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.
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5. More carrier options
When talking about the wireless industry, discussions typically only center on the big four—T-Mobile, Sprint, AT&T, and Verizon Wireless. However, there are several regional carriers operating across the U.S. that deliver service as good or better service than the giants and welcome the opportunity to take on a customer with an unlocked handset.
6. Huge enterprise benefits
The corporate world gains a series of benefits from unlocked mobile devices. Large corporations can use unlocked handsets to have better control over employee devices and provisioning. Better yet, they can easily transfer devices to other carriers depending on which company gives them the best deal in any given moment. The enterprise benefits greatly from smartphone unlocking.
7. No security losses
There’s a misguided belief that unlocking a device makes it less secure. That’s absolutely incorrect. In reality, unlocking a handset doesn’t negatively impact a device’s security. Only jailbreaking—which must not be confused with unlocking— can cause security problems. It’s important all smartphone owners keep that in mind.
8. It makes it easier to take your smartphone overseas
There are many people that enjoy traveling or are required to travel abroad on business. The issue for them is that a locked device will sometimes not work in certain countries or will require a high-priced international-roaming plan. An unlocked device allows those people to temporarily put their phone on an international carrier’s network and not worry about all about that. That can be an important consideration for the well-traveled.
9. Services change
Although most major carriers really aren’t all that great, they do from time to time modify their services and update their plans. In those cases, there’s nothing worse than being locked into a long-term contract. Having an unlocked device lets customers get out of a service if a carrier’s new offerings don’t work. Don’t underestimate the value in that.
10. Faster hardware upgrades
One of the best things about unlocking a smartphone is that it doesn’t lock folks into two-year contracts, allowing them to get a new smartphone whenever they want. So, if they buy a new handset unlocked and find that it’s not worth using, it’s best to go with something else. If they unlock a device and discover something better, they can get that new product without delay. Faster hardware upgrades are a major reason to go contract-less.