Verizon Buy Phone Outright
Until recently, if you wanted to unlock your phone in order to switch carriers, there was a good chance that you'd have to do it without the cooperation of the carrier you were with. You could search online for the codes that might unlock your device -- or try to hack it in other ways. But what you usually couldn't do was call your carrier and ask how to do it.
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As of February 11, 2015, that's all changed. Back in December of 2013, the major U.S. carriers set a voluntary deadline for a date by which consumers would be able to unlock their phones -- provided they met certain criteria. (And provided that the carriers follow their own rules, which has been disputed by at least one researcher.) Tablets can be unlocked as well, and the rules for unlocking are the same as for phones.
So what are the new rules? Computerworld has put together everything you need to know about unlocking your phone, including how to find out if your phone is eligible for unlocking, how to unlock it with the major carriers, and how to move your phone from one carrier to another.
Before getting started, you first need to know whether your phone is eligible to be unlocked. Yours might not be. If you bought your phone via a two-year contract from a mobile carrier, your phone is considered a "postpaid" device. You'll have to wait until your contract is up before you can unlock your phone. There's an exception, however -- if you're willing to pay an early termination fee on your contract, you'll then be eligible.
If you bought your phone outright, it's considered a "prepaid" device and can be unlocked one year after its initial activation. There's one caveat, however: Your bill from your carrier has to be paid. So if you owe money, your carrier doesn't have to unlock your phone.
Presumably, you're unlocking your phone because you want to use it with a new carrier. Keep in mind that not all phones work on all networks, because some networks use different cellular technologies than others do.
U.S. cell phone networks use either CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) or GSM (Global System for Mobiles) radio systems. Sprint and Verizon use CDMA, while AT&T and T-Mobile use GSM. Theoretically, a CDMA phone shouldn't work on a GSM network, and vice versa. But real life is more complicated than that. Phones that use the high-speed 4G LTE wireless standard should be able to work on any network, whether they are GSM or CDMA. However, not all 4G LTE phones work on all LTE bands, and so it's possible that a 4G LTE phone will not work on a specific network.
If you're not a customer of the carrier that the phone is locked to, you might be charged a fee. You'll have to check with the carrier for details. Also, if you use a third-party unlocking service such as a kiosk, it might charge you a fee.
The exact process of unlocking phones can vary from carrier to carrier. In some instances, you may be provided with an unlock code, or it can be done with a software update. Some providers might require that you come to a store to unlock your phone, while others will do it remotely.
With AT&T, you fill out a Web form on the company's Consumer Device Unlock Portal to ask that your phone be unlocked. Make sure that you have your phone's IMEI number (a 15-digit number). How you find that number can vary from model to model, but on just about any phone, you can find it by typing in this sequence: *#06#. You probably won't have to tap the Send or Call button. The number will likely simply appear.
You can unlock your device from Sprint either by calling 888-211-4727 or via a Web chat. In some instances, for "devices launched after February 2015," in Sprint's words, your phone will be automatically unlocked as soon as it's eligible. Check out Sprint's general information about its unlocking policy and FAQ for more details.
If you have a Verizon phone, it may already be unlocked. Verizon's online documentation for unlocking says that it doesn't lock most of its phones or tablets. It notes, "We do not lock our 4G LTE devices, and no code is needed to program them for use with another carrier. We do not lock our 3G devices, other than our non-iPhone Global Ready 3G phones." If you do have a Verizon phone that's locked, call 800-711-8300 and ask for a SIM unlock.
In some instances, you may need to program your phone to work with another carrier after you unlock it. For example, to program a Verizon non-iPhone Global Ready 3G phone to work with a different carrier, you'll need to use either the code 000000 or the code 123456. Check with the carrier you're leaving and the carrier you're moving to for details.
There's plenty of information online about the ins and outs of unlocking your phone. The FCC's page Cell Phone Unlocking FAQs is a great place to start. Also worthwhile is the FCC's encyclopedia entry for cell phone unlocking.
If you're interested in knowing whether or not your carrier has been keeping its promise about enabling customers to unlock their phones, you can check the Cell Phone Unlocking Scorecard to see how it's done up to now.
Under the new plans, which take effect Aug. 13, prices for voice, text and data services will drop by roughly $20 per month compared with subsidized plans. But customers will no longer get the subsidies on the phone, valued at about $19 for an iPhone 6. But there are variations, so some will pay a bit more, others a bit less.
Couples who bought or brought their own phones paid $100 for either 3 gigabytes or 6 gigabytes, thanks to steeper discounts Verizon had offered to customers who declined subsidies and chose larger data plans.
When getting a new phone on Verizon, you have two options: you can either activate it on a two-year contract or you can activate it on Verizon's EDGE program. In the near future, Verizon will transition out of two-year contracts and move exclusively to the EDGE plan. For the time being, let's take a look at the difference between the two options so you can figure out what's best for you.
The two-year contract model is how cell phones in America have been for awhile. With a two-year contract, you purchase your new phone from Verizon at a heavily discounted price and, in two years, you are able to purchase another phone at a discounted price. During the two-year period, you cannot terminate your Verizon service or the specific line from service without facing an early termination fee (ETF). However, the two-year contract does not lock you into a specific service plan type. For example, you can change the data allowance on your plan whenever you want without facing any fees or paying an ETF. The two-year contract only applies to the phone being upgraded.
As previously mentioned, on a two-year contract you purchase the phone at a large discount. For example, you can upgrade to a 16GB iPhone 6 on a two-year contract and pay $199 for the phone. However, that specific iPhone actually costs $649. Verizon provides a huge subsidy on the phone hardware since you are signing a two-year contract. Since you are purchasing the phone outright, you own the phone during and after the two-year period.
The two year contract comes with more fees than phones on the EDGE program. One fee is the upgrade/activation fee. Whether you are upgrading or adding a new line on a Verizon two-year contract, you pay a $40 per line upgrade/activation fee that shows up in your next bill. Almost all Verizon customers, with the exception being larger business accounts, pay this fee.
The Verizon EDGE service has been around for almost two years now and is the program that Verizon will be exclusively moving to in the near future. On Verizon EDGE, you get your phone for free and pay off the device's full retail price over 24 months. You are not locked into a contract and avoid many of the fees associated with the two-year contract. Verizon also gives you a discount on your monthly service for each line on EDGE.
On Verizon EDGE, you pay the sales tax on the phone when you first get the device and then finance the retail sales price over 24 monthly payments. This means at the end of two years, your phone is completely paid off. You do have the option of paying a down payment on the device when you first purchase it. This will lower your monthly payment. At any time during the 24 months, you can pay off the balance owed on your phone and own it. You can even make a down payment equal to the full price of the phone when you first get it in order to avoid a monthly EDGE payment. On EDGE in order to upgrade to a new phone, you must have 100% of the phone paid off. However, you are not locked into a contract. This means you could get a new phone on Verizon EDGE, pay it off in a month and then cancel the service on the line without paying an ETF.
In addition to not paying upgrade fees or ETFs, EDGE customers get a per line discount on their monthly access fees for each phone on the EDGE program. On a two-year contract, the monthly access fee for a smartphone is $40 per line. On EDGE, you get a $15 or $25 discount off this fee per line. The discount depends on the amount of data on your plan. Accounts with 4GB or below receive the $15 per line discount while accounts with 6GB or more data receive the $25 discount.
Basically, if you have 6GB or more data on your Verizon account and plan on keeping your data allowance at or above that level, the EDGE program is more affordable. For customer's with 4GB of data or less, EDGE is slightly more expensive over two years. In both cases, however, customer's benefit from the EDGE program in the sense that they are not locked into a two year contract and can upgrade their phone whenever they want. You also avoid many of the pesky fees associated with activating your phone on a two-year contract.
Most major carriers have eliminated the two-year contract for consumers, so early termination fees (ETF) are quickly becoming a thing of the past. Depending on when you got your last phone, however, you could still be subject to an ETF impacted by the length of time left on your service contract, any money owed on your device and any device promo terms left unfulfilled. The system automatically calculates the ETF based on the contract effective date and disconnect date, so the less time you have left on your contract, the lower your fee. Check with your current provider to confirm what fees you may owe before switching. 041b061a72