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A Guide to Locking and Unlocking of Mobile Phones

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unlocking samsung phoneWhile an intense interest is seen about unlocking phones, there is also a lot of confusion about what locking and unlocking actually are. According to a website Online Unlocks, which provides an excellent service of easy phone unlocking locked to almost any network in the world, there is a rise in demand for phone unlocking by 71%. However, many consumers are still in confusion and are still trying to understand what the heck mobile phone unlocking is. There are legal issues and also technical issues that make unlocking mobile phone impossible for many consumers. And this confusion can also lead to buying a device that is actually not unlocked. Also you will have to keep in mind that merely paying full price is not a token of assurance that a phone is unlocked out of the box.

What is Locked and What is Unlocked?

The topic of locking and unlocking is really confusing and so, it’s necessary to understand some basics. Carrier locks are available with just any mobile phone you purchase from a cordless operator. Even though you don’t buy the phone directly from a specific operator but buy from a retailer, like Amazon or eBay, and it’s for a particular carrier, there are high chances that there is a carrier lock on it. This has no connection with whether you buy the cell phone at a full price, a two-year warranty or a subsidy.

Often the only cell phones that don’t have carrier locks are the ones that specially mention that they are “unlocked”, e.g. Google Android Nexus, some developer edition phones and a few unlocked versions of iPhone sold at Apple Store. You will have to research beforehand about whether the device you are planning to buy comes as unlocked and where you can purchase it unlocked.

What is Mobile Phone Lock?

After discussing all about locking, unlocking, operators etc, you might have been still confused about what the cell phone lock actually is! Sorry to keep you in confusion; but here we solve the mystery!

A cell phone lock is a software code that the manufacturer places in the phone based on the necessity of the carrier that would be selling the device. The lock is designed to make sure that the phone shouldn’t be used on the network of any other operator till another different software code is used to unlock the device.

This is an issue that commonly happens with devices that run on GSM networks, a wireless standard used by T-Mobile and AT&T in the US and by most of the operators across the world, particularly in Asia, Europe, Africa and Canada, and also some parts of Latin America.

All GSM phones are built in a way that the service can be provided through a SIM card. When a device is unlocked, it is possible to restructure a GSM smartphone so as to use it through another network just by taking out the old SIM card and inserting in a new one from the new provider. Here, it’s usually not necessary to notify the carrier.

Phones with CDMA Network

However, this is not as easy as this in case of phones with CDMA networks. CDMA network is used by Sprint and Verizon Wireless in the United States and some carriers in Canada, Asia and Latin America. It is not as widespread as GSM. The devices using CDMA didn’t have SIM cards 2-3 years ago. Therefore, if you would plan to take your CDMA phone to another CDMA provider, it would become necessary to approach the carrier to program the device for that new network, because a CDMA-only phone couldn’t be operated on a GSM network and vice versa. So, Verizon phones couldn’t work on Sprint network and vice versa. On the other hand, an unlocked GSM phone from T-Mobile and AT&T can work on the network of each other, because of which GSM is much more flexible than CDMA.

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However, things have changed now, because today’s CDMA phones too have SIM  cards and have tried to bring the flexibility of GSM in their service.

Moreover, several smartphones developed for Sprint and Verizon also include GSM ability. For example, Samsung has started doing this from 2013 with its Galaxy S4. This phone can be unlocked but in most cases is more complicated, because it will not ask for an unlock code like normal GSM phones.

All in all, you should remember that phone locks are of immense importance when you talk about a phone operating on a GSM network. Nearly every GSM phone comes “pre-locked” to a specific carrier. Some devices are sold unlocked. But if you get a phone that is locked, you can unlock it at your wireless provider if you fulfill certain conditions, like paying the full cost of your phone or ceasing your contract and being on good terms with your network provider.

Of course, there is another easier way – to approach Online Unlocks and they will unlock your phone!

Involvement of Complications

I hope you are clear with the basics of locking and unlocking of phones. However, there is now an involvement of more complex factors like a new technology called LTE which is currently being used only for data services, but will in due course be used for voice too.

LTE too uses a SIM card just like GSM. However, unlike GSM, not every LTE service runs on the same radio frequency. For example, to provide their LTE services, Verizon Wireless and AT&T make use of different silvers of spectrum with different “band plans”. The meaning of this is phones designed for AT&T won’t run on Verizon’s LTE network and vice versa.

Hopefully, the issue will come to an end soon when chip manufacturers would start incorporating multiple radios with their semiconductors. Also wireless operators will soon incorporating different silvers of spectrum for their LTE networks.

So, hopefully the confusion in your mind has come to an end with this much of information. But if still you are confused, just keep in mind to inquire beforehand if your phone comes locked or unlocked and where to buy it unlocked. And still, if you end up with a locked phone, Online Unlocks is always there to help you out by unlocking your phone.

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