There is some confusion over whether you should unlock your phone, how this can be done, and even whether it’s legal or not. So we’ve put together a handy guide to make things as clear as possible.
The very first thing to point out is that there are two very different meanings to the phrase ‘phone unlocking’. The first is the kind that is currently in the news regarding Apple and the FBI, and is a legal and technical issue regarding security, privacy and encryption. Apple CEO Tim Cook’s response to the FBI on this issue explains why they are so reluctant to help the FBI out in this case. That is essentially all you need to know about that type of unlocking.
The other kind of phone unlocking is to do with SIM cards and carriers. As most smartphones are sold by a network operator, they are ‘locked’ so that you can only use SIM cards from that carrier. This is because the price of the phone is often subsidized by the carrier, and in order to make that money back, they want you to use that service for as long as possible. It is possible to have this lock removed so that your phone can use any SIM, on any network, in any country. Achieving this is sometimes a frustrating and confusing experience.
Nevertheless, it is a legal requirement for US operators to allow customers to unlock their handsets, and while there is sometimes a waiting period or charge for this, they must make their unlock procedures clear on their websites. You can find a recap of what phone unlocking is, why it’s useful and some links to websites here