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Cellphones United States Your Rights Online

What You Need To Know About Phone Unlocking 321

Posted by timothy
from the land-of-liberty dept.
Now that unlocking a new phone is under many circumstances illegal in the U.S. (!), Digital Trends has collected a useful set of answers outlining just what that means. As they put it, a "quick guide to answer all your why, how, and WTF questions." Among them, some explanation of the rule-making process, the reasoning that led to the end to the unlocking exception to the DMCA (including the Ninth Circuit's 2010 Vernor v. Autodesk decision), and illustrations of situations in which it is not illegal to unlock your phone.
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What You Need To Know About Phone Unlocking

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  • by craznar (710808) on Sunday January 27, 2013 @11:46AM (#42707425) Homepage

    I know it is in Australia (ACCC).... would have thought US had more protection.

    • Of course it is anti-competitive and anti-consumer. Why do you think the US carriers are so keen on it? They're consistently anti-consumer, and put a lot of effort into persuading the "regulators" (I use that word advisedly) remain sympathetic to their point of view.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 27, 2013 @12:10PM (#42707579)

        It helps when they lobby, sorry bribe, the law makers to do exactly what they're told

        • by jhoegl (638955) on Sunday January 27, 2013 @01:39PM (#42708345)
          I do not see an issue here.
          TFA states many exemptions such as currently unlocked phones you can purchase from many places, phones not under contract, second hand phones, etc.
          It isnt that big of a deal, and this isnt "jailbreaking", as some might think.
          • by Nexion (1064)

            True, it is hard to see the issue. If you are out of contract it seems you are allowed to modify, but that only underscores how silly this all seems. Unlocking does not free you from your contractual obligation to the company who subsidized your phone. It seems carriers are somewhat agreeable to an unlock when you travel abroad. So in reality this is do little legislation that only really affects those who start a contract to get a cheap phone only to jump ship shortly after with no intention of ever making

            • by PopeRatzo (965947)

              So in reality this is do little legislation that only really affects those who start a contract to get a cheap phone only to jump ship shortly after with no intention of ever making good on the contract.

              That doesn't make sense. Unlocking the phone doesn't free you from the contract.

              You mean there are people who would actually default on a contract and ruin their credit just to get a cheap iPhone? I can't imagine the number of people stupid enough to do that warrant making jailbreaking a phone you purchase

      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 27, 2013 @12:22PM (#42707655)

        A lot of people would probably disagree with me on this, but while I've never bought a smartphone outright, I think I'd rather have unlocking be legal even if it meant the end of subsidized devices.

        No doubt the carriers would hate that too, though. I know they usually will, but does anyone know if a carrier is required to unlock a phone when you've lived out the associated contract term?

        • by Shavano (2541114) on Sunday January 27, 2013 @02:57PM (#42708879)

          Unlocking doesn't just apply to smart phones. It applies to most cell phones. They are "locked" (digitally preconfigured in a not-easy-to-modify-way) to use only one service. It locks you in to using only that service with that phone. If you are dissatisfied with your service, you can't take that phone to another service provider without first unlocking it.

          It's an anti-competitive practice that should be banned. You should be able to take any phone to any service provider that uses a compatible system and have them configure it to use their service.

          Of course, if you use a cheap phone, this kind of lock-in doesn't really provide much of a barrier to switching carriers, and may carriers give you a cheap phone when you sign up to use their service.

        • by Roger W Moore (538166) on Sunday January 27, 2013 @03:15PM (#42708999) Journal

          I think I'd rather have unlocking be legal even if it meant the end of subsidized devices.

          Why would it mean the end of subsidized devices? You've signed a multi-year contract with the company to get the subsidized device so why should they care whose network you use it on - you will still be paying them their pound of flesh to use their network regardless of whichever other network you sign up for.

          In fact it is very probably to their benefit for you to use another network since then they'll get the money and someone else will get the network traffic to deal with! The only possible benefit is that it lets them make huge profits on roaming but for the US only less than 40% [state.gov] (assuming a 300M population) of the US even have a passport so an even smaller fraction will travel abroad in any given year. In fact it probably is this which is driving it - in the EU, which has controlled roaming charges, unlocking a phone seems to be far more common (at least that's my impression without hard evidence to back it up).

      • by kurt555gs (309278) <kurt555gsNO@SPAMovi.com> on Sunday January 27, 2013 @12:51PM (#42707875) Homepage

        I noticed you say " consumer ". With laws like the DMCA, you are just that, and not a " customer ".

      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 27, 2013 @02:25PM (#42708683)

        Corporations are people too. Sucks to be an American.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 27, 2013 @12:00PM (#42707525)

      Why would they? USA needs to remove "land of the free" from their national anthem as they are plunging down the international listings of freedom.

      And why? Because too many Americans don't give a shit because they lap up the "if you have nothing to hide" bullshit.

      "nothing to see here, move along"

      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 27, 2013 @12:19PM (#42707637)

        USA needs to remove "land of the free" from their national anthem as they are plunging down the international listings of freedom.

        Why? Citizens in the US have more freedom than anywhere else on the planet.

        Don't forget, people are not citizens any more, corporations are citizens but people aren't. People are items with a value, there to be used.

        • by AK Marc (707885) on Sunday January 27, 2013 @02:46PM (#42708823)

          Citizens in the US have more freedom than anywhere else on the planet.

          We note your wording applies to US citizens in the US, and not visitors, residents, or others (see GITMO). Also, the measuring was done by US citizens who want a specific outcome. I moved out of the US to a place with more freedom. But I could see how someone from the US that wants to carry guns could think otherwise. For whatever reason, the arguement always comes down to guns, or the particular way the US chose to balance rights.

          You do realize no right is absolute, right? Other places officially recognize the right to privacy, one right you do not have in the US. And the balance between privacy and other rights makes a line where a liar from the US could arbitrarily assert that it proves the US is more free.

          One specific example is name suppression. An accused person can have their name suppressed (in certain circumstances) because an accusation alone often triggers punishment. So they are free to live their lives as an innocent person until proven guilty. But in the US, the mere accusation has caused trouble for many people, especially celebrities and other public figures. Shouldn't you have the freedom to be free from punishment until proven guilty? You don't get that freedom in the US, instead, you get the freedom of speech, where people can try and convict you in the public forum before the first evidence is brought against you.

          Which is more free? That's a matter of opinion, but every ignorant nationalistic myopic American is certain that freedom of speech overrides all else, especially when somewhere else may do it differently.

        • by Shavano (2541114) on Sunday January 27, 2013 @03:00PM (#42708901)

          USA needs to remove "land of the free" from their national anthem as they are plunging down the international listings of freedom.

          Why? Citizens in the US have more freedom than anywhere else on the planet.

          Don't forget, people are not citizens any more, corporations are citizens but people aren't. People are items with a value, there to be used.

          This was presaged by corporate adoption of the term human resources to refer to what had previously been termed personnel. You are a resource, to be exploited like any other kind of resource.

      • by oodaloop (1229816) on Sunday January 27, 2013 @12:39PM (#42707791)
        I propose an alternative. See sig.
      • by houstonbofh (602064) on Sunday January 27, 2013 @03:38PM (#42709179)

        Why would they? USA needs to remove "land of the free" from their national anthem as they are plunging down the international listings of freedom.

        We just added to it. It is now "Land of the FREE LIMITED TIME OFFER!"

    • by blackest_k (761565) on Sunday January 27, 2013 @12:31PM (#42707745) Homepage Journal

      In Ireland the phone networks are legally obligated to unlock phones for free, although they are allowed to charge an administration fee (about 25 euro)

      • by agoliveira (188870) <[adilson] [at] [adilson.net]> on Sunday January 27, 2013 @01:14PM (#42708121)

        In Brazil the phones cannot be sold locked. If they are, for some reason, the seller is obligated to unlock it for free.

      • by AmiMoJo (196126) * <mojo@NOspaM.world3.net> on Sunday January 27, 2013 @01:29PM (#42708253) Homepage

        In the UK you can buy phones on contract unlocked, and usually cheaper too. If you buy directly from the phone company it might cost you £35/month and you get a locked phone. If you buy from an independent like the old fashioned sounding Carphone Warehouse or borderline illiterate Phones 4 U you get the same phone for £30/month and it will be unlocked.

        Apparently the free market has failed in the US, because it was able to buy laws designed to distort it in the phone company's favour.

        • by green1 (322787) on Sunday January 27, 2013 @02:00PM (#42708489)

          Apparently the free market has failed in the US, because it was able to buy laws designed to distort it in the phone company's favour.

          Americans haven't realized that any law affecting businesses or consumers is by definition the opposite of a free market. Somehow people scream bloody murder about the lack of a free market any time consumer protection laws are talked about, but corporate protectionism is seen as protecting the free market. It's a great double standard if you're a large corporation, not so good for anyone else.

          All copyright, patent, and trademark laws are anti free market. (and this cell phone unlocking bit is part of a copyright law) whether some form of IP protection is good is a different matter, but it is not in any way "free market"

        • In the UK you can buy phones on contract unlocked, and usually cheaper too

          You can in the US as well - Sprint and Verizon sell phones with GSM SIM unlocked; and you can buy it at the contract price. You can't take a Verizon Phone to sprint (and vice versa) on the CDMA side even though you can roam on each other's network; but that's not due to locking, in the GSM sense, but do to the way they register phone serials in their database.

          >Apparently the free market has failed in the US, because it was able to buy laws designed to distort it in the phone company's favour.

          I'm not sure how you come to this conclusion - I can buy an unlocked phone at full retail, a subsidized but locked phone at a discount, or a CDMA pho

        • Apparently the free market has failed in the US, because it was able to buy laws designed to distort it in the phone company's favour.

          No, it failed because too many drooling idiots do not understand the real cost of a smart phone (with a 2 year contract) and so a realistically priced no-contract phone seems expensive.

      • by green1 (322787)

        I'm confused with your definition of "free" if it includes a 25 euro fee... Of course that's still better than many carriers.

        I do know where I live that my provider will unlock your phone for about $35, but only after the end of your 3 yr contract. (or if you buy the phone outright) but I also know that this is far from the norm.

      • In Ireland the phone networks are legally obligated to unlock phones for free, although they are allowed to charge an administration fee (about 25 euro)

        "Legally obligates to unlock phones for free"

        "...allowed to charge an administration fee (about 25 euro)"

        These are not actually consistent - if they're allowed to charge 25 euro, then they're not obligated to do it for free....

    • Why would it be anti-competitive? If unlocking is illegal, then any company should be able to get a huge competitive advantage by selling unlocked phones.
  • by tepples (727027) <tepples AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday January 27, 2013 @11:49AM (#42707443) Homepage Journal

    From the article: "In the long run, you will likely end up paying more for your locked device than for an unlocked one." But how is this true even when the only carrier with coverage in your area doesn't give a discount on monthly service for bringing your own phone?

    • by greg1104 (461138) <gsmith@gregsmith.com> on Sunday January 27, 2013 @11:54AM (#42707481) Homepage

      Likely does not mean certain in all cases. The trend toward providing unlocked phones at full price, instead of subsidized ones, will on average save people money. You can of course find a case where it doesn't. In theory having a free market will eventually level such differences, such as how T-Mobile has started unlocking more and focusing on monthly rate to seem competitive. Monopoly situations where there is only one carrier available do not operate as a free market.

      • by green1 (322787)

        The problem is that in North America it's almost impossible to find any situation in which the full price phone saves you money. Because in all of North America there is only 1 carrier that allows you to pay less for service if you bring your own phone.

        I have no problem with paying full price for a phone, what I have a problem with is paying full price for a phone AND paying more than full price in my contract to cover a phone I could have been given but chose not to. It's cheaper for me to take the "free"

        • by greg1104 (461138)

          "Almost impossible"? Not the majority yet, sure, but that's how a transition happens--with one competitor willing to offer a better deal. Not so long ago it did feel like zero of them. But we do have T-Mobile as the main carrier doing "value" bundles now. There's also reseller Straight Talk though, which piggybacks off AT&T too, and that's a TracFone Wireless / Walmar offering. You can't say something is that hard to find in the US when Walmart carries it. I've also bought from multiple pre-paid

    • by JC61990 (2653877) on Sunday January 27, 2013 @12:10PM (#42707583) Homepage
      Its called pre-paid. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_States_mobile_virtual_network_operators [wikipedia.org] this is a list of every pre-paid carrier in the US, and what carrier they mooch off of. So if your so called "only" carrier in the area is on this list as an MVNO carrier, then you can take your unlocked phone to that provider and pay WAY WAY less than any on-contract carrier.
      • by green1 (322787)

        Except that ALL pre-paid services where I live work out more expensive than the post-paid services.

        There is no cheaper way to get cell service than with the carrier's "free" phone on a 3yr contract. Not because you don't pay for the phone, but because the carriers make sure you pay for it whether you take it or not, and because the pre-paid contracts cost more per minute and per meg then post-paid, and the minutes and megs expire if you don't use them, ensuring a minimum monthly payment to keep your phone.

    • the phone subsidy is there to sell pricey contracts. If your don't want the subsidy, look at the network's no-contract affiliate.
    • by jittles (1613415)

      From the article: "In the long run, you will likely end up paying more for your locked device than for an unlocked one." But how is this true even when the only carrier with coverage in your area doesn't give a discount on monthly service for bringing your own phone?

      You obviously live in a rural paradise. I switched from AT&T (where I had a massive corporate discount) to Sprint after AT&T changed the way that they calculated discounts. It was then $20 a month cheaper to be on Sprint. After my contract ended there, I bought an unlocked smart phone and switched to Walmart Family mobile (AKA T-mobile) and am paying less for unlimited everything on two lines than I was with 1 line on Sprint. My unlocked smartphone has already paid for itself in the first year.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 27, 2013 @12:09PM (#42707575)

    ...and I'll be unlocking them now that they've made it "illegal". I just don't fucking care what the United States government has to say about anything, anymore. They've lost all credibility in the eyes of most intelligent, thinking people.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Whiteox (919863)

      but Corporations are people too!

    • by greg1104 (461138)

      Only terrorists unlock their phones illegally! Enjoy your stay at the FEMA camp!

    • by anagama (611277)

      Don't get caught. $500,000 penalty and 5 years in the pokey. I imagine that is per offense.

      • by anagama (611277)

        As an afterthought, it occurs to me that you'll be sharing jail time with:

        -- The guy who got caught smoking a joint in a national forest.
        -- The guy who raped his sister, gouged her eyes out with a spoon, fed them to his dog, and then bludgeoned her to death.

        You won't be spending any jail time with the guys who laundered money for Al Queda for a decade. Their punishment is that they will have to defer collecting a portion of their annual bonus for five years. I'll bet the deferred part doesn't even earn in

  • by xaxa (988988) on Sunday January 27, 2013 @12:21PM (#42707649)

    FTA:

    Why is it illegal to unlock a smartphone?
    Because unlocking a phone requires making changes to its firmware – software that is copyrighted and owned by your carrier – which would be a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

    I don't understand. If I buy a book, and make some edits (cross out some paragraphs, change some words) that's not illegal. Perhaps it would be if I distributed the book (or copies of it). Selling pens to make the edits isn't illegal either.

    How is changing firmware different?

    • by the_B0fh (208483)

      Because code is different by law. If you don't like it, get it changed.

      And don't think book publishers are not trying to do that "not sold, only licensed" shit as well.

    • by xaxa (988988) on Sunday January 27, 2013 @12:28PM (#42707721)

      Ah, my question is answered in the next part of the article:

      Furthermore, new court decisions have changed the interpretation of the law. In 2010, the Ninth Circuit court decided in Vernor v. Autodesk, Inc that we cell phone owners do not actually “own” the software running our phones. Instead, we are only “licensing” this software – a key difference – which means that we don’t have a right to alter that software. This also played a role in the Librarian’s decision.

      • by bicho (144895)

        But flashing a memory is not altering the software, it's altering the memory, isn't it? The contents of the memory is not the original software any more.

      • by Kjella (173770) on Sunday January 27, 2013 @01:18PM (#42708151) Homepage

        The crazy thing is who easily that passes, with that logic start thinking about how much of your "belongings" really aren't. You don't own your car, TV, stove, refrigerator, freezer, dish washer, washing machine and so on as I can guarantee they have micro-controllers with copyrighted software on them. The US has become the world leaders in hollowing out private ownership, not because it's really owned by the state like in communism but because it's really owned by the corporations, you just have a limited use license. Don't you dare tamper with that washing machine or the DMCA will come get you.

      • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

        What counts as "altering" the software? If you change the wallpaper, change the volume, install some apps, make your preferred app the default for certain actions instead of the pre-installed one? Unlocking is usually as simple as entering a code that sets a flag in some configuration file, it doesn't actually alter the code that runs.

    • by PPH (736903)

      Actually, I think this is wrong. IIRC from the last time I unlocked a phone, there is a screen where one enters an unlock code. That already seems to be provided in firmware for exactly this purpose. So nothing is getting modified.

      Once the code is entered, it is stored in the phone in a location (apparently) provided for this purpose. Subsequently, each time the phone bots up, it looks at this location first rather than having to look on the carrier's SIM for a code.

    • by Tom (822) on Sunday January 27, 2013 @01:05PM (#42708027) Homepage Journal

      How is changing firmware different?

      Because it's digital, and common sense has been thrown out for digital goods.

      You see, copyright used to come into play when you copied something. As long as you only used it, it didn't matter. The book you bought, you could do with as you pleased, read or not, write comments into the margins, rip out pages and re-arrange them in an order you prefer, whatever.

      Only when you made copies of your Romeo & Juliet where the death scene is at the beginning and the rest follows with the word "Zombie" inserted here and there would you be in violation of copyright (well, not really due to that one having expired, but you get the point).

      You'd assume it would be the same for a digital book, but it's not. Someone who should be in an asylum instead of a court room decided that in order to read a digital, you have to load it from storage into memory, which is making a copy and thus copyright applies which means the author can dictate terms.

      That's why you don't own the firmware, and you don't even own the copy of the firmware on your phone, but if the manufacturer were to, say, distribute the firmware as a print copy the way very very early computer magazines once included software you could transcribe into your computer, then you could do whatever you want with the paper copy, including changing it.

      If you think that's crazy, conf. "asylum" above.

    • by Cinder6 (894572) on Sunday January 27, 2013 @01:08PM (#42708051)

      Why is it illegal to unlock a smartphone?
      Because unlocking a phone requires making changes to its firmware – software that is copyrighted and owned by your carrier – which would be a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

      IANAL, but I'm confused. I thought the "point" of the DMCA was to crack down on copyright violations. Code modification would be a DMCA violation if it allowed you to violate copyright, such as bypassing DRM.

      "Changing" the copyrighted carrier code doesn't seem to violate copyright, as I understand it, as you are not under legal obligation to use a particular carrier (there's even a clause that allows you to break contract, for a price). Also, what "changes" does the unlocking process commit? If it's simply code removal, then, simply uninstalling a game from your computer is a DMCA violation by extension.

      Of course, I'm trying to make sense of something that is inherently illogical. Why is this a DMCA violation, and modding Skyrim isn't? Or is modding Skyrim a violation, and Bethesda simply allows it?

      • "Changing" the copyrighted carrier code doesn't seem to violate copyright, as I understand it

        There are two exclusive rights that copyright law gives the copyright holder: The right to distribute, and the right to create derivative work (in other words, modifying the code).

    • by Dzimas (547818)
      I unlocked several phones recently by entering a code generated by a carrier unlocking program. It was essentially a password generated by algorithm. NO code modification was required, and the unlocking process is coded into the original firmware. This is not rooting your phone. Nor is it rocket surgery.
  • by metalmaster (1005171) on Sunday January 27, 2013 @12:23PM (#42707671)

    Unlocking devices isn't as relevant in the US as it is in other parts of the world. The big 4 in the US all use different technologies to provide service, so taking a device from carrier a to carrier b doesn't make sense in terms of being useful. Of course there is always the argument of "it's my device let me do what i please" and I agree more with that, but those people should pony up the full retail value of the product. If you buy a phone that is carrier subsidized you're essentially financing the phone over 2 years.

    If the carriers want to move to an unsubsidized model they should give consumers an incentive to pay upfront costs. T-Mobile's "value plan" is a good example. The customer buy's the device at a discount and pays an additional fee of $20 until the device's retail value is paid off. The plan then becomes $20 cheaper. If carrier's want a BYOD to work they need to offer cheaper rates.

    The carriers can offer their retail salespeople a rate plan of $20 at the cost of BYOD. Why can't they do this for consumers? The plan's dont even have to be that cheap, but a $40-50 plan is not out of the realm of possibility. When I worked retail I bought my own Galaxy S3 and paid $25 for my plan. For an upfront cost of ~$520 I saved about $1800 over the cost of a 2-year consumer rate plan

    • by iamgnat (1015755)

      If carrier's want a BYOD to work they need to offer cheaper rates.

      That's just it though. They DON'T want BYOD to work as they make more from the subsidized lock in contracts over the course of the typical 2 year term.

    • by trevelyon (892253)

      The big 4 in the US all use different technologies to provide service, so taking a device from carrier a to carrier b doesn't make sense in terms of being useful

      That's not exactly true. Both AT&T and T-mobile use GSM so you can take your phone from one to the other if unlocked (although data bands are slightly different so make sure the phone supports both). Sprint and Verizon also use the same tech, CDMA and there is no technical reason you can't move your phone between them. The carriers, however, don't allow it because they want you to buy a new phone. Sprint won't even let you take a sprint phone to their sprint payG (boost mobile) even though it uses

  • by bcdonadio (2821809) on Sunday January 27, 2013 @12:23PM (#42707679)
    I'm not a USA citizen, but as a Brazilian (country which all kinds of operator locking were ruled *illegal* a few years ago), I seriously recommend you guys to unlock your phones, being it legal or not, you needing it or not. It's a simple matter of having your rights respected.
  • Not viable (Score:5, Interesting)

    by xenobyte (446878) on Sunday January 27, 2013 @12:40PM (#42707801)

    The locked subsidized phone model is not viable, at least not here in Denmark.

    A year or so ago all the major carriers here agreed that they would stop the subsidizing and thus the locking of new phones. The value of the phone simply did not match how much the forced subscription (6 months) would yield and as many customers simply switched phone and carrier every 6 months, they consistently lost money.

    So now you either pay the full price for the new phone or in installments on your phone bill. If you end your subscription after the first 6 months but before the phone was paid for, you had to pay the remainder in order to end the contract. Simple and avoids the creation of stupid laws to fix a broken business model.

  • "Keep your mouth shut and never rat on your friends."

    • by 2phar (137027)
      But this is the USA. Wouldn't it be possible for the carriers to report when a phone IMEI that is supposed to be locked to a different network shows up on theirs? Heck that could even be made a legal obligation.
  • by Mister Liberty (769145) on Sunday January 27, 2013 @12:49PM (#42707851)

    If so, there is an intermediate stage between 'intact' and 'destroyed'.

  • Arent most of these devices offered at a discount if you sign a contract? I have always use prepaid and paid full price for my phones so i dont know. If so i could understand why they would get upset, since they provided you a greatly discounted phone at their loss, in exchange for the promise of your business.
    • by Cinder6 (894572)

      Yes. However, if you break contract, you have to pay an early termination fee (and I think in some cases you have to give back your phone if it's early enough in the contract).

  • I don't understand why this law was necessary. If I take my phone some where else, I will have to break my contract with the phone company or pay for two plans. If I cancel my plan, I pay a termination fee that results in the phone company getting their subsidized portion of the phone back (financially). Everyone walks away and calls it quits. The phone goes with me because I paid for it in full. Also, if the phone companies all have policies allowing you to go out of the country and arrange to swap your SI
  • by ghack (454608) on Sunday January 27, 2013 @12:58PM (#42707949)

    My understanding is that this only applies to newly purchased phones, starting today, 1/27.

    Any phone purchased on 1/26 or before can still be legally unlocked.

    Please correct me if I'm wrong.

  • by Tom (822)

    Some more background info for us non-US readers, please?

    I don't see the issue here. I've bought my iPhone and then got a cell phone contract for them that didn't include a phone, so no subsidies and no unlocking required.

    If the carrier pays the phone for you (and you pay him back over time) then they seem to have a legit interest that you don't say "thanks" and take your business elsewhere before the refinancing time is up.

    So what's the issue here?

    • by green1 (322787)

      The biggest problem is that there are no carriers that allow you to bring your own phone without paying the subsidy (Ok, in the USA there is one carrier that does, but the others don't, and where I live there are none). So I can take the "free" phone from the carrier and pay the subsidy every month to cover it's cost, or I can pay full price for a phone, and still pay the subsidy every month as if I had taken the "free" phone. There is no third choice. As a result, there's no reason to ever buy a full price

  • All you need to know is that this only applies to phones under a cellular contract. Cellular contracts are awful things to begin with and now they are even worse. The only thing that makes people sign them is the high price of phones which WILL go down. In a few years and smartphones will be $50. Granted, the carriers will find some excuse to charge $500 for them, but if you've got half a brain in your head you'll just buy your phone outright and avoid the contract.

    In the meantime there's Walmart. They now

    • by green1 (322787)

      Except that by avoiding the contract, you pay way more per month for service than you do on contract. Companies want you on contract, so the contracts offer more for less than month to month does, every time.

      As it stands right now, where I live, the cheapest way to have cellular service is on a 3yr contract with a "free" phone (you pay for it whether you take it or not) Of course add in that you can't even buy an unlocked phone here, if you buy one outright from the carrier, it's still locked, and because i

  • by troll -1 (956834) on Sunday January 27, 2013 @01:32PM (#42708287)
    It seems like Verizon and AT&T spend millions that they collect from their monopoly of the spectrum and give it to politicians to who then make laws in their favor. http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/indusclient.php?id=B08&year=a [opensecrets.org]

    The government sales of the free spectrum to the highest bidder is one of the biggest scams ever. Carrier-less mesh networking technology has been a viable alternative for a long time ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mesh_networking [wikipedia.org] ) but the government persists in licensing the most useful spectrum frequencies to the highest bidder for billions of dollars ( http://wireless.fcc.gov/auctions/default.htm?job=about_auctions [fcc.gov] ) while restricting the unlicensed spectrum like 802.11 to limited frequencies with severe power restrictions.
  • This is based on the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA - and act which is not really about copyright but rather about encryption and the legality of removing encryption. Nothing about copyright changed in the DMCA. Except that now instead of having to actually violate copyright to be in violation of a law, you simply need to access copyrighted material you have purchased or licensed without using the method of access supplied by the content provider to be in violation.

    I would love (LOVE) to find out

  • by jlv (5619) on Sunday January 27, 2013 @02:52PM (#42708865) Homepage

    "Verizon sells all iPhone 5s unlocked, meaning you could take your device over to AT&T or T-Mobile without having to unlock the device."

    You could take your Verizon CDMA iPhone over to AT&T or T-Mobile, but you won't ever get it to work on their networks.

    • by Psyborgue (699890)
      From the 4s on, the phone is universal. All versions of the phone have both GSM and CDMA radios.
  • Can you (legally) buy a locked phone in the uSA, leave the country and unlock it one where it is not illegal, then bring it back?
  • by Dahamma (304068) on Sunday January 27, 2013 @03:20PM (#42709053)

    "A 16GB unlocked iPhone 5, for instance, will cost you $650. Buy the same phone through AT&T, Sprint, or Verizon, and you’ll pay just $200 thanks to carrier subsidies – but you also have to agree to a two-year contract. In the long run, you will likely end up paying more for your locked device than for an unlocked one."

    Yeah... that would be true if you bought an unlocked phone and then just threw it in a drawer without using it. If you actually sign up for a voice and data plan in both cases how is paying an extra $450 going to save you money? (especially the way so many people upgrade their phone every few years).

  • In a world not controlled by giant oligarchy phone companies you can "buy" a car from a dealership, take it home and paint it purple.

    You can do the same to your house because even though you owe 99% of it's value to the bank it belongs to you.

    For some reason, the same thing isn't true for a $500 phone. Why can't I buy a phone from T-mobile with a 2 year contract, take it home and immediately switch it to AT&T but continue paying T-mobile for the phone for 2 years?

Thus mathematics may be defined as the subject in which we never know what we are talking about, nor whether what we are saying is true. -- Bertrand Russell

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