All mobile phones from basic phones to smartphones comes in two different formats. One would be the factory unlocked format and the other is the locked format. The locked version of the phone is produced by manufactures at the request of the service providers such as Rogers, Bell, Telus, AT&T, T-Mobile, etc. These companies can request for several types of locks such as, SIM lock, Network lock, Network Subnet lock and Service Provider lock. Most companies would opt for the Network lock to prevent customers from using the phone on other networks. This is a better choice from their point because if the SIM lock is enabled because SIM card errors are very common. Therefore it will be difficult for them to resolve issues because they will be forced to unlock the phone before replacing the SIM. The Network lock restricts the customer from using the phone on different network while it is not too as extreme as the SIM lock. So why should you care? Well, if you want to travel to another country or region where there is a roaming charge, you won’t be able to pop-in a SIM from a different service provider in that region to use it while you are there. Another would be the resell value! With the growth of the smartphone market, the second hand phone market has grown at exponential rates. I sold my Bold 9700 after I used it for less than 2 years because I wanted an upgrade.
Is unlocking a phone illegal?
This is the most common question being asked all over the net. The fact is I don’t know any country that have laws against unlocking the phone. Unless the Communist style Conservative Party in Canada brings a new law benefiting large mobile companies, under the current laws it is certainly not illegal to unlock your phone. In some countries it is even illegal to sell locked phones. According to current North American and European laws, you are allowed to unlock your mobile phone for whatever the reason. You are allow to use a phone from one network on another. However, the Canadian companies done a great job spreading the myth that it is illegal to unlock your phone. If you were to contact any service provider even when you are under the contract, they will tell you that if you pay a fee, they will give you an unlocking code. However, the fee they charge is much higher than unlocking services provided by third party compares. For example, Rogers will charge $50 to unlock your phone with or without contract, while online unlocking companies will unlock for as low as $9. This price gap should be consider as fraud, but unfortunately it is not.
How can I unlock my smartphone?
If you have a smartphone like a BlackBerry or an iPhone, you can unlock it by code. What that means is, the phone is locked with a code and if you get access to that code, you will be able to unlock the phone. It is like a password and depend on which type of lock you have your phone, you will need either one or more codes to completely unlock your phone. I suggest Googling “unlocking phones” or “Blackberry unlock” for information on these companies that provide the passwords.
If you have a phone where these password tries are all taken up or the company issued the phone has locked the phone without the password option, the only way to unlock is by wire. What that means is the software based password lock method will not work. You have to either physically walk into a store and use a wired system to unlock it or you have to get a remote wired unlocking company to unlock your phone. The cost associated with this type of unlocking is expensive. So unless you are going to sell the phone with a good margin of profit I would not go for this type of unlocking just for personal use.
Can unlocking a phone make it more insecure?
This is depend on who you talks to and which country you are from… Reason is that just because your phone is locked to a network, which is the most common type of lock used by service providers in Canada, doesn’t mean that someone can’t stole the phone and unlock it. CBC did a documentary where they report a mobile phone as stolen and take that phone to phone unlocking store and brought an unlock code. Unless you are dealing with an armature thief, there is no advantage to having a locked phone.
The whole take home message of this post is that as a consumer you have the right to unlock a phone without facing any issues from the service provider. You are NOT breaking the law by unlocking your phone. There are more benefits to having an unlocked phone than to have a locked one.
Additional note: Most SIM based phones are GSM phones. The articles is specifically referring to GSM phones with removable SIM slot.