The U.S. is unusual for all kinds of reasons, but one of the most perplexing is probably the way that phones acquired through carriers are locked to their specific network. Not for much longer, if Sprint is anything to go by.
Tucked away in Sprint's unlocking FAQs is a gem that we've been waiting for for a long old time, which reveals that, from February 11th 2015, its devices will be domestically unlockable. From the site:
I've been told by another carrier that Sprint needs to unlock my SIM slot in order to use my phone on the other carrier's network.
For eligible devices, Sprint will unlock the SIM slot, to the extent that a device SIM slot is capable of being unlocked. It is important to note that not all devices are capable of being unlocked, often because of the manufacturers' device designs, and that even for those devices capable of being unlocked, not all device functionality may be capable of being unlocked. Specifically, devices manufactured with a SIM slot within the past three years (including, but not limited to, all Apple iPhone devices), cannot be unlocked to accept a different domestic carrier's SIM for use on another domestic carrier's network. Sprint has no technological process available to do this. In accordance with Sprint's voluntary commitment contained within CTIA's Consumer Code for Wireless Service ("Unlocking Commitment"), Sprint is working to ensure that all devices developed and launched on or after February 11, 2015 are capable of being unlocked domestically.
Sprint's unlocking policy appears to apply only to postpaid customers. I am a prepaid customer. Am I eligible to have my device unlocked?
Neither Sprint nor its prepaid affiliates (Virgin Mobile, Boost Mobile, and Assurance Wireless) currently unlock devices for prepaid customers. However, in accordance with the Unlocking Commitment, Sprint and its prepaid affiliates are working to create new policies and procedures in order to unlock prepaid devices, or to provide the information necessary to unlock the devices, after certain eligibility requirements to be established are met. Consistent with the Unlocking Commitment, Sprint and its prepaid affiliates will implement these new policies and procedures no later than February 11, 2015.
In other words, buy a Sprint device after February 2015, and you'll happily be able to unlock it to work on another carrier's network, say AT&T or T-Mobile. It should've happened long ago—but we're happy to hear it's finally being put in place. [Frederick Suleiman via Android Police]
Image by Simon Yeo under Creative Commons license