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Compromise Struck On Cellphone Unlocking Bill

timothy posted about 3 months ago | from the pit-carrier-against-carrier dept.

Cellphones 77

NotSanguine (1917456) writes The U.S. Senate has passed a bill (S.517) today, allowing users to unlock their phones when moving to another provider. From a recent article at thehill.com: "Consumers should be able to use their existing cell phones when they move their service to a new wireless provider," [Sen. Patrick] Leahy said in a statement. "Our laws should not prohibit consumers from carrying their cell phones to a new network, and we should promote and protect competition in the wireless marketplace," he said. [Sen. Chuck] Grassley called the bipartisan compromise "an important step forward in ensuring that there is competition in the industry and in safeguarding options for consumers as they look at new cell phone contracts." "Empowering people with the freedom to use the carrier of their choice after complying with their original terms of service is the right thing to do," he said. The House in February passed a companion bill sponsored on cellphone unlocking from House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.)." Also at Ars Technica, as pointed out by reader jessepdx.

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does not compute. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47535383)

I don't understand how this is technically possible. don't you need a different type of phone to go from Verizon to ATT? like taking your TV to Japan.

Re:does not compute. (4, Informative)

Enry (630) | about 3 months ago | (#47535605)

This should allow you to move a phone between Verizon and one of their MVNOs [wikipedia.org] . While Verizon and AT&T use different technologies, T-Mobile and AT&T use GSM and LTE. As VoLTE becomes more popular and increases, I think most cell phone providers will start to standardize on that, which will mean they're all using the same technology (if not the same bands) and moving a phone between Verizon and AT&T may be possible in a few years.

Re:does not compute. (2)

Wootery (1087023) | about 3 months ago | (#47537453)

I think most cell phone providers will start to standardize on that

Perhaps not, depending on how badly they want to stop people unlocking and switching providers.

Re:does not compute. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47535991)

Japanese broadcasting is actually ISDB and I would expect any compatible TV to work.

Or for a tuner to be available.

Re:does not compute. (3, Informative)

mathwhiz99atucb (203884) | about 3 months ago | (#47536209)

I don't understand how this is technically possible. don't you need a different type of phone to go from Verizon to ATT? like taking your TV to Japan.

It depends on the device. Some devices will work across all of the Big 4 carriers in the USA. The iPhone 5s/5c is one example. It contains all the radio equipment necessary to connect to any carrier's LTE signal frequency (3G fallback might be an issue between CDMA and GSM). I would expect these radios to become more prevalent as time progresses.

Re:does not compute. (1)

ArmoredDragon (3450605) | about 3 months ago | (#47537095)

Sprint is kind of notorious as a holdout in that area in that they don't permit you to take another carrier's phone to their network even if it is completely compatible.

But Sprint service is shitty. I mean like dogshit shitty. In fact T-mobile recently overtook them as the third largest carrier:

http://www.macobserver.com/tmo... [macobserver.com]

So really it's kind of a non-issue. Nobody would actually voluntarily switch to Sprint unless they were mentally disabled, so who cares.

Re:does not compute. (1)

EvilJoker (192907) | about 3 months ago | (#47550553)

Unless it's changed recently, VZW has the same restrictions. They would not activate any CDMA phone that was not already in their system. Reports varied as to whether they would activate the same model, but with a different carrier's firmware.

The last time I checked, however, was before they went LTE and started using SIMs.

Re:does not compute. (1)

EvilJoker (192907) | about 3 months ago | (#47550507)

LTE is only used for data, not voice. Also, each carrier uses different frequencies for LTE, so that has been a source of carrier-locking. The iPhone does this as well.

For more info: http://www.everymac.com/systems/apple/iphone/iphone-faq/differences-between-iphone-5-models.html [everymac.com]

While there may be limited fallback, it's not very useful when switching carriers.

Whoah (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47535391)

A sudden outbreak of common sense? Pinch me, I must be dreaming.

Re:Whoah (1)

plover (150551) | about 3 months ago | (#47536087)

Don't worry, some jackass will find a way to screw it up. Look for a bought congressman to insert language that makes it illegal to change batteries, or to require the screen to be etched with the date of unlocking, something that will make it suck. Then look for gridlock to kill it anyway.

I don't see what good unlocking does (1)

tepples (727027) | about 3 months ago | (#47535393)

Very few phones work on both CDMA2000 networks (Verizon and Sprint) and GSM networks (AT&T and T-Mobile), and they're hard to find in U.S. stores. Mail order doesn't let you hold the phone and get a feel for its size, weight, screen, and buttons before you buy.

Re:I don't see what good unlocking does (2, Informative)

aristotle-dude (626586) | about 3 months ago | (#47535501)

Very few phones work on both CDMA2000 networks (Verizon and Sprint) and GSM networks (AT&T and T-Mobile), and they're hard to find in U.S. stores. Mail order doesn't let you hold the phone and get a feel for its size, weight, screen, and buttons before you buy.

What decade are you living in? Most recent phones have been either phones that work on both AT&T and T-mobile or LTE phones with multiple bands which would work on multiple networks. It is only the retarded Verizon specific phone that are designed to work on their bastardized version of the 700 Mhz band that have less utility on other LTE networks.

VoLTE yet? (1)

tepples (727027) | about 3 months ago | (#47535615)

So can Verizon and Sprint do voice and SMS over LTE with a carrier-neutral LTE phone, or would I have to buy a carrier-endorsed CDMA2000+LTE phone for that?

Re:VoLTE yet? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47535669)

Verizon hasn't rolled out Voice over LTE yet. They should by the end of the year, though.

Re:I don't see what good unlocking does (5, Informative)

clonehappy (655530) | about 3 months ago | (#47535777)

This is a tech site, we're supposed to be people who keep up with the latest in technology. I'm not sure, exactly, why I have to keep posting this over and over, but here we go again:

The "retarded" Verizon specific phones are actually some of the most compatible phones you can buy today. Not only do they work on the Verizon CDMA and "bastardized" LTE networks, but they include full functionality for GSM and HSPA networks. I have two Verizon phones, right at this moment, that I'm using full time on other networks with full capability. My Verizon iPhone 5S is currently being used on an AT&T postpaid plan. All LTE, HSPA, and GSM functions work with 100% compatibility. My Verizon LG G2 is being used on T-Mobile with full LTE, HSPA, and GSM services. Nearly every phone worth having today is fully compatible with the GSM/WCDMA (HSPA) network technology. Phones are becoming more compatible, not less.

Now, everyone always wants to trot out the fact that you can't take a phone from Carrier X and move it to Verizon, and this is true. Very few use cases actually involve moving a phone TO Verizon, however. But to say that Verizon phones are the bastard child of the cellular industry is simply untrue. In fact, they are more useful to some people, including myself, as I can take the aforementioned G2 or iPhone and put my Verizon SIM back in it and go on my way. Phone manufacturers have no incentive to make multiple product lines, yet they all still need to support Verizon as the largest carrier in the United States. So they make compatible phones, then simply disable the ability to connect to CDMA on the ones sold to GSM/HSPA providers. But the Verizon ones are compatible with GSM/HSPA and CDMA, making them the most versatile of all.

At any rate, things being more open rather than less is always a good thing. There are plenty of cases where a phone geek such as myself can benefit from having unlocked handsets lying around. Say someone breaks a phone, or an iPhone fanboy wants to try out Android (or the other way around), or traveling overseas, or trying out a new MVNO or prepaid carrier...just pop in the SIM and you're on your way. And as for the GP, millions of phones work on CDMA and GSM (and their descendents), they're just all sold by Verizon. But the FUD machine wants you to think there's no good reason to have handsets with carrier mobility, and for many folks, that's simply untrue.

Re:I don't see what good unlocking does (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47536443)

Why do you have two smartphones? That's just stupid.

Re:I don't see what good unlocking does (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47536741)

In many places (especially SE Asia) the carrier networks are 100% compatible. For example, in Cambodia you can walk into *any* store, buy *any* phone, insert your SIM card and you're on the air.

I don't know about the rest of the world but I know from experience that that's the way it works in Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, Taiwan, etc etc.

Re:I don't see what good unlocking does (1, Informative)

Solandri (704621) | about 3 months ago | (#47536977)

The "retarded" Verizon specific phones are actually some of the most compatible phones you can buy today. Not only do they work on the Verizon CDMA and "bastardized" LTE networks, but they include full functionality for GSM and HSPA networks. I have two Verizon phones, right at this moment, that I'm using full time on other networks with full capability. My Verizon iPhone 5S is currently being used on an AT&T postpaid plan. All LTE, HSPA, and GSM functions work with 100% compatibility. My Verizon LG G2 is being used on T-Mobile with full LTE, HSPA, and GSM services. Nearly every phone worth having today is fully compatible with the GSM/WCDMA (HSPA) network technology. Phones are becoming more compatible, not less.

That's not quite true. CDMA phones with LTE have GSM SIM cards because the LTE spec requires it. Most of them also have GSM capability, while the GSM-only versions don't have CDMA capability. So that respect you're right that Verizon and Sprint phones have better global compatibility than GSM-only phones.

However, a lot of newer phones are limited in which frequencies they support [phonescoop.com] . Your Verizon G2 for example only supports LTE at 750 and 1700 MHz [phonescoop.com] . Verizon's LTE bands are at 700 and 1700 Mhz [wikipedia.org] . T-Mobile's and AT&T's are at 1700 Mhz. Sprint's however are at 800, 1900, and 2500 MHz. So your phone won't get LTE with Sprint.

Unfortunately, Congress has dilly dallied on this issue for too long. We're now past the point where mandating carriers unlock phones will help. There are still phones which will work across a broad range of carriers like your G2 [phonescoop.com] , but they are now few and far between. Most of the newer phones are restricted in their frequencies so they'll only work fully with one carrier. Take it to another carrier and you'll either suffer degraded service, or even lack certain service (like no LTE on your Verizon G2 with Sprint). So even if you can unlock your phone from the carrier, it won't do you any good because you'll lose 4g or even 3g capability if you try to use it with another carrier.

The only thing that will help now a law mandating that carriers must provide service to any phone a customer brings with them that's capable of operating on their network. That will open up the markets so that manufacturers begin selling multi-carrier and world phones directly to customers (bypassing the carriers). You can still buy a phone from Verizon if you really want, and it'll be crippled so as not to work with any other carrier even if unlocked. But the smarter person would buy the version of the phone sold by the manufacturer at Best Buy or Amazon which supports enough frequencies that it'll work with any carrier. That's actually what Google did with the Nexus 5 - it supports enough frequencies to work on AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and a bunch of other international carriers. It's technically capable of working on Verizon, but Verizon blacklists it so you can't use it on their network at all. What we need is a law making it illegal for Verizon to do that.

Incidentally, for anyone cursing CDMA in the U.S. complicating matters, don't. CDMA won the standards war. Your GSM phone uses CDMA - most HSPA implementations are wideband CDMA. It's only because the U.S. didn't mandate GSM and allowed carriers to try out different technologies that a superior tech - CDMA - was able to prove itself in the market and was eventually incorporated into the GSM spec. If CDMA hadn't been around, we'd probably be stuck with 1 Mbps or slower data speeds today. (LTE works very similarly to CDMA, except in the frequency domain instead of the code domain. Each phone is assigned an orthogonal set of frequencies, while in CDMA they're assigned an orthogonal set of codes.)

Re:I don't see what good unlocking does (2)

houghi (78078) | about 3 months ago | (#47537355)

My Verizon iPhone 5

As sdomebody living in Belgium where locking is (for now) forbidden, this confuses the hell out of me. The phone is identical to all providers. Sure, some services might not be available, but you can buy any phone and use it on any nwetwork.

If I want a new phone I just go to the store, buy one and transfer the data. You can letthe store do it for you. You can buy a phone where you are locked in, which means you will have to pay the provider for a certain amount of time. They are shortening (or already jhave?) to one year. You are still free to use any phone you desire.

Oh. They are also working on removing roaming costs completely in Europe and have a universal power supply.

It is as if they are listening to the people, not the companies. Silly socialists.

Re:I don't see what good unlocking does (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47535505)

Yes, but is that the chicken, or the egg? If phones were portable between networks, then multi-network compatible phones are actually worth selling and will show up in stores (in theory).

Re:I don't see what good unlocking does (1)

rkww (675767) | about 3 months ago | (#47537601)

If phones were portable between networks, then multi-network compatible phones are actually worth selling and will show up in stores

That's already the case [webuy.com] in the UK. Note the 'unlocked' option in the Network dropdown and the premium it brings to the price.

An unlocked GSM phone can be used with a local SIM card (so no roaming charges) anywhere in Europe, and, in the UK at least, you can buy a pay-as-you-go SIM card for less than a dollar.

Or a month's unlimited data [three.co.uk] for $25. And interestingly (for this topic) a 3UK SIM can be used in a handful of countries without roaming charges - including the USA [three.co.uk] (but data's limited to 25 gigabytes per month and you're not allowed to tether.)

Re:I don't see what good unlocking does (1)

pla (258480) | about 3 months ago | (#47537821)

Or a month's unlimited data [three.co.uk] for $25. And interestingly (for this topic) a 3UK SIM can be used in a handful of countries without roaming charges - including the USA [three.co.uk] (but data's limited to 25 gigabytes per month and you're not allowed to tether.)

Holy crap... Can I sign up with them AS an American? Tethering aside, that beats my current plan by 5GB and $50.

No, the US doesn't need to regulate the greedy-four in charge of our cell networks - We clearly have the best products and services available at the best prices thanks to free market pressures.

Re:I don't see what good unlocking does (1)

khellendros1984 (792761) | about 3 months ago | (#47535575)

Very few phones work on both CDMA2000 networks (Verizon and Sprint) and GSM networks (AT&T and T-Mobile), and they're hard to find in U.S. stores.

If true (I don't keep track of which phones are available through whom and do what), I don't see what bearing that has on whether it's a good idea or a bad one to make it easier to force carriers to unlock the handsets that they sell. Even if there were *no* dual-network phones, you'd be able to move between a choice between two carriers (and the MVNOs of each), and that's better than being forced to buy a new phone.

Mail order doesn't let you hold the phone and get a feel for its size, weight, screen, and buttons before you buy.

Well, I can't argue with that; if you don't have physical access to a device, then you can't judge it first-hand based on its physical attributes. In my case, I went to the store of my chosen carrier, tried out their phones in the store, and bought a variant online that the store didn't carry. Having the opportunity to handle a phone before buying it varies on a case-by-case basis so much that I'm not quite sure why you mentioned it.

Re:I don't see what good unlocking does (1)

tepples (727027) | about 3 months ago | (#47535631)

Having the opportunity to handle a phone before buying it varies on a case-by-case basis so much that I'm not quite sure why you mentioned it.

Because of this comment [slashdot.org] . I asked about being able to try an AOSP phone before I buy it, and someone replied that I sounded like an entitled whiner.

Re:I don't see what good unlocking does (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47535683)

Most CDMA phones are also GSM phones (though the reverse is not necessarily true), and both will be replaced with pure LTE in a few years anyway.

My Verizon phone is unlocked CDMA/GSM/LTE, and I can use it with ATT or Tmobile any time I like. I can supplement my plan by temporarily swapping in a cheap pay-as-you-go SIM if, say, I'm going on a business trip and will be using more data than usual. I'm still under contract for the time being, but in a year I'll be able to try out, or switch outright, to another carrier without having to buy a new handset (or sign a new contract.)

Re:I don't see what good unlocking does (2)

Tumbleweed (3706) | about 3 months ago | (#47535807)

My Nexus 5 thinks you don't know what you're talking about; it works just fine on T-Mobile, AT&T and Sprint. Get with the times, man; it's ALL ball bearings now!

Re:I don't see what good unlocking does (1)

zugmeister (1050414) | about 3 months ago | (#47537141)

Chevy Chase was awesome...

Re:I don't see what good unlocking does (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47536035)

hell, forget about gsm for a minute... very few phones work on both cdma networks (sprint, verizon)... 800/850/1900 voice and 3g (if you're lucky) roaming is the norm, but 4g? probably not. how many sprint handset models support verizon's 1700/2100 bands? how many verizon handset models support sprint's 2500 band?

Grassley? (1, Funny)

KrazyDave (2559307) | about 3 months ago | (#47535417)

Sen. Charles "Chuck-a-buck" Grassley, sucking on a huge blunt, exhaled a plume of potent Mary Jane smoke and coughed out, "Freeeeeeeedom for phooooones!" before expiring from a massive coronary, still grasping his iPhone 4S in his steel grip. Please send donations to NORML in lieu of flowers.

Our pensions are being robbed (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47535503)

However it is much more important that congress lets me unlock my bloody phone! We must reward them with reelection in November.

Even better, reflect true cost of cell phones (3, Informative)

KingOfBLASH (620432) | about 3 months ago | (#47535547)

True story:

My sisters's iphone screen broke. I asked her what she was doing with it, she said "Nothing, Apple wanted $100 to fix the screen but I just signed on for another contract with Verizon and got a free iphone."

This is how a lot of people think, and they're too naïve (or dumb) to realize the truth (no comment on sis). Her iphone is worth several hundred dollars, and if the phone is fixed for $100 she still comes out ahead. Verizon, meanwhile, will charge her more per month and actually, she's losing money on the deal.

Re:Even better, reflect true cost of cell phones (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47535681)

Actually, Verizon charges the same price per month whether or not you're "paying off" a new phone.

Re:Even better, reflect true cost of cell phones (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47535733)

Which is why i don't have Verizon and instead have t-mobile. Plus... I wanted the Nexus 5 and that's not on Verizon in the first place.. I was very happy with verizon's service otherwise.

$35 / month by dropping Verizon (2)

raymorris (2726007) | about 3 months ago | (#47535803)

If you're not financing the phone via Verizon, you have no need to pay Verizon anything. Instead you just use one of their subsidiary brands or affiliate for about $35 / month.

I don't remember the current names for Verizon, but as an example Sprint and Boost are the same company, same LTE network Boost is $35 / month. You'd only pay the Sprint contract price if you were paying off your "free" phone.

Re:Even better, reflect true cost of cell phones (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47536815)

Actually, Verizon charges the same price per month whether or not you're "paying off" a new phone.

That's not true. Not even a little bit. They even break down the costs for you if you ask them about it.

Re:Even better, reflect true cost of cell phones (1)

EvilJoker (192907) | about 3 months ago | (#47550593)

Do the prices change once you're done paying it off?

It doesn't really matter if the breakdown is (e.g.)
Monthly access: $50 /Phone subsidy: $30

if it changes to
Monthly access: $80 / Phone subsidy: $0
when the contract ends.

Re:Even better, reflect true cost of cell phones (1)

BitZtream (692029) | about 3 months ago | (#47535731)

So if she doesn't sign a new contract, how much less does Verizon charge her?

Wait for it ...

Nothing.

The fact of the matter is, its you that is dumb. She's going to have a cell phone bill ANYWAY. Signing up for 'a new contract' that basically says you're going to stay with the cell phone provider for another 2 years ... which she was going to do anyway, doesn't actually cost her anything. They aren't charging her any more per month. They don't reduce her rate when her contract expires.

True Story: You're sister is smarter than you are, apparently. It would be stupid for her to pay $100 to fix the phone when she can get a new one for now additional fees unless she was actually going to change providers, which realistically, she wasn't.

Re:Even better, reflect true cost of cell phones (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47535765)

Why I use Ting. Its 1/3 - 1/2 the price of major carriers. Pay for phone get service far less.

Re:Even better, reflect true cost of cell phones (2)

marka63 (1237718) | about 3 months ago | (#47535809)

Only because of rip off plans.

In sane countries you have "bring your own phone" plans which are cheaper that ones with phones and contracts where the cost of the phone is itemised and disappears once it is paid off. You can also unlock the phone at anytime for a small fee while in contract and $0 out of contract. The contracts are advertised with minimum spend over X months. This is what the carrier expects to get from you regardless of whether you use the phone or not. It is also what you are expected to pay.

Re:Even better, reflect true cost of cell phones (2)

SeaFox (739806) | about 3 months ago | (#47535823)

You're sister is smarter than you are, apparently. It would be stupid for her to pay $100 to fix the phone when she can get a new one for now additional fees unless she was actually going to change providers, which realistically, she wasn't.

His sister is still dumb because she's letting her old iPhone sit in a desk drawer and lose value every time a new generation comes out. If Verizon was really going to give her a new iPhone for nothing (but a contract extension), she should have still paid Apple the $100 to fix the screen on the old one, and then sold it immediately. Working iPhone with brand new screen -- wonder how much that would have fetched on the market.

Re:Even better, reflect true cost of cell phones (1)

vux984 (928602) | about 3 months ago | (#47536227)

If Verizon was really going to give her a new iPhone for nothing (but a contract extension), she should have still paid Apple the $100 to fix the screen on the old one, and then sold it immediately.

Meh... depends on what phone she had and has now. She probably has a 4S. $100 to repair it and then maybe sell it for $200... $100 net profit whooo... still worth it assuming you value your time less than whatever grief is involved dealing with putzes on craigslist. :)

Re:Even better, reflect true cost of cell phones (1)

BitZtream (692029) | about 3 months ago | (#47536525)

No one is paying $200 for a phone they can get for free with a contract, certainly not a 2 year old phone (existing 2 year contract for broken phone must have already completed or they wouldn't let her resign for a free phone).

Okay a few uppity slashdotters do, but those 6 people don't buy iPhones and already have a nexus or something anyway.

Her 16g iPhone 4 was worthless a year ago.

Re:Even better, reflect true cost of cell phones (1)

vux984 (928602) | about 3 months ago | (#47537321)

No one is paying $200 for a phone they can get for free with a contract

Not true. The 2ndary market for last years premium phones (iphone 4S, galaxy 3, galaxy 4 ...) and they do go for ~$150-250.

There are a few niches where used premium phones really shine:

kids phones -- kids want imessage/sms, games, youtube, and parents don't want to spend $50-80/mo for phone contracts for their kids, so they'll 'get' an older premium phone and stick a pay as you go text messenging plan on it.

This is a popular setup parents go for around here, and its usually put on 'hand-me-down phones' or phones picked up 2nd hand.

For example, I put my daughter on 100$/year unlimited SMS plan, on my old iphone 3GS, and then after she had it a year it gave out, and wasn't worth fixing - so I bought her a used iphone 4S for $180. I think this is a pretty common situation, as everything from small computer shops to ebgames deals in used premium phones and there's always 10+ iphone 4, 4S, samsung SIII and S4 phones in stock at any of these places.

Re:Even better, reflect true cost of cell phones (1)

KingOfBLASH (620432) | about 3 months ago | (#47535847)

But there's opportunity cost to committing for another 2 years.

And are you seriously telling me if she gets an iphone 64 GB 5S it's the same price as if she gets the $20 special?

Re:Even better, reflect true cost of cell phones (2)

swillden (191260) | about 3 months ago | (#47536091)

And are you seriously telling me if she gets an iphone 64 GB 5S it's the same price as if she gets the $20 special?

In many cases... yes. The most expensive phones have an up-front cost in addition to the two-year commitment, but if you get the most expensive phone you can without an up-front fee, then there is no price difference between that one and the cheapest phone.

Yes, this is ridiculous.

Re:Even better, reflect true cost of cell phones (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47536261)

Maybe she just got the 16 GB iphone 5c for free?

Re:Even better, reflect true cost of cell phones (1)

GerbilKor (2926575) | about 3 months ago | (#47538081)

Or even better: Get a new contract and a new phone, fix the old one for $100, then sell it for $200+. Now she has a brand new phone which cost (as little as) nothing, the same bill she always had, and enough cash to cover several months of service. P.S. Sorry, meant to mod up but I hit the wrong button.

Re:Even better, reflect true cost of cell phones (2)

fermion (181285) | about 3 months ago | (#47536175)

Right now you best deal on a contract phone is buy a new phone when the contract runs out. Otherwise you are paying the fees for a phone that is already paid for. If you sign a new contract, and get a new phone, the amount of money you pay is constant. There is no wasted money. If she was paying for a plan that was out of contract that was a waste of money. Paying $100 is wasted if she was out of contract. Paying $100 in contract would not necessarily be a waste, but it is likely a wash. The value of an iPhone 5S is about $650. If you buy the phone and use something like Cricket it will be $2000 over two years, but there is no lockin. If you get the subsidized phone, and use something like verizon, you are paying a few hundred dollars more over the two year period, with lockin. Most people aren't set up to lay down a few hundred dollars for a phone at time of purchase. Getting a phone for free and paying for a couple years makes more sense. The lockin comes from this extended payment. My fear is that this current climate is leading to higher prices. On verizon, if you use their early upgrade plan you pay about $150 extra over the two years, in addition to the $300 premium.

Re:Even better, reflect true cost of cell phones (1)

evilviper (135110) | about 3 months ago | (#47536893)

Most people aren't set up to lay down a few hundred dollars for a phone at time of purchase. Getting a phone for free and paying for a couple years makes more sense.

T-Mobile allows financing your cell phone purchase over 2-years, with no interest.

http://www.t-mobile.com/shop/p... [t-mobile.com]

Most pre-paid providers have extremely cheap Android smartphones, some as little as $30.

Great. A new excuse for providers to raise prices. (1)

jerel (112066) | about 3 months ago | (#47535557)

Everybody knows the technology and even the frequency spectrums in use by the various carriers is mostly all different. You watch. The carriers now will say that they have to raise prices or even completely do away with contract subsidies in order to be competitive. As "do-gooder" efforts go, this is up there. Sounds great on paper, but utterly fails in it's intended consequence and/or has worse unintended consequences.

Re:Great. A new excuse for providers to raise pric (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47535587)

Except... phone unlocking has been legal in many other countries for years now with positive effects.

Re:Great. A new excuse for providers to raise pric (2)

KingOfBLASH (620432) | about 3 months ago | (#47535619)

Phones like the iPhone have the ability to use most american, european, asian, and FAIK african cell phone bands, for years now. Most high end android phones have similar abilities (and some allow multiple sims).

My iphone has never been unable to communicate on a region's network, and I travel a lot, My (unlocked) iphone has worked on all four continents mentioned. Quite a few places in America, most countries in europe west of Czech (and who'd want to go east of there), South East Asia, and Morocco (OK, not all of Africa).

Of course, maybe el cheapo brand cell phones might differ, but if you are paying $20 for a cell, who cares if you can unlock it and use it again?

Re:Great. A new excuse for providers to raise pric (0)

BitZtream (692029) | about 3 months ago | (#47535753)

If you have an AT&T or T-Mobile iPhone, sure. If you have a Verizon or Sprint iPhone, what you say is unlikely. Verizon and Sprint use CDMA rather than GSM which isn't used pretty much anywhere than in the US. They don't support GSM at all, so they aren't going to work in any other country.

Re:Great. A new excuse for providers to raise pric (1)

KingOfBLASH (620432) | about 3 months ago | (#47535815)

Not true. When I go to the US (or travel) I buy a prepaid sim card for local calls.

Verizon is able to sell you a sim card for your iphone if you have a 5 or later. If you have a 4S, you are right, but it's been some years since that was state of the art.

It's cheaper for cell phone manufacturers to make 1 chip for all the bands, then have to retool for each different cell provider

Re: Great. A new excuse for providers to raise pri (2, Insightful)

corychristison (951993) | about 3 months ago | (#47535641)

Unbundling phones and contracts would be a win. People would see the actual cost of their devices. Unfortunately, the carriers would keep the monthly rates the same, or even raise them.

Up here in Canada, we finally got rid of 3-year contract terms. The carriers raised prices almost the next day. Luckily my contract was only 2 years anyway, and it was worded such that plan/rate will stay the same for the forseeable future, provided I don't get a phone through the carrier (not that I planned to).

It simply boils down to greed at this point. These companies are raking in billions and prices seem to keep going up, with no increase in service or quality. :-/

and stupid. Giving stupid people what they ask (2)

raymorris (2726007) | about 3 months ago | (#47535845)

> It simply boils down to greed at this point

Greed and a whole lot of stupid. Sprint has two brands for the same company, Sprint brand and Boost.
Boost is $35. Sprint is $85 or whatever with a "free" $150 phone. People have the choice, and they choose to pay an extra $50 / month for 36 months = $1,800 for that phone. Not just uneducated people either. I bet someone will get all defensive and reply to this post with justifications of why it's not stupid of them to pay $1,800 for a $150 phone, and that person is a Slashdot user - probably a computer programmer or something.

When so many people choose to pay ten times as much as the phone is worth, it's no surprise someone will sell it to them.

Re:and stupid. Giving stupid people what they ask (2)

evilviper (135110) | about 3 months ago | (#47536933)

Boost is $35. Sprint is $85 or whatever with a "free" $150 phone. People have the choice, and they choose to pay an extra $50 / month for 36 months = $1,800 for that phone.

Actually, with proper Sprint service, I believe you get unlimited and uncapped data, instead of throttled at 2.5GBytes/month, and more than that, you can roam onto Verizon's network when Sprint towers aren't in-range.

It's been reported a number of times that Sprint earns more money, per customer, on cheaper prepaid plans like Boost, than they do from contract customers on proper Sprint.

Also, Boost is actually $40 with any smartphone, and even that's only after 18 months of service and on-time payments, so in your first 2-year period, it averages out to $47.50/month, PLUS the cost of the cell phone, which could increase that monthly average by 10-50%.

If you act like most customers, and switch phones and possibly providers every two years, chasing the latest slightly-better deal, you won't come out ahead on a prepaid plan. It's only if you want a cheap phone, and/or are willing to keep it for more than 2 years when it's long obsolete, and/or are willing to stay with your provider long-term, that prepaid really works out for you. I'm happy with it, but I'm not a gadget junkie like many people, so YMMV.

They'd just have to copy T-Mobile's business model (2)

tepples (727027) | about 3 months ago | (#47535727)

The carriers now will say that they have to raise prices or even completely do away with contract subsidies in order to be competitive.

Then they'd have to compete with their MVNOs and T-Mobile USA, all of which have been itemizing the hardware and the service for years. Prepaid MVNOs have always sold the phone up front, and even before T-Mobile branded itself "the un-carrier", it had the SIM-only "Even More Plus" plan that offered a discount for bringing a compatible phone or buying one up front.

Need more wireless providers (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47535597)

US is way to large for having only 3 (assuming the sprint & t-mobile merge goes through) big wireless providers. If you want competition you have to allow more players in the game.

Re:Need more wireless providers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47536555)

If you want competition you have to allow more players in the game.

There is nothing stopping competition, expect for someone to do it (there will be a new spectrum licensing auction coming up soon). But the cost for a nationwide network roll out is just too large (billions and billions and billions) such that you are not likely to get any real new entrants. While some cherry picking of the most dense cities could in theory occur, you run into the same problem as with electric vehicles, which is that while 99% of travel (or cell calls) are within the local area, people want to be able to have the option of nationwide coverage, so selling the service is tough.

Flawed reasoning (1)

grasshoppa (657393) | about 3 months ago | (#47535889)

It is flawed to think that MORE laws will fix a problem. If a problem exists, it is likely due to the fact that there are too many laws to begin with.

When it comes to laws, less is most definitely more.

Re:Flawed reasoning (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47536843)

It is flawed to think that MORE laws will fix a problem. If a problem exists, it is likely due to the fact that there are too many laws to begin with.

When it comes to laws, less is most definitely more.

Please oh wise one, explain how this can be resolved by repealing laws. Really, tell us. Maybe we can repeal the law that forced you to stop using your brain and speak nonsense.

Re:Flawed reasoning (1)

chrisfromnowhere (531442) | about 3 months ago | (#47537049)

Please oh wise one, explain how this can be resolved by repealing laws. Really, tell us. Maybe we can repeal the law that forced you to stop using your brain and speak nonsense.

How about the DMCA [slashdot.org] ?

Quoting the article linked:

"[...] the DMCA, the law that broadly bans circumvention of copyright protection, has been interpreted as making it illegal to unlock your phone so that it works on a carrier different from the one you bought it for. That's because the Librarian of Congress, given permission under the law to make exemptions to the DMCA, had determined that the U.S. cell phone market benefited from the ability to unlock phones — but that's now changing, as the librarian's office believes that there are now enough unlocked phones available for purchase that users don't need to hack their own phones. Starting this Saturday, unlocking a phone that was locked to start with will be illegal."

I'm surprised none of the comments so far have made reference to the fact that unlocking only became illegal last year. Instead there's non-sense bickering about cell phone compatibility across networks. Which would have been relevant maybe 3-5+ years ago (as others have pointed out [slashdot.org] ).

People sure do have short memories.

Sure they care about competion (2)

Tiger Smile (78220) | about 3 months ago | (#47535911)

That's why almost everywhere in the US there is a monopoly on Cable TV and Telephone, which also mafically translates into a monopoly or biopoloy for Internet access and municipal fiber is supressed. Seems like those could be the actions of a money whoring jackss who wants the US to have crappy Intrnet, not someone who embaraces comptition.

Just saying.

Re:Sure they care about competion (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | about 3 months ago | (#47536473)

which also mafically translates into a monopoly or biopoloy for Internet access and municipal fiber is supressed.

I recall reading a paper which studied market behavior and it concluded that even 4 or 5 companies that aren't colluding can still naturally behave like a cartel.

It's not just enough to have competitors, you must have meaningful competition.

Re:Sure they care about competion (1)

sysrammer (446839) | about 3 months ago | (#47536657)

"biopoloy" A word for the Hoi Biopoloi.

Re:Sure they care about competion (1)

evilviper (135110) | about 3 months ago | (#47536879)

That's why almost everywhere in the US there is a monopoly on Cable TV and Telephone

The Fed doesn't have a thing to do with local franchise agreements.

Since the late 90s, technology has allowed telephone companies to provide TV, and cable companies to provide telephone service, so it's a duopoly all the way. Then you can throw in satellite providers of TV and internet, and cellular providers of phone and internet, and let's not forget the superior option of OTA TV antennas, and most everyone has several choices for all of the above, thanks to technology more than any regulation.

Re:Sure they care about competion (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47537145)

mafically biopoloy jackss Intrnet embaraces comptition.

someone really needs to buy a couple of vowels, and perhaps a spellchecker..sheesh

Look over there, not here .... (1)

whoever57 (658626) | about 3 months ago | (#47536067)

Meanwhile, the really important issues, such as the NSA spying on everyone are being ignored.

This is just a sop, aimed at geeks to get them to forget about Snowdon and many other important issues for a while, perhaps to make people think that the politicians actually care about what people think.

Re:Look over there, not here .... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47536855)

This is just a sop, aimed at geeks to get them to forget about Snowdon and many other important issues for a while, perhaps to make people think that the politicians actually care about what people think.

I know. The tallest mountain [wikipedia.org] in Wales should be on all our minds at all times.

Good to see the Republicans defeated (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47536971)

They fought like hell against this. They always support big companies because so many of us are minorities or poor. They hate us and want us to die. Fighting against allowing us to use the phones we own is just more proof of what their kind thinks of us.

Re:Good to see the Republicans defeated (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47539489)

Even more amazing is how they said there were against it and called people that owned smart phones criminals, but then they came to heel and voted yes. They were against it, but voted for it. As usual, even when the Republicans do the right thing, they do it for dishonest reasons They lied about this, and got caught in their lie.

To little too late (2)

Solandri (704621) | about 3 months ago | (#47536999)

This is kind of a double post, but it's important enough to warrant a separate post.

Unfortunately, Congress has dilly dallied on this issue for too long. We're now past the point where mandating carriers unlock phones will help. There are still phones which will work across a broad range of carriers [phonescoop.com] , but they are now few and far between. Most of the newer phones are limited in their frequencies so they'll only work fully with one carrier. Take it to another carrier and you'll either suffer degraded service, or even lack certain service like LTE. So even if you can unlock your phone from the carrier, it won't do you any good because you'll lose 4g or even 3g capability if you try to use it with another carrier.

The only thing that will help now is a law mandating that carriers must provide service to any phone a customer brings with them that's capable of operating on their network. That will open up the markets so that manufacturers begin selling multi-carrier and world phones directly to customers (bypassing the carriers). You can still buy a phone from Verizon if you really want, and it'll be crippled so as not to work with any other carrier even if unlocked. But the smarter person would buy the version of the phone sold by the manufacturer at Best Buy or Amazon which supports enough frequencies that it'll work with any carrier. That's actually what Google did with the Nexus 5 - it supports enough frequencies to work on AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and a bunch of other international carriers. It's technically capable of working on Verizon (with LTE in areas where Verizon provides band 4 - New York and Los Angeles from what I hear), but Verizon blacklists it so you can't use it on their network [youtube.com] . What we need is a law making it illegal for Verizon to do that.

What is the issue again? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47537317)

Over here basically the only phones that you get simlocked are prepaids, and even those are unlockable for free after a year. If you want them unlocked earlier you can pay a fee to the (virty) telco. That or you pay a shady shop a tenner while running the apparently not that big risk of a dead phone. Also, apparently simlocks are country-bound so a locked phone from the next country over would work fine on any network here, and vice versa. Sometimes there's upsides to having multiple different and not too large countries on the same continent.

Unlocking (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47537491)

Yeah, I've broken that law at least 50 times. It's simple as this, I spend $400 on a phone I'm going to do want with it whether they like like it or not.

Don't get too happy (1)

cpt kangarooski (3773) | about 3 months ago | (#47537873)

This bill actually does very little. The DMCA is written very broadly, and has been commonly interpreted as to prohibit cell phone unlocking. Because Congress, in the 90s, when they enacted the stupid thing, was aware that the DMCA could go too far, but didn't want to be cautious or have to keep reexamining the law itself, they gave authority to the Library of Congress to add exceptions to it in specific cases. The process for these exceptions is that every three years, anyone who wants an exception has to plead their case. If found worthy, they get an exception. But the exception only lasts until the next rule making session, three years hence. Then it has to be reargued from scratch or lost.

Two rule making sessions ago, the Library of Congress found that cellphone unlocking was worthy of an exception. But in the most recent rule making session, they did not find it worthy, and the exception was lost; it went back to its default state of being illegal.

This law could have amended the DMCA to permanently allow cellphone unlocking. Or it could've directed the Library of Congress to always find that cellphone unlocking is allowed. But it does neither of these.

Instead it only reinstates the rule from two sessions ago for the remainder of the current session. Next year it will have to be argued again, from scratch, to the Library of Congress, or lost, again. And even if argued, it can be rejected, again.

This is less than useless. It's only a temporary patch, it doesn't even have an iota of long term effect (the rules don't take precedent into account, and this doesn't change it), and we've wasted all this effort getting it instead of something worthwhile.

As someone who travels I need an unlocked phone (1)

greggman (102198) | about 3 months ago | (#47539607)

I can either pay AT&T $150 for 800meg roaming data. Or I can pay $7 in Singapore for a 1gig on a local sym. $30 in Japan for 1gig local sim. Etc.... I forgot the price in Italy but it was in a similar range. TMobile has their free international roaming but it's 2G which is really really slow.

Unlocking the phone isn't just about switching carriers

PS: So far I've just bought uncontracted unlocked phones.

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