Unlock Your Smartphone: 10 Reasons It's a Good Idea

NEWS ANALYSIS: It might be illegal right now. But unlocked smartphones deliver a lot of benefits and there is growing sentiment that smartphone owners should have the legal right to unlock their devices.

The debate over phone unlocking has hit a tipping point. In the United States, because of changes made to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), phone owners can no longer unlock their devices unless they get permission from their mobile carriers.

What that means is they can’t buy a product with a two-year agreement and then go through the surprisingly simple process reconfiguring the device so that it can connect to other carriers besides the one that owns your contract. That allows the phone user to connect to any carrier that’s willing to provide service.

Since phone unlocking is illegal, it’s not recommended that people actually do it. However, the debate over whether consumers should be allowed to unlock their smartphones is one that needs to be heard. A growing number of companies, consumers and even the Federal Communications Commission and the Obama administration agree that unlocking a smartphone should be legal. More importantly, they agree that the law should be changed.

What makes phone unlocking so important and so valuable to the average person?

These are the reasons why.

1. Freedom from onerous carrier charges

Although it’s nice to save cash on a smartphone with a two-year agreement, the fact is, signing such a contract means customers are subject to the onerous charges placed upon them by carriers. While buying unlocked device means paying full price up front, buyers also free themselves from the early-termination fees and have the opportunity to get the mobile service that’s best for them.

2. More phone choices

The nice thing about unlocking a device is that it can be done on just about any product. So, while T-Mobile might have a phone an AT&T customer wants, buying the unlocked option from the other carrier will give the best of both worlds. An unlocked phone gives owners more choices.

3. Better plan pricing

Since unlocking a phone gives customers true choice, they can shop for the plan that suits them best. Carriers might, at the surface, seem to have all of the same pricing, but companies like T-Mobile and Sprint are doing a fine job of delivering better deals than their giant competitors in an attempt to attract more customers.

4. Vendors are selling them

Although unlocking a smartphone isn’t all that difficult, the nice thing now is that smartphone makers are actually selling their own unlocked products. Apple, for example, sells unlocked versions of its iPhone. However, be aware that when it comes time to buy an unlocked handset, it’ll cost much more than the subsidized offerings available with a two-year contract.

Don Reisinger

Don Reisinger

Don Reisinger is a longtime freelance contributor to several technology and business publications. Over his career, Don has written about everything from geek-friendly gadgetry to issues of privacy...