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.