There has been a practice of unlocking by owners of iPhones , Android and Samsung Galaxy devices including tablets in order use the device on another network or carriers such as AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint and T-Mobile. A new law goes into effect January 26 which bans unlocking phones without the carriers' permission. In reaction to this law there is now a petition circulation to change it.
First off, if you have an unlocked device, there is very little chance that will ever get in trouble as long as you are not a device trafficker. Unlocking is different from jailbreaking or rooting that changes the original iOS or Android software to allow it load other software or perform new functions. Unlocking the bootloader allows developers to load non-market apps onto the device for testing. The bootloader tells the device what to load at startup an is usually determined by the carriers' wishes for the device manufacturer.
Most carriers don't support unlocking the bootloader or jailbreaking which voids the warranty and support for your phone from the carrier and manufacturer. Previously HTC provided a bootloader unlocking tool for many of its popular models while Motorola and Verizon Wireless offer unlocked developer editions of the Droid RAZR HD and M at full price for developers.
When an AT&T contract is up for its iPhones the carrier offers a way for its customers to unlock the phone from AT&T
The new DMCA makes it illegal to “circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access” to copyrighted material, in this case software embedded in phones that controls carrier access.
Unlocking phones without the consent of the carrier who locked them became illegal due to edits to DMCA exemptions entered into the act back in October 2012, now the 90 day grace period is over.
Locked phones bought 90 days after the ruling can still be unlocked but starting January 26, the only official way to unlock a phone is by permission from the carrier..
Used or recycled phones bought from other places can still be unlocked.
The U.S. Copyright Office rep stated "only a consumer, who is also the owner of the copy of software on the handset under the law, may unlock the handset."
Meanwhile it doesn't look like carriers will go after individuals. Companies such as Tracfone continually battle traffickers who buy Tracfones unlock them and sell them for use with other carriers to the tune of 88 lawsuits. T-Mobile has 34 lawsuits and been awarded $131million in damages while Sprint filed 8 cases and has been awarded $27 million.
A petition started on the White House website as of this writing has over 7,000 signatures but needs 100,000 by February 23.
Unlocked Smartphone Tips:
- If you bought an unlocked phone in the first place, which is costly unless you can get a Nexus 4.
- Keep records of where you bought the smartphone.
- Always be sure that you have a way to reinstall the original software and bootloader, just in case.
- Jailbreaking is not reccomended unless you are very technical and don't mind spending a lot time fixing problems if something goes wrong.
- Before doing anything with your cell phone that you think may cause problems research it first.
- Sometimes carriers such as Verizon allow SIM unlocking for international use on GSM networks.