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back to article White House comes out in favor of legal mobe unlocking

President Obama's idea for a petition system has come in for a lot of criticism – some of it deserved – but if the latest response to a petition on mobile phone unlocking is anything to go by, the system has definite benefits. The petition was created following the decision by the Librarian of Congress to review the remit of the …

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If Mobes and fondleslabs

then why not games consoles?

yeah, Yeah, Yeah, I know the beef, stupid dumb companies sell then at a lost to get the kids hooked so they have to come back and buy more games from the only pusher in town.

Break this deal with the devil and we might see some real competition.

No, I'm not a gamer, I just hate the business model.

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Anonymous Coward

What if?

It seems this is a ridiculous law now being looked at in a sensible way, anything you buy that is no longer governed by a service contract should be yours to do as, as you wish.

The way that the USA exports its laws to encompass other jurisdictions would me that anyone taking a unlocked phone to the US on holiday could fall foul of the law.

Obviously common sense prevails, for now.

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Re: If Mobes and fondleslabs

The difference is as you say — with mobile phones they're usually subsidised but you explicitly pay the subsidy back over the course of your contract. There's also often no technical barrier to using them on another network.

Conversely, with consoles you get a subsidy and you can't point at the exact date and payment that paid off the subsidy. There are also no other commercial entities that could offer you an alternative service.

I guess the 3DO is instructive example of why things work like that, being a console that wasn't subsidised with a specification that anyone could implement and no licensing costs for games; net result: a $700 console that nobody bought. The PC model just didn't work. Consumers had a choice and preferred a subsidised console with more expensive games, embracing the PlayStation instead, which was also from a newcomer, so established businesses versus upstarts wasn't really a factor.

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Trollface

Re: If Mobes and fondleslabs

"...embracing the PlayStation instead, which was also from a newcomer". Sony's system was a newcomer, but the brand name was HUGE...PSX could not fail.

"... a $700 console that nobody bought."

Sure, but the Neo-Geo was a $1200 system that out sold the 3DO, so what you make of that (it still has me puzzled)?

Being that the Neo-Geo out sold the 3DO, and the fact that I knew many with a 3DO, but only one with a Neo-Geo, shows price is not related to sales. Nobody bought the 3DO because 3DO advertisements were geared to PC gamers, they didn't care about advertising to console gamers, which is ridiculous. It was strange as I'm sure you remember, that the 3DO was almost strictly advertised in PC magazines. What 3DO should of pushed was it's VCD playing capability, they would of been years ahead of DVD and sitting pretty today, but they never did.

On a side note, how far off was 3DO when you hear about Linux based consoles around the corner?

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Anonymous Coward

@ThomH (Re: If Mobes and fondleslabs)

Yes, the PC model is less popular, but if it wasn't viable at all then Steam would not exist. In fact, at any given time Steam has from 3 to 6 million people logged on (mostly playing games). For every person currently logged on, there are several others who buy PC games, but are not at this moment playing any of them, and/or did not get them through Steam.

As for the oft repeated statement that the PC does not get some console games, that works both ways. Here is a list of 50 PC Exclusive Games coming out in 2013.

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Boffin

Re: If Mobes and fondleslabs

Waddaya mean that there are no other commercial entities that could offer you an alternative service? The service is the games. If the console is unlocked, you can run a game from any publisher who cares to support your platform, not just Nintendo.

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Re: If Mobes and fondleslabs (@David Cantrell, mutatedwombat )

If your phone is locked then you can't join another network, though plenty exist. If your console is locked then you can't buy games from another source, of which none exist. It's cause and effect but a real difference, at least when it comes to temporary purposive exceptions to existing laws.

Re: the PC model; I don't think the 3DO was the same thing at all. It was custom developed hardware with a single stationary target. So lack of subsidies was a real issue — compare and contrast with other consoles that typically cost quite a bit less than the hardware cost at launch, and with the PC that slowly gained steam as a gaming device over more than a decade.

I think that the problem with the PC now is simply that you can buy a very expensive one so some people do buy a very expensive one so that moves the centre of gravity for games. PC gaming is likely to remain more expensive than console gaming because nobody can put a foot down and say 'there is no choice for anybody; all must stick with the older technology in order to reduce cost for new owners and to keep things simple'. For people that game on PCs, that's probably a good thing as they retain the freedom to spend more on a better box if they want to.

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Anonymous Coward

OK, what will they do about it?

OK, but meaningfully, what will the Executive Branch do about this?

About the only thing I could see POTUS doing is directing the FCC "No type certification for locked devices - all devices from this day forward SHALL be unlocked or they don't get FCC approval." He just *might* be able to make that stick. Might.

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Bronze badge

Re: OK, what will they do about it?

FCC sure, or the whole thing could go upstream to the DMCA...yeh maybe not.

However, I think the key thing here is the online petition system itself, and not the issue. It so desperately needs some confidence put into it, that I think this will have to stick one way or the other. If something as doable like this doesn't stick, there will be some serious questions the White House will have to answer, and they won't want to answer questions like that over this petition.

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Unhappy

"It's common sense."

Not that you get a lot of that in American politics. Nor in any other country's politics.

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Thumb Up

As Sir Humphrey says, "Government policy has nothing to do with common sense."

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Doesn't go far enough

It should be illegal to lock mobile phones to a provider.

When you sign up to a 24 month contract with a provider you have agreed to give them an amount of money every month for that duration. If you choose to take the phone you're given and use it on a different network then that should be your choice, you're still paying for the contract.

We have the same stupid system in the UK, your phone is locked to the contract, at the end of the contract you can request your provider to unlock the phone. The provider is allowed to charge you an "administration fee" for this service. I think Orange currently charge £30.

Locking phones to networks is anti-competitive and should fall foul of competition laws.

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Megaphone

Re: Doesn't go far enough

>It should be illegal to lock mobile phones to a provider.

Not to defend the mega wireless corp aholes but the US is a bit different in that we have only a few providers on GSM networks (T-Mobile, AT&T) but the rest are on proprietary CMDA networks like Verizon and Sprint whose phones are only some what interchangeable on some handsets with a whole lot of hacking (usually 3G not interchangeable and LTE is a whole another beast but so far no voice over LTE yet). And yes I know the Euros can be very defensive about GSM but the fact is for whatever reason in our very spread out country CDMA networks tend to offer better reception and cover more area in most markets I have been in. Ok possibly its not the technology but the networks themselves. Still usually you hear people complain what crap AT&T and T-Mobile's network are and with Verizon you hear great network but what crap the rest of their business is so I assume the technology does factor in some.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Doesn't go far enough

When you sign up to a 24 month contract with a provider you have agreed to give them an amount of money every month for that duration. If you choose to take the phone you're given and use it on a different network then that should be your choice, you're still paying for the contract.

This is, of course, the delta between what they say and what they really want to happen. They don't just want the monthly charge - what they are really after is the extra revenue they make from you hitting other networks (certainly abroad), which is where they can really cash in.

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Silver badge

Re: Doesn't go far enough

@Fuzz,

Here in the uk it depends on who you get your phone from.

If you go to Car Phone Warehouse or Phones4U all their phones are unlocked anyway, apart from iPhones. I'm pretty sure they give 2 year warranties too, apart from iPhones. Spot the pattern? Anyway, that's what I was told in their shops just a couple of weeks ago.

So if you're going for a contract, it's possibly worth going to those shops in preference to O2, Vodafone, Three and EE.

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Silver badge

Re: Doesn't go far enough

The French are reasonable, the operator "must" give you the unlock code after only 6 months... Which I would agree is about fair. Orange and SFR usually have some kind of bloatware but nothing too bad depending on phone type.

In Switzerland there is no such thing as a locked phone, which is even better, although Swisscom sometimes add some bloatware. Orange however give you an unlocked and unbloatwared phone..

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Re: Doesn't go far enough

@Asdf,

That incompatibility problem with CDMA / CDMA2000 phones arose because of where CDMA came from. It started off as a proprietary standard from Qualcomm, wasn't public, and every network using it did it slightly differently. Nothing wrong with that, that's just how it happened. GSM was always a wholly public and very complete standard, so the compatibility of handsets across networks was guaranteed. Both set 'market moods' for what customers expected. The introduction of European standards in the US was always going to upset the mood there once people realised that the barriers to network swapping were now artificial, not technological.

GSM is kinda limited to a cell size of 35 kilometers (can be 70 in Range Extended mode). In the wide open spaces of the US that could be inconvenient to setup. CDMA, CDMA2000 and UMTS all use the same radio modulation scheme which undoes that range limit (power permitting) but introduces other problems like cell breathing, which makes network planning difficult. LTE seems to have done it properly, blending GSM's simple network planning with high spectral efficiency and 100km cell size if that's what's wanted.

Pity they forgot about voice calls.

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Re: Doesn't go far enough

@ Fuzz

Orange seem to be rather mean-minded -- £10 LG wouldn't work with non-Orange SIM.

But in my experience Vodaphone supplied Nokia handsets; cheapo 100, mid range 6303i and upper mid-range C5 all worked fine with other SIMS.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Doesn't go far enough

I wonder how kindly mobile phone execs would take to being treated in the same manner in other aspects of life. e.g. when visiting a restaurant being manacled to the table and only being released when they pay for their meal (plus an unlocking administration fee).

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Silver badge

There is a common sense criteria? Time to get looking at those lawbooks, a decent chunk of laws don't make much sense anymore.

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Joke

"The White House agrees … that consumers should be able to unlock their cell phones without risking criminal or other penalties,"

It sounds like somebodies contract is up..

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Certainly unlocking a phone should not be a criminal act. Everything in the US is criminal nowadays. But, the only result of this will be that carriers will no longer subsidize phones -- and rightly so. How will this benefit the consumer? A phone that is locked for life is unreasonable. But, so is a phone that is unlocked the day you get it a subsidized price. Surely there is a happy medium.

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Bronze badge

I think you have missed the bit where you pay back the subsidy through your monthly charges. There will also be a bit about a penalty if you terminate the contract early which covers the subsidy plus some more for luck.

No phone company will let you out of the contract before they have got there money back so conversely, once they have had their money then their legal hold over should be satisfied. This basically means that if you are running 2 year contracts then the phone should be automatically unlocked at the end of that contract and if you choose to renew then you should either get a new phone or a MUCH cheaper monthly charge.

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@ T_K

Amazing how the rich can criminalize anything that they find inconvenient.

In any sensible world unlocking a phone against the terms of a contract would be a civil court (probably small claims) case.

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Big Brother

"And if you have paid for your mobile device, and aren't bound by a service agreement or other obligation..."

And if you are, then it's contractual, which is already covered by separate law and doesn't require lame-ass copyright law extensions brought about by regulatory capture.

The only reason for locking a phone in the first place is vendor lock-in, which is what you do when you're too stupid and selfish to understand how customer loyalty works.

It's the last refuge of the incompetent.

Anyway, while I'm glad to see that the White House has managed to pull its head out for a little while, it would be even nicer if it did something a bit more proactive. So far it's just smoke.

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Facepalm

How about instead of making it once again legal to unlock devices you legally own... make it illegal for companies to lock the devices in the first place.

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