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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Cell Phones: Unlocked?

Will it ever happen in North America?

With cell phones becoming the predominant method of communication these days, it's a wonder that the North American cell phone marketing machines aren't buying more cell phones that are unlocked. The more choices we have as customers, the more we wet our chops to buy the latest and greatest. However, more often than not, if we go to our major cell phone provider and ask for an unlocked phone, the guy behind the counter will give us the ol' hairy-eyeball and ask us what we're talking about.

Major mobile providers don't want to sell you an unlocked phone, mainly because that would give you the freedom to cancel your subscription, and jump-ship to a competing carrier. In Asia, this isn't the case. Consumers can buy their cell phones independently of their carrier; same is to be said in Europe, for the most part.

It is clear that when it comes to mobile phones and gadgets, Asia and Europe are far more ahead of the game than we are, here, in North America; and so is their approach to marketing the technology. However, large companies like Motorola and Nokia are trying to change all that.

They want to give Americans the choice of models independently of whom they chose to go with as a carrier. This is a dangerous game they're playing. The last thing these manufacturers want is to upset the carriers who shell out a lot of money to market their products. The recent introduction of the iPhone has given some manufacturers hope that should Apple sell these devices unlocked, it may prompt other major cell companies to do the same.

Working for a company that builds technology for cell phones in Asia, we have a hard time buying unlocked phones just to do testing. We turn to Ebay, or import from shops that may or may not have the models we're looking for. In essence, it's a crap-shoot.

The way things are now, I doubt that this will fly in the USA, or even in Canada. The carriers simply have too much control. Would you spend an extra $100 for an unlocked phone?

What does it give you?

  • The freedom to change your cellular carrier if you are unhappy with the service they provide.
  • The ability to travel overseas and use temporary SIM chips from other carriers so that you can stay in touch with home without having to buy a new phone.
  • And for those of us that use these phones to test our software or hardware on, we can do so without boundaries.
If your needs, when buying a cell phone, do not include any of the above points, then I just don't see why someone would buy an unlocked phone so long as carriers continue to subsidize their cost in trade for a 1 or 2 year contract.

Read the article.



  • What's incredible is that I had to pay something like 50 EUR to open mine when I moved to Belgium, they're making a fortune off us with charges like this and roaming charges which is one of the reasons the European Union is looking at unifying roaming charges across the EU.

    By Blogger Tisha!, at 7:00 AM  

  • That is crazy! That's around $100 canadian...
    Around here, it's anywhere from $25 to $50...

    By Blogger ALRO, at 8:53 AM  

  • And here in the United States?


    Some new rules went into effect where if a customer needs to have his phone unlocked, the carrier has to do it.

    By Blogger Unknown, at 11:03 AM  

  • That's very interesting news; because the article said that motorola and nokia was trying to sell their models away from the carriers.

    If they are offering to unlock them free.. why not just sell the other unlocked models... maybe that is part of the agreement that the article is speaking of.

    Up her in canada.. NOT SO FREE yet... :(

    By Blogger ALRO, at 11:31 AM  

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