AT&T Says It Will Unlock Customers’ Devices If They Meet Certain Conditions [Updates]

Ads by Google

AT&T will unlock any of its customers’ devices if their account and device meet several conditions, which are detailed in full in an AT&T company blog post headed “Bottom line: We Unlock Our Customers’ Devices”. This comes as a response to a controversial U.S. law that prohibits cell phone users from unlocking their phone so they can be used with another carrier.

According to the announcement, AT&T “will unlock a device for any customer whose account has been active for at least sixty days;  whose account is in good standing and has no unpaid balance; and who has fulfilled his or service agreement commitment.” If these qualifying conditions are met, AT&T will unlock up to 5 devices per account per year, as long as those devices have not been reported lost or stolen. AT&T has also posted a set of instructions and eligibility requirements for unlocking your iPhone.

Before the regulatory law, titled Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), went in effect on January 26, cell phone users could legally use software and special tools to unlock their cell phone on their own with permission from the carrier they purchased the device from. Not being able to unlock your phone (which is not the same as jailbreaking it) could mean, among other challenges, that customers must pay high roaming fees to make a call while traveling abroad, as they are unable to switch to another carrier.

Two days before the law went into effect, an online petition that called for making unlocking cell phones legal went live. As of this writing, the petition has received over a 100,000 signatures, and the White House has responded in support of the petition.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Source: AT&T

Join live MakeUseOf Groups on Grouvi App Join live Groups on Grouvi
Awesome Websites
Awesome Websites
137 Members
Deep Web Communities
Deep Web Communities
80 Members
Best Anonymity Tools
Best Anonymity Tools
73 Members
Tips for Privacy Obsessed
Tips for Privacy Obsessed
44 Members
Best Music Services
Best Music Services
43 Members
Online Security Tips
Online Security Tips
41 Members
Web for Kids
Web for Kids
32 Members
Ads by Google
Comments (11)
  • Mareo

    In France, all the carriers will unlock your phone if you’ve been a customer for at least 6 months or so. I don’t know if it’s an obligation for them to do so but it’s quite normal that you should fully own the phone you buy.

  • Jim

    Yeah, fulfilling your service requirement means you’ve owned the phone for two years. So what happens when you, for example, go to Europe for a couple of weeks and need your six month old phone unlocked so you can use a local carrier?

    • Bakari Chavanu

      Jim, good point. I would still suggest calling AT&T and see if they would make an exception in that case. At the same time, I think the issue you state is another reason a petition was posted in order to get rid of the law all together. Thanks for your feedback.

    • Jim

      Agreed. I knew someone who had to go through that. AT&T did unlock it for her but it was a pain to get someone who would do it and she had been a long term customer. No surprise but AT&T is being grossly misleading in their statement that there is no issue for people.

  • Doc

    “Before the regulatory law, titled Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), went in effect on January 26″ The DMCA went into effect in 2000; the Librarian of Congress’s exemption for cell phone owners unlocking cell phones expired on January 26th. Big difference.

    • Bakari Chavanu

      Hmm, Doc, unless I misread other sources, or I’m misunderstanding you, the DMCA law applies to phones purchased after January 26. Do you have a source that says that law expired on Jan. 26? Appreciate your feedback.

    • Doc

      It wasn’t a “law” that expired on January 26th, it was the LIbrarian of Congress’s exemption for cellphone unlocking that expired on that date. The DMCA provision that made cellphone unlocking illegal went back *into* effect, as the Librarian of Congress did not renew the exemption.

    • Bakari Chavanu

      Okay, gotcha. Well, I’m still not clear how the law is going to be enforced if users find a way to unlock their phones using special software.

    • Doc

      The point is, if you haven’t paid off your phone and you unlock it, you can be charged with a crime under the DMCA. I don’t see as anyone can enforce it; how are they going to find out you’ve jumped contract and unlocked your phone to use with another carrier? (I wouldn’t put it past them to start eavesdropping on cell towers and looking for your phone’s IMEI, though…)

Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.