Although most people generally don't think of it when they go to unlock their cellphone for another carrier, the process of doing so in the U.S. has been a topic of much debate involving consumers, the House of Representatives, and even the President of the United States.

For those unfamiliar, service providers like AT&T and Verizon typically lock their devices so they can only be used with their service. If unlocked, phones can be taken over to other carriers. This is hugely important for promoting healthy competition and empowering consumer choice, not to mention being very useful for travel.

Cellphone unlocking had previously been allowed but that law expired in January 2013, making the practice technically illegal within the U.S. After many months in limbo, Congress has decided to pass the unlocking bill making it once again legal, and President Barack Obama plans to sign it.

Such a silly thing to have in place, which certainly outlines how some of the laws are outdated. Sadly, it might not be the last we hear of it as the current exemption when signed is only good up until 2015.

Source: WSJ


Reader comments

U.S. House clears legislation to make unlocking cellphones legal


Well, good to see Congress do something for a change... Its a shame when only 2 out of 3 branches of the government is actually working for the American People...

I hardly consider congress working for us... But meh..once in awhile I suppose they can do something. Executive and Judicial poop on the public daily...

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Guess corporations just don't care enough though since most phones are not interchangeable between carriers anyway with cdma and gsm and all the different codes for bands. I still can't take a Verizon phone to Sprint or vice versa or either of those to att or t-mo.

The only reason why this bill passed is because phones are not universal, at least not till all carriers are on LTE volte, and qualcomm finally starts pushing out the multi band lte antenna's that will work for every carrier all in one, like they reported they can do now.

The best thing that needs to be done is to remove all corporate influences and money from the government. Almost every regulatory agency is run by ex corporate executives/ employees, Wheeler of the FCC was the head of the biggest telecomm lobby, Monsanto ex's are in the FDA, Goldman Sachs is in the FTC and Treasury, The list is endless. They do not look out for the citizens but push through as much corporate agenda as possible, and keeping the system broken for maximum profit.

Some phones do use chips which are capable of picking up a lot of different bands. Some even support *both* GSM and CDMA. I do agree wholeheartedly, though, about the corporate influence in government.

Exactly. Its a shame when only 1 out of 3 employees of a company is reading and understanding every American law they pass and every regulation their subordinates pass.

Wait, what? Less than 1/3 of your company's employees are lawyers? And nobody reads every new law (and every regulation)?

Posted via Android Central App on my HP TouchPad (Schizoid PAC-ROM 4.2.2)

No branch of Congress ever did anything more important than blocking the statist agenda of the current regime.

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It's nice we have a 1%-er commenting . You rich Romney types have cell phones? You and the Koch brothers have someone that makes your calls for you, don't you?

"Silly" is definitely the right word for this law, especially because the law was enacted to supposedly protect copyrighted/trademarked software, etc. Um...hello! All of the patent/copyright/trademark "trolling" happened from giant tech companies whether those devices were locked or not. Should be a simple law: You pay for it, you own it...period.

Since they're subsidised heavily, technically the locked phones are owned by the operator. Unless you bought it without a plan that is.

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Exactly. Those of us who purchase our phones outright should be allowed to unlock them whenever we want. Also, when the 2 years is up on tmobile and other carriers who have monthly device installment plans for phones.

Ummm, no. You pay for a device many times over while in contract, as it is built into the monthly plan rate. Technically you've bought the device a couple of times while in contract, which is just another reason contracts are crap. Why do you think prepaid plans are so much cheaper?

It amazes me that people still think that subsidized phones are a good deal. Sure they're a great deal for the carrier, since they know you'll be paying double for that device in 2 years! So who's device is it after you've paid twice for it?

Posted via Android Central App on my white Nexus 4 with StraightTalk ATT

For a while can't really put a definite time on it, but my Moto X and my S4 before it were both unlocked out the box.

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Every LTE phone since the iPhone 5. Go ahead and try it. Unfortunately just because the SIM is unlocked doesn't mean you'll get high speed data on all carriers because the radio bands may or may not be supported depending on the SOC.

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They generally work on T-MO with no issues.
No 1700 HSPA band though but then again the Google play edition HTC one didn't have that either

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The bootloader is not relevant to the operator or if the phone accepts other simcards anyway.

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Locked and blacklisted aren't the same thing.
Locked means you can only use it on a certain carrier.
Blacklisted you can't use on any carrier because it has been reported lost or stolen or account was canceled while still under contract.

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I always understood blacklisted to mean that it was locked and unusable to a certain carrier, but you can use some bad esn phones on other carriers...right?

no, technically not. You can flash a phone with a phony ESN number but you are really pushing illegal there.

Blacklisting and locking the SIM are 2 dufferen things. Every carier in the world has a unique carrier ID number. When a SIM is locked on a phone the phone checks the carrier ID of the SIM and if it doesn't match the one it is locked to it will ask for an unlock code or subsidy code (not to be confused with a PUK code which is different ). If you provide the right not (every phone has a unique one) then the phone is unlocked and you can proceed. If not you won't be able to do anything but emergency dial.

Carriers also record the IMEI of every device on their network. If these are on blacklists the phone won't be allowed to connect to the network even though the SIM is unlocked.

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I tried that with Droid RAZR maxx HD and it didn't work with att sim but when I placed European it was fine.
When I had S3 it wasn't until I installed the clean rom. Seems like Verizon did it only international roaming purposes while b making sure you don't swap within us.

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on VZW Moto X

Does that mean that carriers have to give you the unlock code if you ask for it? Or can they still deny you?

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They can deny you if you haven't paid for the device or if you haven't had service with them for a long time. For example, TMO required at least 60 days (if I remember correctly) of service if the device is paid for, 6 months of on-time payments if not paid for, or a statement that you will need unlocking for travel purposes. I think it also depends on the rep. Some were nicer than others, but one of the 3 was required.

ATT has the same requirements. They allow 5 unlockings a year. I don't see what the big deal with this unlocking situation. I know its a slight convenience to go to the store to get it unlock but the people that seems to demand a unlock phone are the ones that are trying to resell the phone right away. The 60 days rule and good account standing is to help prevent phone scammers.

This has to benefit big corporations in some way.
No way congress did something to benefit us.
I'm still waiting on GMO labeling. Was one of Obama's campaign promises.

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Did you ask the House which is ran by Republicans about this ? The President can't pass a thing without going thru the legislative branch.....

OK to clarify my problem isn't with GMO itself although I'm not jumping on the bandwagon of "if it can't be proven harmful then it must be harmless."
My problem is with the amount of pesticides they pump it with because it can withstand it. If you don't think Round-up is harmful then I have bad news for you.

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So good to see the president taking a break from all the killing and destruction of humanity to sign a bill on unlocking phones.

moved from nexus 5 to HTCm8

Because the current one has darker skin?
Because his dad is a Muslim?
He's nothing but a puppet. He's just doing as he's told.
McCain or Romney would doing the exact same shit.
Also 2 party system is broken.

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I am beginning to think that McCain might have turned out to be a sane choice (not that I would have voted for him at the time) but Rmoney would have been such a colossal disaster that we might never have recovered.

And yeah it comes down to being a blah guy who is progressive and energized a minority to actually care and vote for the first time in decades.

Romney would have helped in many more ways to revive morale than Obama or McCain. I'm not calling Romney a saint though, don't misunderstand. One of his hopes was for young people in this country to take more risks- a supremely important ideal in this day and age. Obama was/is void of any such ideal. McCain or Romney would have been a better choice though.

I am not sure, and truly interested in how Rmoney came across as that. Obamacare is his plan, yet he spoke out about it all the time.

It really does not sound progressive to me. Please, seriously, enlighten me.

It is unprecedented that a congress would come out and say that their sole mission was to make the president a one term president.

It is off the charts that the congress would even threaten to destroy not just the countries, but the world economy, over petty stuff.

Give me another reason for those two things. Tell me a legit reason that there is more venom spewed at this President than the last 20 combined. I will wait.

BTW what makes me a "know-nothing"?

Do you know what our national debt is? Do you understand what liberty is? Do you know what personal responsibility is? Do you see the direction this country is going holistically?

You play the Muslim, race cards... That takes a "know nothing" troll... Sorry to be rude, but it's true.

You really think Obama is ensuring more spewed venom than bush Jr? I guess there is something to be said about bias

Yes, I do know what the debt is but do you know that some of that is because the bill finally came due because of the wars of the past presidency? (they were kept off the books on purpose) Do you also know that the debt we owe is 1. Mostly owed to ourselves (Social Security) and 2. the debt we owe and the countries that owe us, really brings things down to a reasonable number. The people who say that the Chinese "own" our country are FOS.

Yes I do understand what liberty is. I also know that your liberty ends where mine begins. By that I mean that when you start to push your "stuff" onto me, we have issues with liberty.

Yes, I know what personal responsibility is, don't know how this plays into it.

Holistically? No I do not see that. If you are talking morally, we can head back to the liberty part of this conversation.

Yes, Bush spewed more venom than Obama. Hes started at least one war, against Iraq, under false pretenses.Why? either Oil or revenge for his dear old dad. He classified an entire religion as a terrorist threat. These are facts, not bias. I would call that much more venom than anything Obama has done.

Why do I need to scan over tons of unrelated off topic comments. Talk about thread hijacking. Holy fuck

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You can sugar coat and hyperbolize all you want, but if you don't think we are experiencing a "big government- tax big, spend big" like never before, that explains why you don't care about the adverse effects on the first place.

If you actually believe bigger government = more liberty, please don't be misunderstood any longer. Big government constricts liberty

If you thought I was trying to blame Obama for all this, you must have fanboy sheep syndrome. I actually blame harry Reid and Nancy pelosi more LMAO.

If you think Obama gets bashed more than bush... Yeah right, think again. Kanye west publicly stated that bush hatred black people. Funny though, because under bush ALL people had many more ways available to be more successful, even to a fault, hence the crash of the housing market... Anyways, in getting off topic. Point is, bush is/was more hated and is STILL blamed for things he should not be blamed for, and I don't even necessarily love the guy. I liked his dad more.

If you think you are going to have a "breakthrough "
Here, please don't. As a matter of fact, this is my last comment. Im not changing your mind either. But please stop leading with the race card. Yes, it still exists, but in a small pocket. 96% of us don't think of skin color, we think of the broken agenda. I would have voted for Herman Cain any day!!!

The race card is nothing but a hail Mary pass that liberals take to try to win debates, especially when you have conservatives that support potential candidates that are much 'blacker' than Obama is.

Oh so your saying that because the GOP "has a black friend" they cannot be racist.

It comes into play in almost every decision and statement that the GOP makes. They have an issue with women, minorities (black/spanish/other), LGBT...pretty much anyone that is not white and male.

Ok, and the left does nothing but exploit race. The only difference is they're better at BSing and keeping how they really feel to themselves. The left is on an "anyone but a white male" crusade right now. How is that not racist? I'd rather trust people that are willing to take risks and say some controversial things from time to time. Not just lie all the time to come off PC and "caring".

I am sorry, are white males being excluded from the ACA? How about marriage equality? How about immigration reform (hey Canadians and Europeans come over the boarder illegally as well)? How about voter ID laws?

Show me an instance of a law that has been passed or proposed where the target is white males.

The GOP is not taking risks with anything except the financial state of the world, the well being of the citizens (all of them) of the United States, and the health and welfare of women.

Nope non of that, but white males are being portrayed as the bad guy. Do you think there is any way the DNC candidate will be a white male in 2016? I seriously doubt it.

So you claim that the Dems are racist against White males, then pull back. Gotcha. Then double down with the "white males are being persecuted!!"

Just a thought here, and maybe it is thinking outside the box but have you thought that maybe the point of a candidate is to put the best person from your party, regardless of race, gender and sexual orientation out there? The GOP seems to think that white males are the only way to go. Hell, the major candidate for the GOP even changed his name from Raphael to Ted to be more Anglo.

BTW: Viable white males from the DNC
Jay Nixon
Russ Feingold
Tim Kaine
Mark O'Malley (doubtful but viable)

The point of the primaries is for the parties to find the best candidate, not the best white guy. Those days are over.

The lefty white guilt crowd are just as racist as the hillbilly southern whites, they're just too caught up in their own self righteousness to realize it.

Give me an example? You keep making that claim but have yet to back it up in anyway. I really cannot believe you split 5s and double downed again. Back it up or drop it.

Sure you have extremists on both sides but the DNC is not lead by those extremists like the GOP is. Those extremist are tearing the GOP apart as well which is sad. I know that there is some good still left in the GOP, they just have to find the balls to stand up to their own creation.

My example is the constant race card that they pull when someone disagrees with them or they don't get their way.

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That is not an example, that is your impression. I asked you for a specific example of it. Point me to a law where the white man is being targeted.

Thanks for picking an easy one.

Look at the Gerrymanding of districts, based on race, to assure that a GOP candidate is elected (making sure that the district is white, old and totally GOP). How about if we go with the constant voter fraud areas. Guess what, the targets of those districts are predominantly of color (black, brown, yellow).

Try again.

Not a law. I wouldn't bother with voter fraud either. You should probably stay away from that one.

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How exactly is the left not lead by the extremist when you have Obama as president (voted most left in a senate poll when he was in the senate) and you have the likes of hat Reid and Nancy pelosi? And you hypocritically bash this guy for information, all three while making all the fruitless claims you want... Neckbeard!

Also, keys get back to the claim that extremes don't lead in sheepville... When is the last time a viable dem ran for any public office, but didn't support abortion? Think hard...

Obviously that has changed. He is definitely a centrist at this point, trying to find some common ground. That is the funny thing. He gives the GOP what they want, then they say no, we do not want that any more. The GOP is playing keepaway with the lower and middle class.

I have yet to throw up a fruitless claim. Please point one out to me.

You are right I cannot recall a DNC candidate that was Anti-Womens rights (you see what I did there?). Part of what this country is founded on is for people to be able to make their own choices. One of those choices is what women do with their bodies. Why are you against freedom?

Looking at extremes is faulty. I don't care that 28% of the pop. Thinks he is outstanding... #1 he is still in office, #2 those are fanboys. Which means I don't look at those who rate him poor either, but those numbers are damming. Ik at the middle, "average", and his average is not good. It is probably lower mid tier.

You do know babies feel pain during abortion, right? Research Dr nathanson, I believe it is. He did abortions when they were illegal, all the way up to a little while back... Thousands of them. He reached a breaking point though, and his testimony can be read online.

What ever happened to personal responsibility? Do we really want a government to do everything for us, spending trillions in welfare programs? Is that a healthy message to send to the country? Shouldn't people have to work hard and earn a life they want? Why does the government always need to help out on the back end of our country people's mistakes? Why don't we try to help people make the right decisions on the first place, a family issue, not government. A healthy government would be more of an encourager of responsible behavior, not a rich dad that bails his kids out of trouble every time they do get in trouble

Babies do feel pain, but we are not talking about babies. We are talking about a group of parasitic cells living and feeding off the host.

Do you really want to group personal responsibility into this now? OK, it is taking personal responsibility to have an abortion when you know that you are not ready or capable of having a baby.

While I do agree with you that welfare should not be a perpetual thing, there is nothing wrong with giving people a hand up when needed. Besides that, what about corporate welfare? How much do we subsidize corporations? We need to make all wages a living wage so that we can cut these "working" welfare people (wal-mart, McDonalds) from the truly needy. Wait that is another GOP roadblock. They refuse to make corporations pay a living wage, but they also refuse to fill in the gap (not just wages but Health insurance, disability and so on).

Sure lets help people make the right decisions in the right place. Lets educated them on sex education and contraceptives (which face it is one of the big reasons for welfare) and lets funnel more money into education (did you hear that the Governor of Texas specifically stated that he would get some of the money for his NG boarder patrol from the Education budget?) which is another reason that people take these crap jobs.

It is time to increase the taxes on the corporations. Exxon pulls in 71 Billion in profits and they have it sheltered in several off shore corporations.

Lets stop sucking up to them and have them pay their fair share.


What about the baby's right to live...Freely?

Also, research the first woman to ever have an abortion (roe v Wade), her story and where she is today in her thought process.

Why do we kill life instead of celebrating life?

You already answered your own question, it is a matter of choice. If you kill a pregnant woman you are taking away all choices. You are limiting the freedom of both mother and potential child, not to mention the mothers choice to have that child or not.

The baby has no rights until it is viable. We have found a decent balance between when a group of cell can be removed from a host and when that group of cells actually becomes a person.

It is funny how the GOP and Pro-lifers by extension give a crap that the "baby" is born but right after that do not seem to care any more. They cut any and all programs that help low income mothers, They want to limit healthcare to both mother and child, want to limit WIC and pre- and intermediate school programs, limit after school programs and the list goes on and on. How about this. How about if we make contraceptives and sex education (you can include abstinence, but not limit it to) freely available to everyone aged 13 and up (yeah it is said to say that 13 year olds need this as much as anyone).

Free birth control pills, morning after pills and condoms would go a long way towards meeting both our goals here. There is no way that the GOP would even consider this. True or false?

If you consider a group of cells life, you must never take cold medicine, get antibiotics for an infection, or even take a shower. If cells are life, you are killing them by doing any of the things I mentioned.

Yeah I agree with that, the GOP's half assed interest in abortion is contradictory.

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Why even bring skin color and religion in to it? He's allowed to have an opinion.

>I'm the kind of guy who stops a microwave at one second to feel like a bomb defuser.

Unfortunately it is relevant. It should not be, but it keeps coming up time and time again. Never have I heard a President get grilled so hard over Birth Certificate in my life, especially since it was determined that his mother WAS an American citizen. It was appalling.

Step away from the Faux News. Think for yourself instead of what the pretty white girl (or guy depending on your preference) tells you.

Spew your Venom at the obstructionists in congress, not the guy who has very little power over actually, you know, making the laws (if you do not understand the point there, you have no business speaking).

You actually believe the current administration's agenda has the long term benefit of our country in mind? Key words: long term...if you don't understand the point, you have no business speaking

Yes, in the long term the ACA, among other policies, are nothing but healthy for the country. I do not know about you, but I feel better sleeping at night knowing that people have to pay for their own health insurance instead of going to the ER for a cold and my insurance having to foot the bill.

Besides, this administration has not charged billions of dollars of un needed, unwarranted, and stupid war debt to future generations.

That is kinda a win

"A government big enough to give you everything you want, is a government big enough to take away everything that you have."


What have you lost?

The '' patroit'' act was the biggest loss of freedom in the history of this country.

No one has come for guns, freedoms are protected for ALL. What have you lost in the last 6 years?

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NoNexus I do not mean to take sides, but only to speak facts.

Am I to understand by your health insurance statement that only The Strong of ($Capital$) should be allowed fair medical treatment?

My thoughts are in order for one to be strong there has to be at least one that is weak. And doesn't that mean that once the weak are gone the least strongest of the strong becomes the weak, and the cycle continues until there is only one?

Posted from my "KNOX-FREE" 4.3 Sprint GS3 Maxx...!!! (PREPAID)

No. I am not sure how you got that out of my statement. I was basically saying that I am glad that there is an affordable way for those that are uninsured to be covered. That instead of going to an emergency room, they can see a regular doctor and only have a small Co pay.

When I worked the Healthcare sector, it was common for someone to rack up 2k in emergency room bills because they were uninsured and could not pay the doctors cash price.

The aca levels the playing field and assures that people get care

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When we start blaming parties for things not happening the way we want them to it shows you missed the bigger picture. None of the president's have much power these days yet we keep blaming them like they're the answer. I pity the bias because their field of view is so tiny.

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Yeah the PM here in the uk is a dick too there all the same. Presidents, Prime Ministers, Dictators, Terrorists.

moved from nexus 5 to HTCm8

No decent Man will ever survive in politics, so why look any of the POTUSes differently. And BTW, in the end of the day, one guy in the oval office , don't really have any power to begin with. Yet, people love to fight over their favorites.
It's the false choice in very much farcical political spectrum. "We the people" was just an idea, that's all.

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on VZW Moto X

Yeah and as someone said up thread, the 2 party system is broken. We stopped giving a crap to what was needed for people and only pay attention to the special interests.

Until congress and the potus make all cell phone networks take all cell phones I looking at you Verizon!, this is meh news. Just because a phone doesn't have all your bloatware or crapware doesn't mean it can't work on the network. Ask the world about that.

well the problem there is GSM vs CDMA. Come back in in a few years when LTE-A is the de facto standard and all phones are compatible.

You and me both. I know that there are 2 variations of LTE-A, and I do not know what he impact of them being different is, but I hope it does not stand in the way.

I am sure it will, the carriers need to figure out a way to keep us under thumb.

Until you pay it off, it is not yours. Just like your car or house. You can use it, but if you stop paying, they can take it back

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I sold my not paid for House and bought another one!!!! I could do the same with my not paid for car. Why not phones?

Nexus 5

Sure you can do that. You cannot take the money from the sale of your first house and just stick it in your pocket, You have to go to the bank and pay it off. Same principal applies here. You can sell the phone off, but you are still on the hook for the cost.

No they can't repossess a phone are you serious? They just send you a bill for the rest of the installment payments or an ETF if you were stupid enough to sign a contract.

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No they cannot repossess it but they sure as hell can cut off service and blacklist the phone so that it is no more than a paperweight.

Does this include phones from sprint? I know that none of them can be moved to other carriers.

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That's just it, in the US this law doesn't truly help us. While it may forse carriers to unlock your phone, due to different radios it won't work on other carriers.
Yet in a few years, this might change as we slowly move to LTE-A and a universal GSM network.

If you want a true unlocked phone that at least works on two US networks and Europe, then buy an unlocked phone from the start. HTC, Samsung, and if I'm not mistaken Motorola, all sell unlocked. If we can get others like LG to join up and sell unlocked, then we have more choices.

Posted via Android Central App using the all new HTC One (m8)

This is great news for T-MOBILE and AT&T customers; but if you're with Verizon or Sprint, you "really" can't take you CDMA phones anywhere else. ( But if your CDMA phone has 4G LTE which utilizes a SIM card, you may get 2G service on a different network.)

Most Verizon phones will work nicely on T-Mobile's LTE network and refarmed HSPA. So that's not entirely true.

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Just wondering, but can you take any of those MOTOROLA DROID Razr Maxx's to T-Mobile and work on T-MOBILE'S 4G LTE network? The safest bet seems to be taking AT&T 4G LTE phones ( which utilize LTE band 4 & LTE band 17) to T-MOBILE ( which utilizes LTE band 4) and still receive 4G LTE on T-MOBILE...

Verizon has added band 4 to all of their new phones for their new XLTE. I'm pretty sure all of Verizon phones now have quad band HSPA radios also. That seems to put them on the same level as AT&T's phones (both lack band 4 HSPA for T-Mobile's not refarmed areas). The real difference is most (perhaps all) of AT&T phones are SIM locked out of the box and most of Verizon's are not.

You make a great point that for the most part, a Verizon phone is almost usable on some networks. But the same could be said for almost any other carriers. Or in other words, an AT&T phone could be used on T-Mobile unless it is in a non refarmed area too. No big deal.

But a true universal (and fully functional) US unlocked phone is a long way from reality.

Posted via Android Central App using the all new HTC One (m8)

Dont get me wrong, I'm not saying I wouldn't want to either a Verizon or AT&T phone on T Mobile's network. Both would be lacking in non refarmed areas, which probably make up half of the areas I visit. The only non T-Mobile phones that would work for me would be the Nexus 5 and the Moto X. The former is portable to three of the four carriers, the latter to two, which is far from universal. It's sad that we're still dealing with this.

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What radio frequencies, LTE bands, etc. would an US unlocked phone need in order to be fully functional in the US? Obviously, the networks ( except T-MOBILE which isn't afraid to take chances) would never want such a phone so that they can keep their customers chained to their own network.

This is one thing I really do not get. If I get a prepaid phone or if I pay off my phone it should have all the bands available for all carriers in all places. I should be able to take a phone, that is totally mine, and have it work in East Bumblefark if needed.

I do blame the OEMs for this one.

Look at the bands that the Nexus 5 has, then add band 13 for Verizon and band 12 for T Mobile's new LTE. That should be enough for the entire US. Of course, I'm not sure if I missed any bands for the regional carriers.

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Thanks HIBERNY. Is BAND 12 even up running on T-MOBILE? It seems the safest bet are newer AT&T-branded phones which all have LTE band 17 (700) and the almost "universal" LTE band 4 (1700/2100). This I can be confirm because my unlocked LG OPTIMUS G PRO ( which is an AT&T exclusive) gets 4G LTE on T-MOBILE.

My Verizon Droid Maxx works wonderfully on my AT&T account as well as my T-Mobile account.

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