Unlocking smartphones becomes illegal in the U.S tomorrow
Another reason to consider SIM-free handsets over contract purchases
On Saturday 26th January 2013, changes to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) will come into effect with regards to unlocking smartphones in the U.S, making it illegal to do so without carrier permission. The revisions to the DMCA were actually passed on 26th October 2012, but there has been a 90-day window during which users have been permitted to unlock any newly purchased or currently owned handsets.
Depending on the stance that carriers take towards the new law, it could have little impact in all practicality. AT&T for example, will unlock a handset once it is out of contract. Some handsets, such as the iPhone 5 on Verizon, also come unlocked out of the box. Of course, handsets that are purchased unlocked/SIM-free will not fall foul of the restrictions.
Even if some carriers do take a tough stance on unlocking handsets, there is still the option for users to go down the route of unlocking the handset illegally. What consequences this will have remain to be seen. T-Mobile is one network that is likely to be against the new restrictions as it has recently launched a “bring your own device” campaign, which urges users to take out a SIM-only T-Mobile deal and use it with an existing device.
If some networks do decide to make it difficult for users to unlock handsets, it could weaken relations with Google, which is not a fan of carrier lock-in, nor the bloatware that is added to Android devices by carriers. The pricing and direct sale of its Nexus 4 smartphone was viewed by some as a move supporting the SIM-free model.
Those users that do like the flexibility of an unlocked handset, which is useful if you travel internationally or switch contracts often, may prefer to purchase a handset SIM-free. Naturally, being a SIM-free smartphone retailer, we are advocates of this model and have a strong US-customer base that also favours it.