unlocked phones

Unlocked Phones: The Definitive Guide

There seems to be a weird mystique around unlocked phones. We all kind of know, somehow, that having an unlocked phone is better than having a locked phone. I mean, consumer rights groups are even pushing for all phones to be sold unlocked. Carriers seem against it. And us little guys are caught somewhere in the middle, knowing that unlocked phones are more valuable but not exactly being sure why.

There is a lot of confusing acronyms, controversial legislation, and unhelpful information out there. To clear all of that up, here is your definitive guide to unlocked phones:

What are unlocked phones?

A lock is a capability built into the software on a GSM mobile phone by the device’s manufacturer. Wireless service providers use this lock to restrict the use of the phone to their own networks.

So, an unlocked phone is just one without a carrier-specific lock built in. An unlocked phone can be used with almost any wireless service provider.

Why do carriers lock their phones?

The reason that your service provider locks their mobile phones is to keep you from switching to another carrier. Talk about the ol’ ball and chain, cell phone locks ensure that carriers keep your business until you buy a new phone from a different carrier.

When made to defend this practice, the carriers basically argued that locks help protect their property. You see, when you buy a phone on a contract, you’re actually not getting a phone for free or at a discount. Instead, you actually pay off the remaining cost of the device over the course of your two-year contract. So carriers say that locking that phone helps ensure that you fully repay them for the phone you bought by keeping you from wandering away to another service provider.

These locks are more and more important to carriers as new competition enters into the Canadian marketplace who might offer better deals to cell phone users. As a result, locked phones are becoming a point of tension between service providers and users.

Why would I want to unlock my phone?

The biggest reason you’d want to unlock your phone is to increase the number of carriers you can use. This has two big pay-offs.

First, if you’re the jet-setting type, you can switch to another available wireless service provider to avoid roaming fees when you’re traveling. Just buy a SIM card from a local carrier, this way you can have a local phone number and pay local rates for calls and messages.

Second, unlocked phones do not come with long-term carrier contracts. That means you can switch carriers when you see an opportunity for better rates or service. If you dread calling customer service or can’t handle any more dropped calls, this should make you jump for joy.

Because of the freedom unlocking provides, buyers of used phones are willing to pay more for an unlocked device. The resale value of an unlocked phone is up to 30% higher than for a locked unit.

How do I unlock my phone?

As of June 3rd, 2013, a new wireless code in Canada enables consumers to have their cell phones unlocked after 90 days, or immediately if they have already paid for the device in full. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that you’ll have to pay out-of-pocket for the service. For example, Bell charges $70, Rogers charges $50, and Wind charges $30. A quick search of your carrier’s website should tell you the details.

Have questions? Contact us for more details.

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10 comments

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  • Victoria Ohashi 25 August, 2015   Reply →

    i am interested in buying a phone from you but my carrier is TbayTel . I want to know if I buy an unlocked phone does that mean I will NOT have any issues using it with my plan? Also, the reason I am looking for a new phone is that my phone fell in the lake!! How does that happen anyway? I never thought my phone would ever fall in the lake! It have no luck getting it to work. Would you be able to restore it? Should I sentence it to you or is it worthless?

    • Orchard 3 September, 2015   Reply →

      Hi Victoria,

      Thanks for reaching out about our phones!

      To answer your first question, yes, unlocked phones are compatible with any carrier in Canada and abroad so you probably won’t have any issues setting it up with TbayTel.
      In the event you would experience some difficulties, just let us know and we would be more than happy to provide you with troubleshooting solutions or a replacement phone.
      I’m sorry to hear that your phone fell in the lake…! Definitely not a good experience for phones or owners…
      We unfortunately won’t be able to restore it 100% but if you’re interested, we could take it for the parts and offer you a compensation between $15 to $25.

      Hope this helps and I would be happy to answer any other questions you might have 🙂

  • Paul 9 April, 2016   Reply →

    Do you guys unlock iPhones for a fee? I remember seeing it on your site last year I think, but can’t find it now. I have a Rogers iPhone 5 I want unlocked

    • Orchard 12 April, 2016   Reply →

      Hi Paul! We don’t unlock phones anymore. After taking a peek behind the curtain of the unlocking process, we realized that there is no way for us to offer reliable unlocking. Unlocks can only be done by the carrier the phone is locked to, which in your case is Rogers.

      All websites offering permanent unlocking services are conducting what is known as “Grey Market Unlocking”. These sites have “suppliers” that are able to submit your phone’s IMEI into a carrier’s list of phones to unlock, so that when they contact Apple, they unknowingly also unlock your phone.

      The problem is that carriers are unhappy with this grey-market and occasionally audit their recently unlocked IMEIs. If they find that an phone was illegitimately unlocked, they will flag it with Apple and have the phone relocked.

      What does that mean for you? All of a sudden, after updating your phone’s software, it will be relocked and only usable with the carrier that it is locked to. This is what makes grey-market unlocking so unreliable.

  • Shirley 3 September, 2016   Reply →

    Forgive me as I am the ultimate novice. I am interested in purchasing an iPhone. Have an Alcatel phone at present but my computer is an Apple so why not. My concern is if I buy one and take it to my carrier (telus) that there will be all sorts of charges thus negating any savings. I also understand there are instructions to transferring my phones information to the iPhone? Is this really easy? Remember . . . novice . . .

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