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Verizon will start locking phones to deter theft

Changing its long-standing policy on unlocking devices, Verizon will now have a probationary period before it will unlock phones.

Published onFebruary 12, 2018

  • Verizon has had a long-standing policy of selling unlocked phones.
  • International travelers love unlocked Verizon phones as they can swap SIMs easily in any country.
  • Due to smartphone theft, Verizon will change its policy this year, which will put it more in line with its competitors’ policies.

If you’ve been enjoying Big Red’s lax policy on locked phones, we’ve got some bad news for you: starting in Spring 2018, Verizon will temporarily lock the phones it sells, just like its rivals AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile.

Smartphone theft is a major issue, and to thieves, unlocked phones are worth their weight in gold; locked phones are much harder to sell. Typically, a carrier buys phones from manufacturers to then sell in its stores at a profit, so when thieves steal phones during shipment, it hurts the carrier more than the manufacturer.

Verizon must be dealing with a lot of theft if it is finally changing its unlocking policy.

Before today, Verizon was the only major carrier that offered completely unlocked devices. You could walk into a store and then take your new smartphone to another carrier immediately. Obviously, few people would do this permanently because of that pesky two-year contract, but people who frequently travel internationally loved the policy as it enabled them to swap SIM cards in any country.

Starting today though, customers buying a new phone from Verizon will enter a quick probationary period lasting from when the purchase is made to when the service is activated. For most people, this short period will go unnoticed, as few people have unactivated phones for very long.

But once Spring comes along, the probationary period will last for an undisclosed amount of time after activation. This change will put Verizon in line with its competitors, and we can extrapolate what the probationary time will be by looking to the other companies:

  • AT&T requires you to be an active customer for 60 days and your phone to be completely paid off before you can place an unlock request. After you make your request, there’s a 14-day waiting period for the actual unlock to take place.
  • Sprint automatically unlocks your devices 50 days after you completely pay it off.
  • T-Mobile will unlock your device 40 days after it has been paid off. However, it will temporarily unlock devices for the purposes of travel during that probationary period.

Judging from these trends, one can assume that there will be a minimum one- to two-month waiting period after activation before Verizon will unlock the device. While this time period is unknown for now, Verizon did make it clear that it will not require a device to be paid off before unlocking it, and that the company will still accept unlocked phones from other carriers.

Hopefully, Verizon will adopt T-Mobile’s policy on temporarily unlocking devices for travelers, as a large part of its customer base must be with Verizon for the ease of international traveling. We’ll have to wait until Big Red makes the official announcement on this new policy.

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