If you’ve been dealing with smartphones for a while, one of the advancements that we have now compared to more than half a decade ago is how easy is to unlock most cell phones. Back then, most carriers did not even unlock certain phones under any circumstances.
For example, if you wanted to have your AT&T iPhone unlocked you had to rely on baseband hacking software such as UltraSn0w or buy third-party unlocking hardware like the Gevey SIM interposer. AT&T did not offer any official way to unlock your iPhone. Even if you completely paid it off, you had to use it on their network.
As of now, the table has turned, and T-Mobile is now the most problematic carrier if you want to get your phone unlocked by them. Compared to AT&T and Verizon, if you’re not a current or former customer of T-Mobile, they will not unlock your phone even if it qualifies and it’s in a good standing condition.
AT&T, Verizon easier carriers to unlock phones
On the other hand, AT&T will unlock an AT&T device with no problem as long as it is paid off or not reported stolen. When you go on AT&T’s page to unlock your AT&T device, the carrier makes it easy and doesn’t care if you’re current, former, or neither customer. The process is even easier with Verizon. Verizon automatically unlocks any device after 60 days of activation. So current, former, or individual Verizon device owners do not even have to bother themselves calling customer service or filling an online form in order to have their device unlocked.
Although it’s great that Verizon phones are automatically unlocked after 60 days, it should be known that the carrier does not do this out of the goodness of their heart. The FCC prohibits Verizon from locking devices due to their 700mhz spectrum deal.
The problem with T-Mobile
As explained, neither Verizon nor AT&T will refuse to unlock a phone for you, even if you have never been their customer. For example, you can buy an AT&T-locked phone from a friend or eBay and AT&T will unlock it for you with no problem. A Verizon phone will be unlocked by default. The same scenario will not play out with T-Mobile. T-Mobile will not unlock your phone bought from eBay or your friend due to the fact that you’ve never been a customer of theirs.
In this case, if you cannot get a hold of your friend or the seller who sold you the phone, the phone will remain unlocked on T-Mobile’s network forever.
Carrier Unlocking Voluntary Commitment
The sad part is that this should not be a problem at all at this stage. In December 2013, AT&T, Verizon, US Cellular, and T-Mobile committed to voluntary adopting a set of guidelines in order for consumers to easily unlock their phones and have a clearer understanding of the process. One of the six CTIA guidelines T-Mobile is not following is unlocking the device for individual consumers.
“Postpaid Unlocking Policy. Carriers upon request will unlock mobile wireless devices or provide the necessary information to unlock devices for their customers and former customers in good standing and individual owners of eligible devices after the fulfillment of the applicable postpaid service contract, device financing plan, or payment of an applicable early termination fee.”
If you contact T-Mobile through any of their contact methods, as soon as they know you’re not a former or current customer, they will cut you off giving the generic statement of “Our apologies, without an active T-Mobile account we’re unable to process unlock requests.”
What does T-Mobile gains from this
Just like AT&T and the iPhone between 2007-2012, if your T-Mobile device is not unlockable you will be forced to become their new customer unless you waste more money on another device for another provider.