unlocked

Did you know that as of Jan 26, 2013, it's "illegal" to unlock your phone? Of course you did. You've seen the "Sky is falling!" headlines

It's not quite that simple, but that's what you'll hear around the Internets today. The too-long-didn't-read simple version is that you'll likely not be affected in any way (minus the personal freedom aspect). But after seeing so many people worried, and some of the poor information they were receiving, we knew it was time to talk about it a bit. 

In 1998 Congress passed a law that provides copyright protection to the software (and software means written code, remember) that locks your cell phone to a certain carrier. This has nothing to do with rooting, or bootloader unlocking. It only covers locking your phone to a GSM carrier through software. As a provision of this law, the Librarian of Congress (which I imagined as a totally hot babe with her hair in a bun, and was quickly disappointed when I investigated) is allowed to grant exceptions, and did until his October 2012 decision to allow the DMCA to regulate cell phone locking. Fast forward to today, when the exceptions expired, and now the software used to lock phones is covered under the same copyright laws as most other software.

It sounds scary. But it's really not. Let's have a look.

What is really going on?

The first thing to realize is that if you bought your phone before today, none of this applies. The conditions and terms you agreed to when you bought your phone will still apply. Anything up until now is grandfathered in. But what about phones you'll buy tomorrow and beyond?

Well, unlocking phones to use on a different carrier without permission is now against the law. That's pretty crappy, but as the CTIA blog points out, this is no different than your car. Until you're finished paying off your loan for it -- and that's really what a smartphone subsidy is -- you're not allowed to transfer title without permission from the lien-holder. When you buy a subsidized phone on contract from your carrier, it is the lien-holder, and it's up to the carrier when and where you get to use it. Read the fine print on your car loan -- I'll bet you never knew the finance company could tell you you're not allowed to park your car in a place they don't like. Of course, that's not enforced. But that's not to say it can't be used against you in court.

Now, AT&T and T-Mobile and any other carrier can do the same thing. Does that suck? Yes, but it's a price you pay for getting the phone subsidized (financed). 

OK, what does that mean to me?

The good news is that, as the Librarian of Congress points out, carriers have "liberal, publicly available unlocking policies." AT&T will unlock your phone for you once you meet their criteria. So will Verizon. And that criteria hasn't changed now that the DMCA covers unlocking. Nine times out of ten, they will shoot you an unlock code if your bill is current and you have a legitimate need to use it. 

The gray area comes from using third-party unlocking sites. Under the letter of the law, these folks may be committing a crime if they do this sort of business in he U.S. (We've asked a few for their take but have yet to hear back.) You are, too, if you knowingly use their services. It's the same crime millions of Android users commit when they flash G apps -- not honoring the license for software they are using. As a user, you can be subject to civil penalties. That means you can be held liable to pay the affected party (your carrier) the amount of money they have been harmed (the cost of the phone), with additional assorted court fees. The penalties for folks unlocking phones to make money are more severe, and outside the scope of this blog post -- talk to a lawyer if you have those sort of questions.

Got it. Now how do I unlock my phone?

So, what do we need to do? Pretty much the same thing we always have done. If you need to unlock your phone, call AT&T or T-Mobile and ask them. They'll probably say yes, so long as your account is in good standing. (How new your phone is might affect things, too.) And it won't cost you anything if you give them a legitimate reason. Legit reasons are things like going on a trip and want to use a local SIM, or you need to use the phone in an area where they have poor coverage for work, or anything that sounds reasonable that doesn't make them think you're going to end your contract or sell the phone. I'm not saying you should lie to them, just deliver the truth the same way they do when they say unlimited.

T-Mobile has a simple, easy to read unlocking policy as you can see here. AT&T's policies are not so simple, but Dan over at WP Central managed to do it over the phone for his Lumia 900.

If they still say no, well I can't advise anyone to break the law, but I know what I would do -- head happily into that gray area like the honey badger.

A few more things worth mentioning

  • While the law covers all phones, it only really applies to GSM phones. CDMA phones (Verizon and Sprint) aren't "locked" on the device, and instead use a database that the carrier controls to decide if you can or can not use a particular phone on their network.
  • This does not apply to phones that are purchased unlocked. AT&T can't lock your Nexus 4 or any other unlocked device.
  • Finally, this only applies inside the US. If you're reading from elsewhere, you can feel free to sit back and smugly laugh at our laws. 

Hopefully, this answers any questions you might have had about this whole silly mess, and we can go back to arguing about which phones are better.

 

Reader comments

What you need to know about cell phone unlocking

87 Comments

Thanks for bringing this panic back down to earth. Lots of people freaking out, very few reading anything factual.

While I agree their is no reason to panic, the one big wildcard they don't mention is carrier's aren't obligated to unlock your phone in any way and they aren't obligated to keep the same terms for unlocking phones.
Those terms they give for unlocking phones could be changed, they don't have to allow unlicks after your contract is up and they could do what Verizon has done on some of their phones that include GSM capability, allow use of foreign sims, but not sims from AT&T or T-mobile.

AT&T for one would have much to gain changing their terms in this way, as AT&T and T-mobile phones are becoming more and more compatible with T-mobile's refarm. T-mobile is even advertising bring your unlocked phone to T-mobile.

And you, random internet person, are the personification of the "TL;DR" blog browser. If you actually pay for your phone (the real price, not the 2 year contract price) then this doesn't and has never affected you! When you sign that 2 year contract you agree to have your phone locked and out of your control.

If you read the article the Car analogy is what I've been using with people for quite a while now. When you finance a car you are giving up a lot of freedom as to what you can do with the car, even down to what you can do in terms of customization of the paint job. Are a lot of these little hooks ever used? No... but they exist.

So guess what? You do own what you pay for. You just don't own the software that runs it, you lease it. You lease Windows. You lease Mac OS. You lease iOS and you even lease Android (albeit with a much wider lease terms). You lease the software on your Playstation or XBox or Wii.

Before you fire off with "Well then why can't I mod my system?" the games all have terms of service as well as you own the physical media the game is stored on that if you want to play you agree to play on an unmodded system and in good standing with your terms of service for the parent system.

Is this a perfect system? No... but it's what we got. Your misguided notions of owning software are the same as previous notions of "I bought this book, I own it." You may own the paper book, but you don't own the story. You may own the DVD but you don't own the movie. Colloquialisms such as "I own that movie" or "I own that song" have given young people the wrong idea about what they truly own in the eyes of the law. You own the medium, not the content. This is why if you buy a CD or movie it is for private use only and not intended for public performance without a seperate license.

TL;DR? You didn't read or comprehend the article. Your post is an example of insane amounts of ignorance of how the world works.

Seriously, How many people are going into carriers getting a subsidized phone for $200-300 on a contract, then paying the $350 for ETF after getting the phone, just save $50-100 and switch the phone to another carrier? Seems like a lot of work and you won't make any money off the phone unless its a new iphone.

I know people who got a subsidized apple phone from Verizon, kept using their Android phone and just sold the iphone on ebay to make $3-400 but kept his contract and kept using his old thunderbolt, he had 3 lines on his account with only 2 people using them. But iphones are unlocked already so unless they start locking iphones does it matter, and what if you sell the phone to a person that wants to use the same carrier?

The carriers made up the rules, people found a legal way around the rules, and then the carriers use their lobbyist to manipulate the government to get their way. Sad that the American people need Lobbyist to make their congressmen represent us. Corporate America owns the government. Thomas Jefferson just rolled a bit in his grave.

Sold to someone who wants to use it on the same carrier doesn't matter, this is only referring to network locks. Though a little known problem with selling locked phones online is that while someone can sell you a phone that's locked and you can activate the phone on that carrier. If the original user is still on contract and stops paying, they will ban the imei on gsm or the esn on cdma and your phone you bought will stop working.

That's why I always advise people not to buy used locked phones on sites other than ebay, like craigslist because you have no recourse in that event.

I have a situation I don't know how to fix... my phone was stolen so I bought an unlocked phone with the same carrier from someone on ebay. Got it activated through my carrier and had no problem using it for several months until it asked me for the google acct info- the original username and password. I do not have that so I am locked out of my phone. I tried to contact the seller for the info but have gotten no response. Does anyone know what I need to do to fix this? please help!

And you are the type of users who buys the lie that subsidized handsets are really given to your for a cheaper price, they aren't. You pay well over retail over the course of your contract for that phone than the retail price. Even Verizon's prepaid plans show that.

Subsidized and locked into a contract for 2 years, or bought at retail you still pay the full price and often more over the course of your contract.

complete load of crock.

if your using verizon or att in the US and you arnt goin to switch phones/companies before your contract is up. your better off saving the money with the subsidized

and yes you do infact save money. on contract subsidized or off contract paid in full phone your monthly bill is the same on most if not all US carriers.

Dear random internet idiot behind id kamui957. The problem is not for contract owners only. It is for everyone. I am in battle now with t-mobile who I have never had a contract. Customer service acknowledged all terms had been met. But refused to give unlock code, citing that I need to wait for them to get code from Samsung. I contacted Samsung, said they don't have code and are not allowed by law to unlock the phone, and T-mobile has unlock code when they are given the phone. Random internet idiot behind id kamui957, your reply reeks of ignorance beyond an imbecile. Please hold your breath until I return to this site.

@mirahsan2
You haven't paid for your device if you got it through a subsidy.

If you use a subsidy when buying your device the device technically isn't yours until the contract is up.

I'm not saying you should lie to them, just deliver the truth the same way they do when they say unlimited

Best line EVAR!

What about if I buy the phone at full price from carrier or online store like eBay and then I want to unlock it? Thanks

The law only applies to.phones bought directly from the carrier (or their authorized resellers of course ) so a device bought second hand -even if listed as new - on eBay or Craigslisr is exempt.

Also if you walk into a carrier store and buy say a One X+ full price the carrier will unlock it for you.

In my country (Singapore), it is actually illegal by law for carriers to lock their phones they are selling.

Sure the phones may be subsidized (.......cough iPhone.......cough Galaxy S3) but i could switch SIM-cards like nobody's business.

Yea, the USA sucks with a lot of stuff like this. America is very pro business, not pro consumer. So it's usually the consumers that get screwed without Vaseline.

While you're correct that the consumer frequently gets screwed in this kind of climate, the cause of the climate itself is often consumers "gaming" the system and trying to cheat companies out of money.

We have too many people who think that cell phones are a right and, when the carrier cuts service for non-payment, they try to take the phone and jump ship to another carrier. That's what they are really trying to fight back against here. It really is not different that having a loan on a car, except for the part where US carriers don't reduce the service amount when the phone is not being subsidized.

*That* is what we consumers should be upset about. Not strides being taken to prevent consumers from screwing the companies. I would *love* to see the carriers go to more of a "financing" model rather than a "subsidy" model like we have now.

If there was no ETA, yeah, that has to be prevented. But that isn't the case. The fact is that by exiting your contract early, you'll pay $350 or so, which more than covers any remaining cost of the device. There's no gaming the system when you pay up anyway.

That's true. And the purpose of this law is to force you to pay that ETF. There are those who don't care about their credit and would just let the non-payment of the ETF hit their credit after they had setup with another carrier.

And here in Russia SIM-locked phones aren't common. Have never seen this at people I communicate with. Very rare to see, because they aren't popular. In Russia there are more SIM-cards in use than people population. Many people have several SIM-cards of different carriers.
And even carrier shops have never-locked phones in stock, not only their.

The USA don't use metric system and Celsius. A lot of children in the USA are against guns restrictions. And now THIS.

Factory default never-locked phones mean freedom. SIM-lock means 'Murica and its stupid people inside. Where are they? In a parallel universe?

This article seems to have an inaccuracy: you should be able to legally flash Google apps in a seperste package. The license terms do not allow them to be distributed in a ROM image without being approved by Google. I'm basing this off information from rootzwiki that is likely accurate. http://wiki.rootzwiki.com/Google_Apps

I can't find anything at all to find if this is legal. What is odd to me is that while Cyanogen got a C&D early on, why hasn't goo.im received similar?

I was always under the impression that since CM is fully open source, but G-Apps are closed source, Google told CM they couldn't include G-Apps in the ROM file, they could only link to a separate download.

Google holds all license, including copyright as defined by the DMCA, on their closed source software. They just don't mind if we use it, as long as we don't abuse the privilege. 

Makes sense. We get to use the Google apps, Google gets their data and our patronage in Google Play. No one breaks any rules and its win-win.

I was impressed with AT&T's unlocking system. I recently had to downgrade from a Spring GS2(Epic 4G Touch) to an AT&T GS(Captivate), but wanted to use it with Straight Talk. I called AT&T, told them I bought the phone from Ebay(even though a friend just gave it to me) and the lady was really nice about it. Said it'd take a few minutes to make sure the phone was even unlock-able and that it wasn't reported as stolen, couple minutes of holding and she gave me the unlock code. No other questions asked, no sales pitch for AT&T service.

I seriously, nearly pissed my pants laughing when I read this line...

"Legit reasons are things like going on a trip and want to use a local SIM, or you need to use the phone in an area where they have poor coverage for work, or anything that sounds reasonable that doesn't make them think you're going to end your contract or sell the phone. I'm not saying you should lie to them, just deliver the truth the same way they do when they say unlimited."

Thanks Jerry!

Glad I unlocked mine before all this. One question, though. Is buying the unlock code illegal, too? Like from where I got my unlock code, cellunlocker.net.

So does this mean that we can't use the trick Phil showed us on video of how to get the droid DNA to work on at&t?

Here in Denmark smartphones are not Locked by Carier at all ;-) I know you are talking about US law right?

Karoelle

They've never really needed an excuse to not unlock devices. They've never been under any obligation to do so. The only difference is that now, if you unlock through a third party, the carrier has legal recourse to get you to pay them the full, unsubsidized cost of the phone.

I totally agree with previous posters about the "unlimited" line...hilariously right on. And I own the device, but not the software to make it work...right. The US seriously needs a makeover of its copyright laws. This whole proprietary thing gets in the way of innovation. If cavemen had copyright we'd still be freezing our ass off waiting for permission to start a fire.

So what happens if I end up taking my phone outside the US and unlocking it there for (local) use? Is that a prosecutable offense upon return?

I look forward to the day that we can buy a cellphone at a resonable price that will work on either GMS or CDMA. Then take that phone and chose a service provider that offers the best bang for the buck. Why should buying a cellphone be any different than any other piece of electronics? The subsidized model just needs to go away.

Couldn't agree more.

I used to buy on-contract and subsidized. I now refuse to.

U.S. consumers are currently hooked on subsidies and the carriers know it. Until people stop buying into 2-year contracts in order to get cheaper phones, the carriers will continue to subsidize the phones (and subsequently tell people what to do with their phones).

most people don't care about contracts and if their phone is locked or not. we are the minority when it comes to this. some like me have been with Sprint (or the other carriers)for years and don't see myself leaving them so its worth signing a contract to pay less for my phones. What needs to happen is non contract carriers need to get more top end phones ans sell them cheaper or at the contracted price. that to me will force the big boys to change their ways. Imagine phones with spec like the S3, Note 2, Nex4 etc selling for 300 to 400 out right? when this happens then maybe I will leave Sprint.

Jerry as always a great read and perfect explanation.

Youn can buy an unlocked, imported Note II or Galaxy S III for $600 and Note II for $689 from Mobile City Online (for example) and put it on Straight Talk for $45 per month (or T-Mobile 5 GB data, 100 minutes talk for $30) and save a lot. Even if the phone seems "more expensive" than a subsidized one since it is full retail, you save in the long run on the plan.

I had Verizon and paid $100 per month for my Thunderbolt. Now I have the N7100 Note II on Straight Talk and pay $45 per month.

The strong point with those GSM MVNOs is that you don't need them to sell a phone, you buy that on your own and just bring it in.

Another option is the Nexus 4, it is a bargain for $349 and I would take it without a second doubt if my other choice is a carrier branded S III or Note II. (I like the N7100 but not the bloated versions of the device they sell in the US - so I bought mine in Sweden and brought it here).

My question is, are the plans any cheaper if you don;t take the subsidized phone? If not, you're ripping yourself off in the long run.

Verizon and Sprint more-or-less only let you use devices that originated with them. Given how CDMA works, they can do that more easily. For the most part, you aren't going to save money going pre-paid with these carriers.

Sprint owns Virgin Mobile, and they have much better pricing, but again, device support is more of a problem. Many CDMA phones will work, but, for example, Virgin uses a non-standard method for MMS messaging, which requires Virgin software to work.

MetroPCS also uses CDMA, and will flash over nearly any CDMA phone, but their network has NO 3G at all, so if the phone doesn't support Metro's LTE frequencies, you're stuck on 2G data.

Essentially, CDMA is a lousy choice for "unlocked prepaid" service.

AT&T and T-Mobile use GSM phones, which are more-or-less the world standard. Not all phones support T-Mobile's frequencies, but T-Mobile is switching a lot of towers over to use 1900 MHz, which makes lots more phones workable on T-Mo. You can use pretty much any unlocked GSM phone on either carrier, or on their pre-paid MVNOs, and save a LOT of money on your monthly bill.

Great article and very easy to understand, though I'm not really affected because I'm on Sprint. And even if CDMA carriers operated like GSM in this respect, I usually buy my phones outright.

What I don't understand though is why the imagined Librarian of Congress wasn't wearing glasses, a crisp, white, first-3-buttons-unbuttoned man's dress shirt? I mean if you're gonna' go all "hot librarian" on us you should go for the gusto. If wearing her hair in a bun and being smokin' hot is good, the glasses and the shirt pretty much set it on fire.

Jerry:

Hope this article keeps your free phones and invites to wine and cheese parties coming from the Carriers.

The main issue here is not really being able to lock or unlock the phone. If we agreed to do that under the contract which we purchased the phone - even if we have paid its value many times over- that is what we agreed to do pursuant to our contract with the carrier.

The main issue and the thing that is most disturbing is why the hell are we making breach of contract over unlocking a locked phone a "crime". If anything it should involve a civil suit between a carrier and the person who bought the phone. Why the hell should the FBI be hunting down every geek who hacks his phone or messes with his software in violation of some "click wrap" agreement. These are commercial agreements and should be dealt with between private individuals.

Let the Carriers do their own investigation and expend their own money to bring civil cases and not make us criminals for violating commercial agreements.

I think you missed the part about copyright infringement. This has almost nothing to do with contractual law. Like the internet, intellectual property is serious business. The criminality isn't in the act of unlocking, its in the act of tampering with something you don't own (the software). What you are proposing is akin to Amazon suing you for pirating an MP3 you purchased. It's not about amazon and their owner ship of said MP3, its about you making money off of someone else's property (the content of the MP3). Amazon is imply providing you a means of licensing the song for yourself for private enjoyment.

Truthfully, I highly doubt the average geek needs to really worry about this, its more the people who have businesses doing this that need to worry.

My friend whether you realize it or not there is a close and symbiotic relationship between the law of contract and intellectual property.

As one legal commentator has accurately noted:

"An interaction between intellectual property and contract rules has always been a primary characteristic of intellectual property rights as distributed in the open market, and this interaction is central to whatever balance has been achieved. When one speaks about an existing balance in the property rights sector, it is futile to focus solely on the statutory provisions of the copyright, patent or trademark laws. One must, of necessity, understand and incorporate into the analysis the fact that the policy choice has always assumed that property rights are routinely transferred, waived, released, and licensed. Contracts provide the means for the development and commercial exploitation of information assets. Only the most naive observer, or one with a clear political agenda, can look at the intellectual property laws and their history and suggest that policy in the property sphere trumps or precludes the influence of contract."

In other words copyright law may create property rights but contract law rules the licensing of those rights and the rights of the parties in that licensing arrangement.

I hear what you're saying, 100%, and understand your post but I do not think that anyone will take the onus onto themselves (civil suits) when criminal law can be applied. On the micro level I doubt we'll hear much about Joey Unlocker getting his door smashed down by a SWAT team but Joey Unlocker Inc is the intended target of this whole misadventure. I would be surprised if we feel any difference in treatment from carriers. The intent (i would hope) of this law is to eliminate the systemic problem of unlocking profitability that exists from a business enterprise sense as opposed to someone flipping a couple phones on eBay. Am i off base with this? I want this to be a productive discussion. I don't think this is something that individuals need to get bent out of shape over.

At the heart of the issue, i don't agree with this decision and i think its a step backward for the consumer as the whole locked/unlocked landscape is being painted negatively. I think of it as privately pirating a couple movies vs. serious pirating rings which are the target here (i hope).

Jeez! That was my point to begin with. The Carriers (and other Corporations with big Lobbying bucks) have succeeded in taking something that should be a civil legal action and making it criminal. Why should the FBI and the DOJ act as an extension of the legal department of ATT & T Mobile? Why should our tax dollars go to enforce license agreements between corporations and individuals? The answer is they should not!

What's next? Do we re-institute Debtor Prisons for failing to pay your wireless bill?

Congress acting at the behest of corporate lobbyists has made copyright laws increasingly draconian. If the corporations had their way we'd be tossed in prison for using VCR's for recording TV shows for later viewing (Sony v. Universal Studios); using commercial skipping DVR's (the Hopper case): or, reselling a book you may have purchased overseas (JOHN WILEY & SONS v. KIRTSAENG).

Again, thanks for bringing calm sanity into reactions filled with Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. For me, this changes nothing. I've already started buying my phones without subsidies and using pre-paid plans, which means a big hit when I switch phones, but amortized over the usual contract, I pay less and have more freedom to switch when I want.
I don't think the carriers really needed any incentive over having to pay a percentage of the subsidy when you transfer out of the contract early, but I'm not surprised they did it anyway. The only sense subsidizing to the extent they do, especially on smartphones, is to be able to make their money on the bulk of the contract.

The questions is, why should I phone I purchase to be really locked! I bought it and is mine, let me do with it whatever I want.

useful artucle, but a little bit too "don't-worry-be-happy" for my taste.

what's missing here, is the part of the article where they tel you about (organizing) a petition/protest to CHANGE THIS BAD, STUPID LAW(!)
:p

LOL...I was looking for that myself. Would you mind starting one? EVERY Developer, mobile phone user, and cell phone repair owner/employee should sign it! Please post the info you decide to start one or come across one! :)

I'm hoping someone can help me gain some clarification on a specific scenario/situation, sorry if the answers are already in here somewhere, I'm tired of browsing and I'm not very knowledgeable about this kind of stuff and want to make sure I understand because it seems like every time I think I'm getting it, I read something else that seems to say something different. My husband and I have both been long time Verizon customers, we both used to have separate accounts before we married but then merged them once married and now we also added a couple friends' existing verizon lines to our account with us to help them out for a total of 4 lines. We are getting sick of Verizon for various reasons and I am looking into whether it might be cheaper and less aggravating to use Cricket. My current 2 year contract is showing an end date in the next few days (yay!) and one of the friends' contract is already up and is on a month to month basis now, but my husband's line and the other friend still have til sometime in 2014 before their contracts are fulfilled. I'm wondering if we can just pay the early termination fee(s) for their lines and be able to take all of our phones (except mine..I need a new phone and and would probably just buy Cricket's Galaxy SIII) and use them with Cricket? Would Verizon unlock the one friend's phone whose contract is already fulfilled? Would they also unlock my husband's and the other friend's phones as long as we pay the early termination fee(s) for them? And/or would Cricket or someone else be able to legally "flash" the phones over to be able to use fully and legally with Cricket? I don't want to do anything illegal, my husband and our friends would just very much prefer to just keep their existing phones if possible, both for reasons of cost and the friends particularly are older folks who don't like to learn new devices if they don't have to lol. All of the phones were acquired from Verizon before 2013. Thank you!

ATT gave me the unlock code for my phone and I unlocked it. Now gmail says my password is invalid. I tried my current password. I tried my original password. I tried one of the verification codes that google gave me when I switched to 2-step verification. Nothing works. I can't remove the account and start over unless I do a factory reset which I can't do because I have to much info on the phone. Does anyone know how to fix this? Google makes you use their products but doesn't give any customer support. Thank you

Seriously people, save yourself trouble and simply buy unlocked phones outright. E.g. the Google Nexus 4.

What if I bought a phone in UK, second hand, and i need to use it in another country? It's an android phone, sony xperia j and there are no more tries left for the common unlock method, with the code.

Catalin - have you tried Windows PC USB based utilities? I don't know if one exists for a Sony Xperia J - check XDA Developers website. With some of these you can 'root' the phone programmatically without a 'code'.

Sorry for posting this in different threads but I don't know the answer yet; if I root an already SIM unlocked device, will it stay SIM unlocked? i.e. will I be able to continue to use it with any compatible carrier I choose?
Thanks

angelseph - it seems you confuse 'rooting' and 'unlocking'. It seems you have an unlocked phone and wish to 'root' it and would like to know if, after 'rooting' the device, it will remain unlocked. It most likely will. In fact, one way (a device specific, kind of complicated way) of 'unlocking' a device is to first have 'root' access. As 'root' (or "Admin"), you have access to the 'locks' - many times this is accomplished through a complex system of 'button' pushing to access hidden menus.

The statement that "you are unlikely to be affected in anyway" is an understatement. Many carriers disabled 'standard' features of an Android version and will only 'unlock' them for a monthly fee. 'Tethering' is a good example of this. This feature will work on any Samsung Galaxy S II - but it's unlikely that it works on your phone unless you pay a monthly fee for the 'service' (that really isn't an 'extra' service). And you most likely will never be 'upgraded' to KitKat 4.4.2 with all it's new functions - although your phone is perfectly capable of running it. If you want those functions the 'solution' your carrier has is to purchase a new $650 phone and, of course, pay extra fees every month for 'tethering' if you want it. However it is possible to put a version of KitKat 4.4.2. made specifically for the [Carrier]Samsung Galaxy S II on your phone -- one does exist. And using this ROM your carrier will never know if you 'tether' your laptop to gain broadband internet access for it - so they can't charge you ANY extra monthly fee for this service. So this legislation does have a very negative impact on your wallet, both in the large 'upfront' cost of purchasing it and every month thereafter to use standard Android features they call extra 'services'.

Thanks for making this so easy to understand. The only thing that I don't agreed with is that the carrier won't give the code very easly.

Back in January this year, I requested my unlocking code for my S4 to T-mobile, though I met all the criteria’s. I was told it could take as long as 20 days for an unlock code. I then waited for 23 days and when the code came - it didn't work!!!

I eventually had to get the code with www.UnlockCode4U.com and got a code within 15 min

Wowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww!! I just unlocked my galaxy s5 withthis guys :D thank you so much for your review and link to the website. it is 100% working. Good JOB :-)