Last week President Obama signed a bill that now makes unlocking cell phones legal (again). The law has gone back-and-forth several times arguing that unlocking a cell phone violated the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act which prohibits Americans from bypassing technologies that protect things that are copyrighted. But for now it is officially legal to unlock your mobile device.
This new law has made some very happy, some upset, and a lot of people just don’t really care. There are also some who simply don’t understand what this all means for the average cell phone user. Let us break it down for you:
What is Cell Phone Unlocking?
Most cell phones that are sold in the United States have a certain software lock system in place that prohibits the device from being used on competing networks. By unlocking this software, it allows for phones to be used across different cell carriers.
Why is it Important?
The biggest impacts that cell phone unlocking has on everyday users are that you can now take your current phone with you if you switch carriers. This eliminates the need to buy a new phone with your new contract. It also allows some international travelers to take their phones with them on their trips and actually use them overseas, depending on their device.
What you need to know
Even though unlocking a cell phone may seem easy and that it works for everyone, that’s not the case. There are a few things you should know about unlocking your cell phone.
Just because it is unlocked, doesn’t mean that you can take any phone to any carrier. Cell phone carriers use different network technology. While some use GSM, others use CDMA. You cannot use the same phone if you are switching to a carrier that uses a different network technology. For example, a Verizon phone cannot be used on an AT&T network.
Cell phones are made and optimized specifically for the network that distributes them. If you take your phone to a new carrier, certain features may not work properly or even at all on a different network.
How to unlock your phone
It doesn’t cost anything to get your phone unlocked. But your cell phone carrier can refuse to unlock your device if you aren’t in good standing with the company or your contract isn’t expired.
The process of unlocking your phone is fairly simple, just call your mobile service provider and they will provide you with unlock codes or software updates that will unlock your device. If they have a different process, they can usually unlock your phone remotely or in-store.
Although having the ability and freedom to unlock your phone is great, it may not last. Similarly to how the previous act making it illegal expired, this new act will expire in three years. Unless it is renewed by Congress, it too will be reversed. What do you think of this new law? Will you be unlocking your cell phone?