Feature Article

September 14, 2012

Unlocking an iPhone: Some Do it to Switch Carriers, Others Do it to Save Money

It has been said that unlocking the iPhone SIM card from its specific carrier (it’s tied up with AT&T for two years) and making it possible to use a SIM card from any provider, could allow users access to cheaper plans or even better carriers.

This may be a smart decision for frequent travelers to save money.  

Apple told its customers years ago that “unlocking” could damage the iPhone's software and make the device permanently inoperable, but that might not be the case. Some users have experienced no problems when using an unlocking program or when swapping in SIM cards. Apple is obviously trying to prevent customers from deciding to unlock their iPhones to have the installation of third-party applications on the iPhone or to allow their phones to work with carriers other than AT&T.

iPhone users are not obliged to stay with AT&T anymore, and Apple knows this. To unlock a mobile phone is legal. People have the option to use another service provider or wireless carrier; it could either be T-Mobile (or stick with AT&T’s new 4G LTE service – to be featured on the iPhone 5) that use the Global System for Mobile Communication (GSM) standard or Sprint and Verizon that use Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA), used in 2G and 3G wireless communications.

For Apple, AT&T is the carrier of choice. But there are also people who prefer it to other carriers – T-Mobile, for example. But when comparing plans, some people decided to go with T-Mobile because they provided more affordable rates when abroad, like in Asia or Europe.

Unlocking one’s iPhone may be doable for some. To unlock a phone, one must first figure out how to unlock it and where it unlocks (next to the headphone jack). Instructions are also needed to modify settings and activate the phone once the person inserts the SIM card of their choosing.

People will find GSM and CDMA mobile devices can easily be unlocked and used on any suitable network with any SIM card. Sometimes, however, a phone may remain locked to their network. If this is the case, make sure the hardware components in the phone as well as the software are programmed to support unlocking before purchasing it.

Apple’s phones should have the essential components that can handle both types of networks – that is, to work on any GSM and CDMA network.

Those who decide to unlock their iPhone will need to cancel their contract and pay the cancellation fee, but it beats settling with a carrier or service provider one may not like or that is too costly.

If you’re not swapping to a different SIM card and network provider for the purpose of saving money on plans, the option could be to get a prepaid SIM card or go with a local carrier. This might be the most suitable option when travelling internationally. Otherwise, one may want to consider using Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) carriers, which use a service provider such as Virgin Mobile and a third-party network infrastructure to offer clients value for specific data services.

Want to learn more about today’s powerful mobile ecosystem? Don't miss the Mobility Tech Conference & Expo, collocated with ITEXPO West 2012 taking place Oct. 2-5 2012, in Austin, TX. Stay in touch with everything happening at Mobility Tech Conference & Expo. Follow us on Twitter.

Edited by Braden Becker

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