The days of buying unlocked phones are over.
Verizon is joining other phone carriers in the practice of keeping phones locked for a certain time period after purchase. That means you can’t buy a Verizon phone and start using it on a different network.
The company says this is a move to prevent phone theft since an unlocked phone that can work on any network is desirable and easier to sell.
In a statement to CNET, a Verizon executive said, “We’re taking steps to combat this theft and reduce fraud. These steps will make our phones exponentially less desirable to criminals.”
We reached out to Verizon for more details about the locking policy.
For now information is scarce: the company will implement the new policy sometime in the spring and has yet to specify how long the locked-out period will be. T-Mobile, Sprint, and AT&T either automatically unlock the phones or have you put in the request once phones are paid off in full and a certain amount of time has passed. For example, AT&T makes you wait at least 60 days.
Verizon had been required by the FCC to keep most of its phones unlocked (that’s any phone on the 4G LTE network, so a lot of phones), but it seems to have carved out a way to add a locked initial period.
Verizon will auto-unlock phones through a software update once users are eligible, so request forms aren’t necessary. But still, it’s a big change for the network that’s become known for its unlocked devices.
UPDATE: Feb. 12, 2018, 6:17 p.m. PST Verizon will keep phones locked while they are delivered to stores starting Monday, a Verizon spokesperson said. Once purchased and activated they will unlock. This is an effort to prevent robberies for unopened phones, still in the box.
Verizon is targeted in particular since it is known for its unlocked inventory. Just this weekend employees were held at gunpoint in an armed robbery in California as four masked men loaded inventory phones into a truck, the spokesperson said.
It won’t be until later this spring that the lock will be extended “for a brief period of time,” the spokesperson said.