As of Yesterday It's Now Legal to 'Carrier Unlock' Your Smartphone; Here's How for Each Carrier

Discussion in 'Android News' started by dgstorm, Feb 12, 2015.

  1. dgstorm

    dgstorm Editor in Chief
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    The day "came and went" but that doesn't mean we forgot. As of yesterday (February 11th, 2015), your service provider in the United States is now required to let you unlock your device as long as you meet a few requirements. We wanted to remind you guys of this by sharing what those requirements are, as well as detailing the methods you would use to unlock your device from each of the 4 major US carriers.

    First, in order to "qualify" to unlock your device, you must meet the following conditions:
    • Your device must be fully paid for and owned by you.
    • Any service commitments and/or installment plans must be complete.
    • Any phone that is flagged as blocked, lost, stolen, or fraudulent will not qualify.
    • You must be in good standing with your carrier (no problems or past due payments on your account).
    • Any early termination fees must be paid in full (if you have any outstanding).
    • Each carrier will only unlock phones that are already on their own network. You can't get Sprint to unlock a Verizon device, etc.
    Next, once you satisfy all of the above requirements, here is some of the process you need to know to get your device unlocked on your current carrier to take to another carrier.

    If you are on Verizon going elsewhere -
    If your particular device on Big Red includes an unlocked GSM SIM card slot, then you should have no problems. Verizon's Global Ready 3G cell phones will sometimes require a code if you are switching to another service provider – just type "000000" or "123456" to get the process going. Sometimes you could run into issues with network compatibility and coverage. This will depend on your device's specifications and the radio frequencies of the carrier you're switching to. You will want to investigate this with whomever is your new carrier before use try to take a Verizon phone to a new network. For more details head over to Verizon's device unlocking policy which you can find here: Device Unlocking Policy Verizon Wireless

    If you are on T-Mobile going elsewhere -
    With T-Mo, you will first need to get in contact with their Support Service to get an unlock code for your device. Your device will need to have been active on their network for 40 days or more before it is eligible, and prepaid phones will need to have have been active for a year. Also in regards to prepaid phones, they must have been refilled for at least $100 before becoming eligible (although the requirement is only $25 if you have a basic phone). T-Mo also requires that any line of service is allowed no more than 2 unlock codes per 12 months of service. Here's a link to their Support Service for more details: Welcome T-Mobile Support

    If you are on Sprint going elsewhere -
    For any Sprint phone which was launched before February of 2015 and has the technical capability to be unlocked, then Sprint will inform you when you are eligible for an unlock via a text message or on your bill. You must first get in touch with Sprint Customer Care and they will assist you with unlocking. Any Sprint devices launched after February 2015 will simply be unlocked automatically when eligible. You need to be aware that even if you have your Sprint device unlocked , it may lack full compatibility with other carriers' networks because of the difference between CDMA and GSM. Of course, it would be wise to contact your new carrier first to determine if your unlocked device is compatible coming from Sprint.

    If you are on AT&T going elsewhere -
    AT&T has a few extra requirements as well. Your device has to be active on your account and you will need to wait past your 14-day return period before requesting an unlock code. Any Postpaid customers will need to have an active account for 60 days before AT&T will unlock you, while prepaid customers will need to have had an active account for 6 months of paid service. AT&T surprisingly makes the process pretty easy for folks who want to unlock their device and go elsewhere. They have a web landing spot for unlocking their devices, which you can find here: AT&T Unlocking.
    There's one last caveat/hoop to jump through with AT&T. When you fill out the request form, AT&T will ask you to provide the IMEI number for your handset.

    That's the basic gist of it. Obviously for greater detail you will want to research the links provided above and talk to both carriers (the one you are leaving and the one you are going to). Sound off and let us know if you are taking advantage of the newly easier unlocking of smartphones from carriers.
     
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  2. FoxKat

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    Ok, let's make sure people don't misunderstand...

    This is a "Carrier Unlock", NOT "Unlock Bootloader" as these are two entirely different things.

    Carrier unlock means you can take your "Verizon only" phone that you own, have paid for, and there are no further obligations to the service provider for that phone, and "Unlock" that phone so you can take it and move your service for it to another service provider.

    Unlock Bootloader means to have full control of the phone, allowing Root access, the ability to flash any compatible ROM and manipulate the deepest firmware and hardware settings.

    You may "own" your phone and as such the government has decided that it is not legal for the carrier from whom you have purchased that phone, or the one who that phone was designed to work with to prevent you from taking YOUR possession and connecting it with a competitor's cellular service.

    However you don't "pwn" your phone, with respect to full control of how it works if you've bought it from Verizon.
     
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  3. mountainbikermark

    mountainbikermark Super Moderator
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    How will this affect future firmware updates? Say you have a T-Mobile device that you move to AT&T, Verizon to Sprint, etc. Will you get the old carriers firmware and included bloat, the new carriers or none as it currently is? Since my Note2 was purchased on Verizon and moved to T-Mobile i didn't get the Verizon update or the T-Mobile one on it when they pushed out its last one .

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  4. akhenax

    akhenax Silver Member

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    If you can move your phone from ATT (old carrier) to TMo (new carrier), then the device should be able to get the new firmware from TMo (new carrier).
     
  5. FoxKat

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    That is assuming the new carrier is releasing firmware for that model phone. If that carrier never had that model phone they won't be issuing custom ROM updates. If that carrier has the same phone but a slightly different model as is often the case with carrier-specific phones, the ROM on that phone they sell and service may be totally incompatible with the other phone and could potentially brick it.

    Getting updates from the prior carrier for that phone may or may not be a viable alternative.
     
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  6. mountainbikermark

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    T-Mobile had stopped carrying the Note2 when I switched and Verizon started pushing 4.3 (4.2? maybe? ) shortly after. I was told by a Verizon employee that since my phone was no longer active with them they'd not be pushing me the update, which seems to have been the truth. Never got it.

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