So you love your phone, but are not too keen on your phone service provider lately? Now, if you bought a phone from your provider when you got service then your phone is most likely locked to that provider and they will never let you leave with it, bwuahahahaha! Ok, so the sinister laugh is uncalled for and that statement is not actually true. I’ll explain.
To make a long story short, in the US, the phone companies here meet with manufacturers to see their new phones. If the US phone company likes a specific phone then they order it in a large quantity for a good price and require that the manufacturer put the carrier’s proprietary software on the phone, brand it with their company logo, and then lock it to their service (and also in the case of CDMA carriers here in the US, they have them convert the GSM version to a CDMA version as well). And viola, you have a Carrier branded and locked phone that they may also have an exclusive deal on to get you to sign up for their service (if you are curious about this whole process, we’ll get into it in more detail in another post).
Now, while the carrier may use the phone as an incentive to sign up for their service, there are some ways around this that the carriers wouldn’t really want to become common knowledge (…oops). What is this way around?
Well, first off there is a law that states that anyone has the right to unlock their phone so long as it is “for the sole purpose of lawfully connecting to a wireless telephone communication network.” With that being said, most carriers will unlock your phone for you. For free. Seriously.
Basically they have implemented their own rule that if you had a phone on their network for at least 3 months, you can call in and have that phone unlocked by their customer care department absolutely free. Just call in and tell them you are going on a vacation to Europe and you want to use a carrier overseas. They will say “no problem” and give you your unlock code.
Now, keep in mind this will only work for GSM networks (as they are the only ones that have codes to unlock the phone, CDMA phones must be flashed with new firmware. You always try though and see what they say). So that means AT&T and T-Mobile here in the US. (BUT doesn’t mean you can call in to unlock your iPhone. AT&T won’t budge on that phone. But calling in to curse at them is a nice stress reliever anyway).
So you are not past the 3 month period or you didn’t buy the phone from the carrier themselves? Well, you can still get your phone unlocked, but you would have to search Google for a company that unlocks devices. Just make sure they have a money back guarantee.