Verizon will soon take extra steps to safeguard its phones from theft, but the move could inconvenience its subscribers.
This spring, the nation’s largest wireless carrier plans to stop selling its devices unlocked out of the box, as it has since it began offering 4G LTE smartphones, according to a CNET report. Theoretically, the policy change would prevent thieves from stealing the company’s phones and then turning around and selling them to other carriers and retailers, or overseas. However, it may also make it more difficult for customers to take their business to a competitor if a better deal becomes available, or use their phone on a local network when traveling outside of the United States.
You can use an unlocked phones on any carrier, so long as it has the appropriate SIM card inserted. Locked phones can only be used on the network for which they are sold — although carriers can distribute codes to unlock them once certain conditions have been met, such as making a set amount of monthly payments.
If you buy a phone through a carrier — and not from the manufacturer directly —there’s a strong chance your device is locked to that carrier until you’ve paid it off. Even then, carriers such as AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint, will make you wait up to two months after you’ve paid the last bill before letting you take that phone to another network.
Verizon’s policy gave its customers more freedom, although users would still be required to pay an early termination fee or the remainder of the phone’s value if they immediately wanted to jump ship to another service provider. According to CNET, Verizon has not clarified how long it intends to keep a customers’ new phone locked, though it will honor requests to unlock them at any time. Tom’s Guide has reached out to Verizon for clarification on its new policy, and we'll update the story once we hear back.