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back to article US mobile telcos: All right, ALL RIGHT, FCC! We'll redo phone unlock rules

The five largest US wireless carriers say they are all onboard with new policies designed to make it easier for customers to use their mobile devices on the network of their choice. "We are pleased to announce AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular and Verizon Wireless agreed to adopt a voluntary set of six principles for …

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This is where buying the phone separately has a lot going for it. You also don't get stuck with all the telco's apps on the phone, either, and you get timely software upgrades rather than having to wait for the telco to decide to roll them out.

Of course, the downside is that it is necessary to pay in full up front, which is not insignificant for a modern smartphone.

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You also don't get stuck with all the telco's apps on the phone

No - you just get those the manufacturer decided to install instead. As I found out when I managed to get my hands on an unlocked Galaxy Note 1 a couple of years ago. It was bought from Expansys but since it wasn't yet available in the UK at the time appeared to have been imported from Germany.

For whatever reason whenever I updated the handset I got the same German apps re-installed, and when I complained to Samsung about this they basically told me this had been done intentionally. They seemed to be intent on using the same meaningless fluff about installing apps that they thought would be 'of interest' to users. When I made it clear that I wasn't interested, their response was little better than 'tough luck'.

Although of course these sorts of games may be limited to Samsung. If the recent region locking episode is anything to go by then they seem to have very little respect for their customers.

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Now if they can kick the carriers in the balls hard enough to get them to brick stolen phones. I think New York is about to swing that baseball bat if no-one else does.

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And how is this relevant to anything in real life?

There are an abundance of very cheap unlocking services online; what the carriers do or don't do, do or don't agree to, is *irrelevant* to the real world; people unlock their phones without reference to the carriers all the time.

I bought a Galaxy Note from AT&T. Very cheap. I carefully omitted to sign the contract, never even put the AT&T SIM in it. An hour and $20 later I was home, the phone unlocked, and using my T-Mobile SIM in it. AT&T weren't happy, but conceded that, without a signed contract, I was in the right.

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"There are an abundance of very cheap unlocking services online;"

Because those abundance of very cheap unlocking services are comprised of some guy in his bedroom with a suite of pirated utilities or lists that serve the purpose.

And if that doesn't scare you, that guy in his bedroom could very well be me. (It isn't, so don't contact me asking if I can unlock your phone, more than likely, I'll just make fun of you for signing onto that contract in the first place. So there.)

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Why the military

One thing that puzzles me, is why military personal are only ones allowed to unlock their phones earlier then a year?

Anyone could easily move away from the America to some other place.

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Re: Why the military

In the US companies screwing over customers is pretty much accepted as a "we can't do anything about it so we just have to take it". But if a company is seen screwing over veterans/servicemen, the publicity almost always causes a quick reversal of policy.

Lawmakers will sometimes pass laws exempting veterans or those currently in service from enduring the same problems everyone else has to endure, because they want to be seen as strongly behind the troops. I'm not sure if this policy of the carriers is the result of a law or of one carrier getting publicly shamed for trying to collect a ETF for a guardman sent to Afghanistan, but it was likely one or the other.

I'm not suggesting this is wrong, but it would be nice if Congress could agree on something that doesn't have such a cynical political calculation involved.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Why the military?

... because they get *sent* overseas, without any further choice in the matter?

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Re: Why the military?

You could argue the same is true of someone who works for a multinational that sends them to China for a year to help set up a new factory or something. Yeah, they could quit, but no one is going to quit their job to save paying the cell company's ETF.

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FAIL

Re: Why the military?

The difference is that the multinational employee can refuse to go or quit. The military member faces jail time (military equivalent of a felony) if they refuse to go.

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Blame Vietnam

Because the Vietnam vets were treated so badly on their return and the US is now so ultra patriotic, they are overcompensating for today's military with them being thanked for their service by every random individual at the mere mention of them having served. Call it the Telco equivalent of thanking them for their service.

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Anonymous Coward

Greedy Bastards all

This whole process of locking is repugnant. IF its a subsidy, let it remain a subsidy and let people get the advantages. There are laws to break contract early, already. Why cripple the hardware and not be able to use as it was intended ?

I know it started big time with Nokia N95. Vodafone promptly cripple voip/skype services so as to protect its voice revenue. Till 3 came along with free Skype ! Blatant profteering.

Whereas, there is no real subsidy anymore, (at least in the UK, although carriers might want you to believe otherwise- its only a deferred payment plan with 2 years lock ins with interetest included ) we are still made to suffer the ignominity of having to look for unlocking solutions and costs.

Also disallowing manufacturers to install anti theft/disabling softare to protect expensive insurance contracts for such incidents. How much worse can it get ?

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They should automatically unlock the phone once the contract term is completed, it shouldn't even be necessary to ask. The customer should just get a text message informing them that it has happened.

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I'll believe it when I see it

I'm still waiting for AT&T to unlock the iPhone 1 I bought in late 2007 (although I took care of that by jailbreaking). I still ask them occasionally just to hear how the lies and justifications have evolved over the years.

I think the key thing for people living outside the US to realize is that (with the exception of T-Mobile) there is no discount on service for people bringing and using a fully paid-for handset. So my colleague who paid almost $1000 for an unlocked iPhone in Australia pays exactly the same each month as I do with a subsidized phone. That's the scandal here - in addition to paying 2-3x as much for service compared to Europe and having sub 3rd world service, but as someone else said above, that's the American way. For a country that talks so much about freedom and "markets, the US sure does love its dysfunctional monopolies.

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