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Thread: The US Could Soon Ban the Selling of Carrier-Locked Phones

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    Quote Originally Posted by jmac32here View Post
    Even the iPhones and Samsungs tend to be missing a few bands to be able to offer full carrier support for all networks.
    Devices sold by carriers are more "carrier specific" and will have more bands to support that carrier, while lacking bands for other carriers.

    Also, devices sold by carriers that are locked tend to be subsidized, so the cost is lower and makes it easy to pay off in a year or two.
    https://www.howtogeek.com/328105/the...-your-carrier/
    https://www.howtogeek.com/271333/can...other-carrier/
    https://www.pcmag.com/news/the-iphon...rrier-agnostic
    at least for iPhone, and most flagship androids what you link to was true a few years ago at the time of publication, but things have improved dramatically and most have all the bands of the US carriers in 2020 and likely beyond. 5G may bring some new fragmentation but likely not nearly as bad as we had in the past.

    lower end mostly sold prepaid devices on the other hand are likely to remain heavily custom per carrier

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    Quote Originally Posted by jmac32here View Post
    So the idea of banning locked devices can be a mixed bag, but also the idea of banning IMEI/SIM pairing is actually a horrible idea.

    Reason 1: If a carrier cannot sell devices specific to their networks, not only would device pricing for consumers skyrocket due to the end of subsidized pricing for devices - but the customer experience will also be worse since the devices will be incapable of supporting all the bands for every carrier. Users will start buying off-branded devices like ZTE and will sacrifice full network access across all devices, including flagships, regardless of the carrier. No single phone can, in their current size and pricing, support every band for all carriers in the US, much less outside the US. They are only capable of supporting the "most common" bands. (Could mean saying goodbye to LTE 71 and NR n71, since only T-Mobile has that band.) Adding band support would increase device size, battery consumption, and overall cost to make the devices. If the devices are too expensive, no-one will buy them.

    Though I would support enforcing that devices be sold unlocked, I still support devices being subsidized - which would likely not happen. I also think that carriers could sell unlocked devices that are still designed for their networks. Even the current iPhones do not offer full band support for all carriers in the US when sold by Apple. The ones sold by the carriers are more "carrier specific" and have more support for the carrier in question, but per Apple's terms, must be sold unlocked or unlocked within 30 days of sale. (iPhones are not carrier agnostic, so if you buy one from Verizon then switch to T-Mobile - you will have a bad experience on T-Mobile and probably switch back to Verizon. This is because the Verizon iPhone lacked full band support for T-Mobile.)

    To that end, carriers do allow devices to be unlocked either automatically after a certain amount of time used on their network, or after certain requirements are met. (IE: Phone paid off) Sometimes, the unlock may require the usage of a certain app. The FCC currently allows device locking only so carriers can offer subsidies to those devices to ensure the carriers get their money back for said devices AND offer phones for lower overall prcing.

    You actually DON'T own a device till the lease is paid off and attempting to switch to another provider with the same device constitutes stealing the device if the lease is not paid off. The carrier/creditor owns the device and therefore their own rules will apply.
    Forcing a device to be sold unlocked could encourage "device theft" from carriers since the billing for the device cannot be transferred. Carriers that would want to offer monthly payments for unlocked devices will have to partner with a creditor that could bill for it separately. There are a few companies in business that do this for some prepaid carriers. However, the billing is still currently tied to the carrier billing even with these companies, so they have to keep the device blacklisted from outside activation on other carriers till the lease is paid off. However, it is also more expensive to pay off those leases and tend to also have an APR, like credit cards do, because unlocked devices are not subsidized and therefore, cost more.

    iPhones are typically not subsidized, so they cost more up front and/or require down payment + monthly payments to the carrier. The unlocking policies of our carriers are still legal, considering that they are barred from keeping devices locked for too long, but do ensure they can continue to bill for the devices. (As it stands, any device not fully paid off cannot be activated on a different carrier, by policy and by law. The locking of the device ensures it gets paid off before you can switch with it.)

    Reason 2: IMEI/SIM pairing is actually a SECURITY FEATURE to prevent SIM swapping scams. These scams entail a hacker cloning a SIM card and using it on a different device to gain full access to a subscriber's account, so to speak. Once they get your phone number on their own devices, they can use it to gain access to literally _everything_ you have done on your phone and/or tied to your phone number. This includes all accounts that use your phone to confirm logins. They then would have access to your bank accounts, credit card accounts, Amazon, ebay, this website, and your emails - just to name a few examples. Hackers can use this information to not only wipe your accounts clean, but to fully steal your identity. Just by getting a SIM card number the same or similar to your own and plugging it into one of their own devices. AT&T and T-Mobile both had a huge problem with these scams until they began enforcing pairing to an IMEI. I also know at least one carrier allows you to re-pair your SIM to another "compatible" device directly from your account online without having to contact customer support or go into a store. (Though I'm not entirely sure if any post-paid companies do this due to activation fees.)

    https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides...unlocking-faqs
    the problem with your security argument is none of the postpaid carriers(except sprint which is shutting down) pair IMEI/SIM except perhaps to enable features like VoLTE, swap the SIM to another device and it works fine.

    IMEI/SIM pairing is more a practice of the prepaid world and is used minimize 'gaming the system' or people easily swapping a new device given free or discounted and using on an existing line in place of a more expensive 'upgrade' purchase.

    it is also used by the same prepaid brands to prevent tablet plans being used in phones for a much cheaper data only option.

    As far as subsidies, i take advantage of them myself but do believe more than anything consumers would benefit from an end of or far fewer subsidies. it would bring the competition to the rate plans and quality/reliability of the network instead of the devices. if you look at places like most of Europe where subsidies exist but at a much lower level then in the US you find people pay half or less for the same amount of data and minutes and have more reliable networks.

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    Quote Originally Posted by robbyrobby View Post
    the problem with your security argument is none of the postpaid carriers(except sprint which is shutting down) pair IMEI/SIM except perhaps to enable features like VoLTE, swap the SIM to another device and it works fine.

    IMEI/SIM pairing is more a practice of the prepaid world and is used minimize 'gaming the system' or people easily swapping a new device given free or discounted and using on an existing line in place of a more expensive 'upgrade' purchase.

    it is also used by the same prepaid brands to prevent tablet plans being used in phones for a much cheaper data only option.

    As far as subsidies, i take advantage of them myself but do believe more than anything consumers would benefit from an end of or far fewer subsidies. it would bring the competition to the rate plans and quality/reliability of the network instead of the devices. if you look at places like most of Europe where subsidies exist but at a much lower level then in the US you find people pay half or less for the same amount of data and minutes and have more reliable networks.
    Another reason for the pairing would be not only due to the various SIM sizes, but also the numerous encodings used nowadays due to the various technologies. So while you may be able to swap sims, it does not mean you will get all features - if the device can even read what's on the SIM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by jmac32here View Post
    Even the current iPhones do not offer full band support for all carriers in the US when sold by Apple. The ones sold by the carriers are more "carrier specific" and have more support for the carrier in question, but per Apple's terms, must be sold unlocked or unlocked within 30 days of sale. (iPhones are not carrier agnostic, so if you buy one from Verizon then switch to T-Mobile - you will have a bad experience on T-Mobile and probably switch back to Verizon. This is because the Verizon iPhone lacked full band support for T-Mobile.)
    Which current iPhones? Yes, if you buy an international model. Missing some US support. For the 11/12 series, at least, which ones are crippled if bought from a carrier.
    You mentioned the Verizon iPhone on T-Mobile. These are the same models.
    iPhone 12 Pro is my current primary phone. No plans to upgrade plan to 5G.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Serial Port View Post
    With the exception of select business accounts all postpaid carriers only sell phones on a device payment plan paid over 2 years or longer. The days of cellular contracts of yesteryear are mostly non-existent today and recurring credits to offset the monthly cost doesn't happen.
    Recurring credits, full or partial, are definitely still a thing at T-Mobile. And Xfinity. I just signed up for a "free" iPhone SE on Xfinity Mobile, the catch is it's a 2 year device payment plan with off-setting credits. Not an actual contract, but I'm on the hook for remaining device payments if I cancel the line before the 2 years are up.

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    For iPhones, other than the CDMA-less phones sold by AT&T / T-Mobile when the Apple / Qualcomm lawsuit was underway, nearly all recent iPhones sold in the US are carrier agnostic. The 6S was the first iPhone with one model for all 4 carriers, but the 7 and 8/X generations had Qualcomm models and Intel models for the modems which was during the lawsuit, but the last 3 generations (XR/XS, 11, and 12 ) are identical models for all US carriers.

    Prior to the 6S, the only practical difference was that models sold through AT&T/T-Mobile lacked CDMA, so Apple didn't have to pay Qualcomm their royalty for CDMA on those devices. Also, there was a variation in the SE (2016), where the models sold by the GSM carriers had CDMA, but lacked one of the Sprint LTE bands (Band 26, if I recall).

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    I am against locking when there is a payment plan/contract, as I don't think it's fair that the carriers can both lock the devices and also lock the customer into payment plans. It should be one or the other -- either a deeply discounted locked phone (e.g., the prepaid approach), or a contract/payment plan but without a subsidy lock. My car lease doesn't restrict me on where I buy my gas or get my car serviced -- why should my cell phone?

    If the US really wants fair competition, eliminating the carrier lock on devices will help move us in that direction. Many less educated customers don't know their phone could work with another carrier, and either stay with their existing carrier or end up trading a device that would work perfectly well with their new carrier for pennies, and get locked into a new payment plan unnecessarily. I've witnessed this multiple times in the cell phone stores -- sales people incented to sell devices/payment plans/insurance pushing new devices on people who could just as well use their existing device for another year or two but don't want to get it unlocked. Besides you could have this shiny, new device for only $10/month after bill credits...

    It also causes additional charges for international roaming, as the subsidy lock prevents using a foreign SIM. I went through this with T-Mobile, where I had to pay off a device to get them to unlock it for international usage (the 128kbs "free data roaming" is insufficient for our needs), otherwise it would have cost $50+ or so for the trip vs. $10 for a foreign SIM.

    For anyone who thinks abolishing SIM locks would change the pricing model, take a look at Verizon. They haven't sold locked handsets for over 8 years, and have been doing just fine with that business model. The entire industry could adapt to this quite easily, and consumers would be the real winners.

    Now, if the carriers can't trust that their customers could make the payments, then maybe they should be a bit more selective on handing out credit. Going on a bit of rant now, but here's how bad some things are -- At the end of last year Sprint did a HARD credit pull (actually 2 of them a few minutes apart because their systems are a mess), and despite them seeing a top-tier credit score, insisted I make a $25 down payment on each of the 3 devices. Seriously, $75 down on $1,600 of devices is really going to make a difference in my ability to pay for them by lowering my payment by $3 a month??? Of course, tighter credit would change the industry, as we are all paying for those people who skip out on their payments.

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    Quote Originally Posted by high technology View Post
    I am against locking when there is a payment plan/contract, as I don't think it's fair that the carriers can both lock the devices and also lock the customer into payment plans. It should be one or the other -- either a deeply discounted locked phone (e.g., the prepaid approach), or a contract/payment plan but without a subsidy lock. My car lease doesn't restrict me on where I buy my gas or get my car serviced -- why should my cell phone?

    If the US really wants fair competition, eliminating the carrier lock on devices will help move us in that direction. Many less educated customers don't know their phone could work with another carrier, and either stay with their existing carrier or end up trading a device that would work perfectly well with their new carrier for pennies, and get locked into a new payment plan unnecessarily. I've witnessed this multiple times in the cell phone stores -- sales people incented to sell devices/payment plans/insurance pushing new devices on people who could just as well use their existing device for another year or two but don't want to get it unlocked. Besides you could have this shiny, new device for only $10/month after bill credits...

    It also causes additional charges for international roaming, as the subsidy lock prevents using a foreign SIM. I went through this with T-Mobile, where I had to pay off a device to get them to unlock it for international usage (the 128kbs "free data roaming" is insufficient for our needs), otherwise it would have cost $50+ or so for the trip vs. $10 for a foreign SIM.

    For anyone who thinks abolishing SIM locks would change the pricing model, take a look at Verizon. They haven't sold locked handsets for over 8 years, and have been doing just fine with that business model. The entire industry could adapt to this quite easily, and consumers would be the real winners.

    Now, if the carriers can't trust that their customers could make the payments, then maybe they should be a bit more selective on handing out credit. Going on a bit of rant now, but here's how bad some things are -- At the end of last year Sprint did a HARD credit pull (actually 2 of them a few minutes apart because their systems are a mess), and despite them seeing a top-tier credit score, insisted I make a $25 down payment on each of the 3 devices. Seriously, $75 down on $1,600 of devices is really going to make a difference in my ability to pay for them by lowering my payment by $3 a month??? Of course, tighter credit would change the industry, as we are all paying for those people who skip out on their payments.
    i don't see the carriers moving to tighter credit and losing volume, they would of done that already.

    a way to really disrupt the industry to make it more consumer friendly and transparent would be an FTC ban on being in both the handset and carrier service wholesale business. we could still have retailers selling both but they would be supplied separately from different vendors. if i am not mistaken some north european countries have done this and the result is that it is very rare for anyone to pay more than $10 month for service AND they have some of the best, fastest and most reliable networks as well.

    consumers do pay more for the handsets and many choose cheaper model instead of flagships, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. as far as credit, if in whole up front there is no reason why a cell phones can't go on a regular credit card bill with interest rates tied to the risk of the individual consumer.

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    Quote Originally Posted by high technology View Post
    For iPhones, other than the CDMA-less phones sold by AT&T / T-Mobile when the Apple / Qualcomm lawsuit was underway, nearly all recent iPhones sold in the US are carrier agnostic. The 6S was the first iPhone with one model for all 4 carriers, but the 7 and 8/X generations had Qualcomm models and Intel models for the modems which was during the lawsuit, but the last 3 generations (XR/XS, 11, and 12 ) are identical models for all US carriers.

    Prior to the 6S, the only practical difference was that models sold through AT&T/T-Mobile lacked CDMA, so Apple didn't have to pay Qualcomm their royalty for CDMA on those devices. Also, there was a variation in the SE (2016), where the models sold by the GSM carriers had CDMA, but lacked one of the Sprint LTE bands (Band 26, if I recall).
    The SE 2016 model was similar, but it is missing one sprint Band, one ATT Band, and 3 T-Mobile Bands.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jmac32here View Post
    The SE 2016 model was similar, but it is missing one sprint Band, one ATT Band, and 3 T-Mobile Bands.
    As far as I can tell all new iPhones have had all US bands for the last few years and then some. The new 12's already have 5G C-band support even though that'll be a year+ before its even implemented.

    Really the biggest issue these days with phones is manufacturers who don't update the OS or that stop security updates. So if you're paying over time for a phone you may be paying for something after a period of time that isn't even up to date.

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    Quote Originally Posted by offthegrid View Post
    As far as I can tell all new iPhones have had all US bands for the last few years and then some. The new 12's already have 5G C-band support even though that'll be a year+ before its even implemented.

    Really the biggest issue these days with phones is manufacturers who don't update the OS or that stop security updates. So if you're paying over time for a phone you may be paying for something after a period of time that isn't even up to date.
    This again depends on the version you get:
    https://www.gsmarena.com/apple_iphone_12-10509.php

    The version you get may be missing at least one band for ALL carrier for the iPhone 12.
    The A2172 is dubbed the US Verzion and it is missing one of Verizon's 5G bands, n257. But so far that's the only band missing on that version.
    (Though the carriers may also get their own versions that could be missing more bands.)

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    Quote Originally Posted by jmac32here View Post
    This again depends on the version you get:
    https://www.gsmarena.com/apple_iphone_12-10509.php

    The version you get may be missing at least one band for ALL carrier for the iPhone 12.
    The A2172 is dubbed the US Verzion and it is missing one of Verizon's 5G bands, n257. But so far that's the only band missing on that version.
    (Though the carriers may also get their own versions that could be missing more bands.)
    n261 is a subset of n257 and that's where Verizon has their 28ghz holdings, hence n261 being on the iphone 12.

    In the US 28ghz is n261 only, it was established for the US.

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    What would prevent a carrier from supplying a handset with only the bands they want to use? And crippling bands unique to competitors?

    Sent from my Lenovo TB-X606F using Tapatalk

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rojniles View Post
    What would prevent a carrier from supplying a handset with only the bands they want to use? And crippling bands unique to competitors?

    Sent from my Lenovo TB-X606F using Tapatalk
    I'm sure Verizon and At&t have enough pull with cellphone manufacturers to get them to build phones without certain bands instead of just disabling them with software. Pretty sure they've been doing this already.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fishx65 View Post
    I'm sure Verizon and At&t have enough pull with cellphone manufacturers to get them to build phones without certain bands instead of just disabling them with software. Pretty sure they've been doing this already.
    I think they would have to write the law saying the phone must be unlocked and universal so capable of working on any carrier. They would also need to write the law saying they can't block any phones. So for example, if you want to use a Linux phone because of privacy they won't be able to block it.

    It is really consumer unfriendly for the carrier to tell you what kind of phone you are allowed to use.

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