19. I am sorry if this is a family friendly website but this is fucking retarded!

  20. For those “normal” people who walk into a shop and extend or make a new contract with a carrier, it doesnt matter. Is this though another “take some of your freedom” act in the US. They will start entering softwares whcih will detect when you try to unlock your phone? Maybe, maybe not. Fact is, when you get a phone cheaper by signing an extension or a new contract you basically pay for the phone through the duration of your contract. We are loosing it guys. Big time.

  21. I wonder how much it cost the providers to get that law passed: )

  22. Honestly most people don’t even know what it means
    Those that do are not going to run in and yell look at me
    Its a complete waste of time and money but does give the carriers too much power

  23. And the ridiculous rules won’t stop coming in. What difference does it make to a carrier where you use the phone that you bought? It’s paid for, and the new carrier will still charge you a pretty amount of cash to use their network. I don’t see anybody being wronged by unlocking OUR phones and using them any fucking way we want to.

  24. It’s only logical really, those locked phones that you “buy” aren’t really bought the same way a normal unlocked phone is bought outright, they are carrier subsidised. You only pay a token fee, weather it’s 2$ or $300, it’s still far less than what the phone actually costs. You’re supposed to stay with your contract and pay off the real cost of the phone as you go with your phone plan.
    If you cut out early on the contact and unlock your phone, your basically taking away something that you haven’t finished paying for yet.

    I always buy my phone outright and unlocked so there’s no question about who really owns it.

    1. That’s why carriers have ETF’s. so when you cancel your contract they can get back the money for the phone. Subsidizing phones is a carrier scam anyway, they make up all differences in the cost of your contract and monthly fees.

      I haven’t bought a subsidized phone since the OG Droid. My last 3 have been Nexus phones, and that’s what I’ll always do.

    2. If you cut out early on your contract, you’re taking away nothing; that’s what the ETF is for.

  25. I have to say, I don’t understand how law works in the US.
    If someone wants to force clients to stay with them, don’t sell them phones. Rent them. That way the phone is yours and you can enforce whatever you want.

    But how can it be legal to force someone to use something they bought in a specific way?

    What will be next?

    Car companies forcing people to give maintenance only on their shops?
    Air companies forcing travelers to use sold headphones only on their plains?
    McDonalds forcing customers to drink only beverages they sell in the glasses they give away as promotions?

    Crazy country for a crazy world. It fits, I guess…

  26. time to put all that data gathering power at the NSA to good use to find, capture and detain all the terrorists who unlock their phone without getting permission.

  27. so buying guns and assault rifles that kill people is legal but unlocking a phone that you paid for will be illegal!! where is this world coming to?

    1. rifles kill people? Never seen one do that…

  28. For all those that don’t live in the United States our freedom is slipping away from us very quickly here and our government has become very intolerant of our freedom and our rights. We can now be arrested and held without cause. The government is starting to use drones to patrol our skies. So unlocking a cellphone being illegal doesn’t surprise me.

    1. Using drones IN the States ? WOW !

      1. yep. thousands of them. armed drones.

  29. There goes another right of choice, destroyed, mangled, and pummeled to oblivion. How can something you buy, with your money, not be yours? It’s like a car, that you can put only one type of gas in, because the maker says it’s illegal to use anyone else’s gas. This goverment needs to get a grip, the carriers have the politicans in their hands, and are paying big money to trample all over freedom.

  30. I’ve been buying my phones carrier-free (I’m on a SIM only contract with O2 UK) for years now. Yes, it’s a huge initial outlay but the benefits are that you don’t get the usual bug-laden carrier customisations to the firmware/software, you get the latest updates as soon as the manufacturer releases them (Jellybean 4.1 for my One X within days of HTC announcing the update), and if there are faults outside your usual 30 day return policy, you deal direct with the manufacturer.

    I could never go back to carrier handset. I’d rather eat my own foot.

  31. What they’re talking about is SIM lock or Carrier lock. No big deal.

  32. Hope this is a USA specific law, can’t imagine not being able to own something that you paid for. Kinda reminds me of the iTunes battle with not being able to transfer ownership of your music. How’s that going btw.

  33. You know what, in many states and also countries, even before Sunday, masturbation is illegal.

    Like unlocking your phone, this outrageous crime against humanity is committed in private, and has the same number of inhumanely treated victims.

  34. This is the stupidest law to come around in a long time . So you buy a used locked phone and then unlock it … who can say when it was unlocked ? Today ? Yesterday ? Last year ? And you still can purchase unlocked phones new from the box .Looks like the Two big phones guys ( you know who) don’t want their new products unlocked as that is what it will apply to .

  35. Oh man I hope they don’t make downloading mp3s/music illegal.

  36. Looks like their sticking it to T-Mobile.

  37. Communists of the phone world. What’s next, keeping track of “everything” we do on our phones?

  38. Ok this thread isn’t about guns, but I am tired of the ignorance of idiots talking about banning semi automatic rifles because they think they are military rifles. If you knew what you were talking about you would know that the Remington 750 which is a hunting rifle is exactly the same as the military style Bushmaster and they fire only one bullet at a time. Also the size of the magazine only prevents law abiding people from being able to protect themselves. For example, multiple people invade your home they have high capacity magazines and you have only 7 bullets in yours you are now in deep s # #t. Banning these weapons will not prevent people with mental and emotional problems from committing atrocities. Also this violates the 2nd amendment.

    1. I am a huge 2nd amendment advocate, and I do NOT use spam to spread the word about protecting our rights. Please delete your post, and use more appropriate outlets.

      don’t make the rest of us look bad.

      1. Dude who are you talking too? I mentioned that I was making an offtopic post.The problem is that i was posting from my phone using the Phandroid app which wasn’t allowing me to direct my comment at the person it was meant for. And the only person that can make you look bad is you.

        1. I see the post below now. You have to understand how you posts looks when it’s not in reply to the person below who was on a random rant about firearms.

          Perhaps you should fix it, and reply to the correct person?

  39. how do they find out if i unlocked it or not, im 1 click away from getting my code emailed to me for my iphone 5

  40. USA turning into a police state slowly but surely. Minority Report here we come…

  41. I love how phandroid uses the UNLOCKING NOW ILLEGAL headline but then go, oh we mean carrier unlocking not bootloader, cause they know when you hear unlock, you think of bootloader.

  42. I have a question, is there a subsidized phone through a carrier where if you buy, cancel, pay EFT, and ask carrier to unlock, and they say NO! ..that you could unlock and use on another carrier for less? I mean it takes all that for this to even come in to play. I’m not sure there is a phone that falls in to this category anymore?

  43. wow really? since last year here in chile every phone must be unlocked even if u got it from contract.

  44. I don’t waste money on contracts since the last three years.. and not going back.

  45. I can see where this MIGHT have been intended for people who attempt to steal phones or use phones in a less than legal or questionable fashion. Im deff no expert on this matter, but it appears it may be meant for SOME good intentions….but thats unlikely as it was written by politicians!

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