Last October, the Librarian of Congress decreed that unlocking phones in the United States would eventually be illegal. That day is almost upon us. On January 26th, it will be illegal to unlock any phone if you reside in the U.S. This news may cause some panic, but it doesn’t necessarily spell disaster for everyone. Whether or not it’s constitutional to force consumers into staying with one carrier is up for debate. But, there are a few ways to get around this new law.
Some Carriers Don’t Care
Certain carriers currently offer phones that are already unlocked. AT&T will unlock any phone that is not under contract (as with other carriers). Verizon also offers a completely new unlocked iPhone 5. You can also ask any carrier to unlock a phone after your contract ends. You can also ask a carrier to unlock your phone prior to signing a contract, which will help you get around that January 26th deadline.
There is a carrier advantage here too. Allowing consumers to purchase unlocked phones makes those who need an unlocked phone happier. Happier customers equal more and better business. If you don’t want to ask your carrier for permission (and, really, should you have to?), there is another option.
Buy An Unlocked Phone
You can purchase unlocked phones directly from some manufacturers. Apple, for example, sells its iPhone 5 for $649 – significantly higher than the deal you would get if you bought a locked and contracted phone, but if you have the cash go for it. There are a handful of other manufacturers that offer unlocked phones as well. So, if you’re really determined to purchase an unlocked phone, it is possible (albeit more expensive). But, before you freak out over this new law, there is something else that I should clarify (just in case): unlocking a phone is not the same as jailbreaking a phone.
Unlocking VS. Jailbreaking
Jailbreaking a phone is still legal. What’s the difference? Unlocking a phone means that you can switch between carriers simply (useful while traveling). Jailbreaking a phone means that you can run software on your phone that wouldn’t normally run on said phone. Why is one legal and one is not? Simply put, lawmakers are trying to protect carriers (so it seems).
There is a lot of controversy surrounding the new unlocking law. Many are protesting that forcing consumers to stick with one carrier is simply not fair or just. However, the Librarian of Congress is the same person that makes all those anti-hacking laws, so this law seems like it might stick. There are both plus and minuses involved in the inability to unlock a phone.
For many, not having this freedom is simply stifling while others see the anti-hacking sense behind it. If you currently have an unlocked phone, let me know what you think about this new law. For now, if you live outside of the United States, you are safe from the hand of the unlocking law. Hopefully, this isn’t a trend that will catch on.