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Discussion Starter #1
Recently there have been several threads that have turned into a discussion of carrier-unlocked cell phones, and the benefits & drawbacks of buying an unlocked handset. To help consolidate this information and make searching easier, I've decided to create a single thread where DHC members can discuss this topic.
 

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One comment I've heard about locked phones is long delays in getting updates. A friend has the Motorola Milestone and I believe she's still stuck on Android 2.0. A few months back, there was some discussion here about Rogers locked HTC Dream & Magic being stuck at 1.x, even though 2.x was available for the same phone from elsewhere. If the carriers sell locked phones, then they should be required, by law, to remove the lock at the end of the contract period.
 

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Software updates aren't related to carrier locks so much as they're connected to carrier branding. Even if Rogers were to unlock a phone it would still need the Rogers software update.

Personally I feel carriers shouldn't be able to lock phones purchased outright or at the very minimum the packaging should be required by law to state explicitly that it is carrier locked.
 

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Following up to TorontoColin, there is also a subtle difference for Android phones running custom ROMs.

Before the official 2.2 came out for the Nexus One many people, me included, were running pre-release versions. When the OTA update came out the build was not recognized so we had to wait for a custom ROM that had the new source.

Not a big deal, but worth noting.
 

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Personally I feel carriers shouldn't be able to lock phones purchased outright or at the very minimum the packaging should be required by law to state explicitly that it is carrier locked.
can't agree with you more. Furthermore, the company should also de-brand the phone after the end of the contract.
 

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For GSM phones I suspect that any Chinese Mall around TO will unlock a phone for $10-20. I have no idea about the problem with carrier BRANDING and s/w updates.
 

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Why should the consumer have to pay a 3rd party company to unlock their phones when their provider should be doing this free of charge. If I buy a phone on contract. When that contract expires, I own the phone outright. They should be sending me the unlock code if I request it.
 

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By unlocking my phone(myself with the help of ppcgeeks) i was able to run custom windows roms on my phone. A phone loaded originally with WM6.1 and telus bloatware. Turned into a WM6.5 and then to a heavily tweeked WM6.5.XX with various versions of htc sense .. IT brought new life to my phone after being bored with it a year and a bit later. I also have android running on it.... The lock can prevent you from doing this, and well your warranty would be void im sure as well..

Basically unlocking and rooting your phone gives you options to run the latest software and roms..
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Unlocking a phone refers to enabling the phone to work on another carrier's network. De-branding a phone means removing carrier-supplied software (and with smartphones, generally means installing custom roms).
 

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pretty sure i can make it work on another carrier. I just have to run the appropriate cab files..
 

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Unlocked phones (phones purchased unlocked from the mfr, not from a carrier and then unlocked)

Benefits:
-choose any carrier you wish (provided hardware + frequency matches)
-use the default manufacturer's version of the OS = faster updates (e.g. Nexus One and Android 2.2 has been out for weeks, while many people are still stuck with 2.1)
-All features of the phone are available - phone companies like to disable certain features when providing their own version of the OS (usually to charge for you to use them, or because they take too much out of the company profit)
-Usually cheaper if you can get a lower monthly rate for 3 years vs a "free" phone and a higher monthly rate for 3 years.

Drawbacks:
-Large sum of money up front, vs 3-year financing (though see the last point above)
-Often no monthly-plan discount for buying a phone outright (though if you use a carrier that doesn't do monthly phone subsidies, you get the lowest rate regardless of phone - e.g. Wind or Mobilicity)
-Your warranty is with the manufacturer, whereas a locked, carrier-specific phone may be warranted by the carrier (and may be an instant swap in-store, should you have issues vs. send the phone to manufacturer to be fixed and wait)
-No "free" upgrade after x years.

That's my take on the matter.
For the record (in case there's any bias :p), I have an unlocked phone and a service plan with a company that doesn't offer phone subsidies (Wind).
 

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by unlocking my diamond i am now able to share internet conection though the usb and setup a wifirouter.
 

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@ TKG26: That's 'rooting' or 'jailbreaking' your phone. Unlocking refers to being able to use your phone on any carrier, while the two go hand in hand, they are not the same.
 

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oops sorry. Unlocking was probably the first step i did... sorry for the bad info. :)
 

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I have a very basic question. Here's the scenario:

I walk into a Bell store and purchase, say, an iPhone4. I buy the phone outright. A month later I go to Italy for 3 weeks. Can I walk into a phone shop in Rome, buy a SIM card and I'm on an Italian carrier's network? Or am I stuck with Bell's roaming and data charges?

IOW, does locked mean the same thing as "you can't use a SIM"?
 

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Even iPhones purchased outright from a carrier are carrier locked, meaning that you would not be able to use another carrier's SIM card in your phone regardless of where you are.

If you buy an iPhone 4 outright directly from Apple it would come unlocked, so you would be able to use your choice of carrier, so you could use another carrier's SIM if you were to visit Italy.
 

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Thanks, TColin. So to ensure I understand: a smartphone from Bell (BB, Android-based, iPhone) is carrier-locked (regardless of an outright purchase, or a contract). Does this death-grip apply to all Canadian carriers?

The fact that one can't travel, go to a phone store and buy a sim with prepaid minutes seems crazy. I'd be better off buying a phone in Europe when I'm there! OTOH, presumably people go to 3rd. parties to have their phone unlocked (?).
 

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Almost all carrier branded phones in Canada are sold locked, with a few very minor exceptions (Mobilicity's Sony Ericsson TM506 for example). While none of the Big 3 carriers will provide unlock codes, you can get the unlock codes for many phones through third parties.

The iPhone though cannot be unlocked through a code and must be jailbroken to use it with another carrier, unless you buy it outright directly from Apple.
 

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Thanks for all the information. I'm surprised the regulator permits carriers to sell locked phones only...but that's a discussion meant for another thread.
 
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