In October 2012, the Librarian of Congress, who determines exemptions to a strict anti-hacking law called the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), decided that unlocking cellphones would no longer be allowed. But the librarian provided a 90-day window during which people could still buy a phone and unlock it. That window closes on Jan. 26.
Unlocking a phone frees it from restrictions that keep the device from working on more than one carrier’s network, allowing it run on other networks that use the same wireless standard. This can be useful to international travelers who need their phones to work on different networks. Other people just like the freedom of being able to switch carriers as they please.
I mean, other than the obvious stupidity of basically telling network providers they can now freely screw over their customers … the worst thing is that other stupid politicians across the world will think it’s a good idea to implement as well.
There’s a reason they’re locked to a provider: Even when you pay the “in contract”, or “full” price, the carrier still makes almost no profit from the device. When I managed a RadioShack, some of our phones actually went at a loss out the door, with the providers compensating RShack on the back end. When you consider I paid $0.99 USD for my Motorola Photon Q, and $0.01 USD for my daughter’s Samsung Galaxy S 3, you’re goddamn right Sprint wants to keep these phones only on their network. A little of each phone bill goes to pay off their investment. But after 2 years of contract, they’ll have only gotten back about $240 on each phone, so retention to the provider’s network ensures that during the life of the phone, it returns income to the original investors: the providers. Even at the “full” price of $499.99 USD, there’s an unbelievable amount of computer power in these miniature fully-decked out Android computers. I can barely buy a laptop at that price.
There are phones for the home that have comical proportions, compared to a smart phone, no internet or photo capabilities, no apps, and no operating system to upgrade, which cost $150 USD for a single base and handset. There’s no recuping money through monthly services for home phone manufacturers. The price of freedom to completely own the phone is paying the extra $200 for an unlocked GSM phone. They’re out there. But no one wants to pony up the difference in price.