American carriers are making progress in being more open and customer-friendly — particularly T-Mobile — but Sprint is preparing to take a significant step forward by ensuring that the devices they sell to customers are able to be SIM unlocked. Eventually. In 2015. In an FAQ on Sprint's unlocking policy, the company states that they are "working to ensure that all devices developed and launched on or after February 11, 2015 are capable of being unlocked domestically."

Seeing as more and more phones these days (including high profile devices like the Apple iPhone 5s and Samsung Galaxy S5) are being built with the CDMA radios that Sprint and Verizon need in addition to the GSM radios that everybody else uses, the only thing holding them back are restrictions like these carrier locks. Even T-Mobile, the self-proclaimed Uncarrier — still locks phones sold in their stores to their network. By making the phones that they sell capable of a domestic carrier unlock, Sprint customers will be able to take their phones to other networks if they leave.

From Sprint's unlocking policy:

I've been told by another carrier that Sprint needs to unlock my SIM slot in order to use my phone on the other carrier's network.

For eligible devices, Sprint will unlock the SIM slot, to the extent that a device SIM slot is capable of being unlocked. It is important to note that not all devices are capable of being unlocked, often because of the manufacturers' device designs, and that even for those devices capable of being unlocked, not all device functionality may be capable of being unlocked. Specifically, devices manufactured with a SIM slot within the past three years (including, but not limited to, all Apple iPhone devices), cannot be unlocked to accept a different domestic carrier's SIM for use on another domestic carrier's network. Sprint has no technological process available to do this. In accordance with Sprint's voluntary commitment contained within CTIA's Consumer Code for Wireless Service (“Unlocking Commitment”), Sprint is working to ensure that all devices developed and launched on or after February 11, 2015 are capable of being unlocked domestically.

Sprint does note that many devices they currently sell will not be able to be unlocked. Sprint-branded iPhones, for example, "have been manufactured in a way that prevents them from being unlocked". So while phones that Sprint plans to sell in a year's time will be able to have their SIM locks lifted, there's no guarantee a phone you buy today or before February 11, 2015 will support such an unlock. And, of course, the phone actually needs to offer the radio support for it to be worth unlocking to begin with.

That said, it's still a step forward and a commitment to openness that other carriers haven't yet made. What do you think — is Sprint making the right move here?

Source: Sprint; Via: 9to5Google


Reader comments

Sprint plans to make their Android smartphones SIM unlockable in February 2015


I'm a long time sprint user and I must say, they have come a long, long way. Keep it up guys!

Posted via the Android Central App on my Nexus 5

I've only been with Sprint almost 4 years, I only know that because it's almost time for my upgrade Yeah!! I agree they've made some great changes, but they have a long way to go.

Let me be the first to say I wouldn't go anywhere without my Sprint phone, I've had coverage (slow, but coverage) in areas where T-Mobile has gone silent and ATT&T is slow as molasses, but having to sell old Sprint phones or just let them sit in a drawer because they're locked to Sprint is dumb.

Me too. I never cared to even know what unlocking was until now.

I'm sorry I didn't. I always wondered how u could access the other radio and do just this.

Wait. I'm missing something. I thought legally (and as long as the phone was paid off and the contract over) that the carriers HAD to unlock the phone if the customer asked? Keeping mind not all devices can be unlocked.

No, there's no such law in the US. A house bill was passed that provided a DMCA exemption for unlocking your own cell phone (in other words, the bill made it not illegal to hack your own phone to unlock it), but the bill didn't require the cell companies to do anything, and it didn't pass the senate and make it into law.

The head of the FCC then requested that the carriers unlock cell phones after 1 year, and the carriers voluntarily agreed (but again, legally they don't have to do anything), but the voluntary agreement doesn't require them to fully unlock the phones (for example, they could unlock voice but not data). You can see the voluntary agreement at http://www.ctia.org/docs/default-source/fcc-filings/ctia-letter-on-unloc...

That said, the Sprint HTC One (M7), when unlocked by Sprint, was able to be used on domestic GSM carriers, so this isn't quite unprecedented.

That would be awesome for Sprint customers seeing that Verizon already sells some of there smartphones SIM unlocked out of the box. :)

All Verizon LTE phones are required to be unlocked. As long as an LTE phone on Verizon has GSM hardware, you can use it on a supported network.

as "evil" as Verizon is, my last three phones were not SIM-locked. (Samsung Galaxy S3, Note 2, Note 3)

In fact, I used all of them with T-Mobile and AT&T prepaid cards. (as well as foreign prepaid SIM cards)

I don't get why Sprint still locks theirs.

I do not understand how Sprint is not able to unlock devices manufactured with a SIM slot within the past three years because, 'Sprint has no technological process available to do this.", when they can request manufactures to distribute OTA that will offer the standard SIM Pin unlock like ATT and T-Mobile (all other GSM carriers). As well, how Sprint is able to unlock the SIM for International GSM but not for Domestic GSM, sounds like a bullsh*t to me. If Sprint wants to tell a lie at least make it believable. Sprint is the only carrier that doesn't unlock SIM for domestic and now consumers have to wait a year to buy devices that can be unlocked, when clearly majority of the current models are able to be unlocked (from other carriers) as well as have the bands of domestic carriers. This is very upsetting when many Sprint users rooted their smartphones like the HTC One (M7) and Samsung Galaxy S4 to gain SIM unlock for domestic use. Sprint please stop lying.

That's Sprint for you, every answer is either when you buy a new phone, or coming next year. Never what they can do for you now

That's exactly why I left them after 17 faithful years. Never cheated on them with another carrier. I jumped ship to Tmobile after they couldnt do anything for me,not lower my bill, not unlock my son iphone4s even after his contract was up, etc.

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If I'm not mistaken almost every Android Smartphone that Sprint sold had the SIM CARD built into the phone itself.

Example: GS3, EVO 3D, SGS24GEPICTOUCH....!

If the SIM CARD is built in how are normal people going to put another carriers SIM CARD in those phones?

Posted via SPARK enabled Sprint LG G2 that still spins fast after using 60GB in a billing cycle. {No Overages}

Yeah, newer ones now expose the SIM. Older ones are SoL. I don't think the EVO 3D had an internal SIM tho, it was really only about one year's worth of phones (SGS3, EVO LTE, etc). Weren't the EVO 3D and SGS2 Wimax devices? They never had a SIM system pre-LTE.

Sprint needs to start training their CS about this well in advance of it, possibly why the date's so far away (besides some current phones not being fully unlockable)...

I've got few complaints with Sprint CS overall, they've been excellent compared to my long and horrible experience with AT&T (they've given me a free Airave, free upgrade reset after they took away the yearly upgrades, etc etc)...

HOWEVER, the whole Nexus 5 activation debacle was a mess, and I was one of lucky ones, others had it much worse. I managed to get a SIM without too much trouble even tho the store rep initially said he couldn't just give it to me outright, others waited weeks in a queue to get one in the mail.

Even if you had a SIM, activation was messy... Three months after the N5 came out their phone reps still don't have a clue it's sold on the Play store and when you try to activate one they'll send people on a wild goose chase looking for numbers on the box that aren't there, etc.

I'm still generally pretty happy with Sprint tho, specially lately since my home DSL has been on the fritz... Using 6-10GB a month by myself would cost me a lot more with AT&T (no VZW here and TMo coverage is still hit or miss in Puerto Rico).

I've used 6GB in a month on the phone itself btw, no tethering, no big downloads, gone way past that with hotspot use and or lots of music downloads. LTE speeds hovering around 5-12mbps (with occasional spurts up to 30mbps or down to 3mbps).

Coverage is pretty great right now, Spark for better building penetration would make it perfect but I think that's a ways away for Puerto Rico.

This is good timing. Radio tech is evolving to where a universal phone which supports all US LTE bands will be possible in the coming months/year. As a result, unlocking will become more valuable to customers even on CDMA as they will be able to support all US bands on a single SKU. I can't wait for that day.

Posted via Android Central App

I want more phones like the Nexus 5. I like that I can take that to three of the four big carriers. I would give them a try if I knew I could go back that easily.

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It's about damn time. I'm looking forward to the day that I can buy a device like the Nexus 5 and use it on any network, including Verizon's. Hopefully, it will happen soon.

Well, it's about time for sprint to start getting it right. Wimax.. Then late 4g lte.. Then slow tower upgrades.. Their cs has always been great though in my experience. It's their towers that is dragging them down.

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It is the right move. Give your customers choices if you do good and want the customers to leave, they won't even leave. Just focus on what you are doing. Seems like Son has the right ideas in place.

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