The days when you could easily unlock a cellphone anytime you want will soon be over. Starting this Saturday it will become illegal to unlock a smartphone. This means that if you’ve been meaning to unlock your iPhone or Android device then you have two more days to do it.
Why will it become illegal? Last October the Librarian of Congress, which determines exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), decided that unlocking cellphones will no longer be exempted. They have provided a 90 day grace period for anyone purchasing a lock device to have it unlocked. This grace period will end this coming January 26.
According to Christopher S. Reed of the U.S. Copyright Office “only a consumer, who is also the owner of the copy of software on the handset under the law, may unlock the handset.”
It is normal for mobile carriers to lock a particular device to their own network as a way to recoup its subsidized cost. This will ensure that the device will only use the company’s services. Most people however, especially travelers, will want a device that can be used in any network which is why they unlock their phones.
This new rule won’t be a problem for most smartphone users though as Verizon is offering their iPhone 5 devices unlocked straight out of the box. AT&T is also known to unlock your device on your request once the contract is over.
If you really want an unlocked cellphone then you can pay its full price instead of its subsidized price.
This new rule won’t apply to jailbreaking which is legal in the United States. Jailbreaking is a different process where it opens up your device to run additional software.
One of the mobile carriers that will be heavily affected by this new rule is T-Mobile and its “Bring your Own Device” plan. In this plan, subscribers from other networks are encouraged to switch to T-Mobile and still use their own phones. Those who make the switch will be getting a huge savings on the services that they avail of.