Calling it an “extra step” in helping to prevent fraud and the theft of its valuable hardware, Verizon announced Monday that it plans to begin locking the phones it sells online and via its retails stores, CNET reports.
America’s largest wireless carrier has opted to implement the policy change as a way to deter criminals from stealing phones, noting how stolen devices are often “on route to retail stores, or from the stores themselves” at the time they’re stolen.
“We’re taking steps to combat this theft and reduce fraud,” said Tami Erwin, Verizon’s executive vice president of wireless operations. “These steps will make our phones exponentially less desirable to criminals.”
Essentially, Verizon’s decision to lock its new phones means they won’t be compatible with any other carrier’s SIM card (unless Verizon authorizes your unlock request).
It’s worth noting that, at least for the time being, any new phone purchased directly from Verizon will automatically be unlocked just as soon as the customer signs up for and activates Verizon service for it.
“Later in the spring” Verizon will shift its policy back in line with the mobile industry’s general protocol, which in most cases involves maintaining that new phones stay locked to their host carrier for “a period of time” after they’ve been purchased.
Such is the case with AT&T who requires its customers to not only pay off their phone entirely, but also be active on the carrier’s network for at least 60 days prior to being eligible for an unlock. Sprint and T-Mobile have similar terms and “wait periods” of 50 and 40 days, respectively, following device payoff.
To be clear, under its new policy, Verizon will not be doing away with unlocked phones in their entirety.. Rather, customers who purchase a new device — including any of Apple’s iPhone models, present and future — through Verizon, will simply have to wait for this “period of time.”
Unfortunately, Verizon stopped short of providing guidance of how long its customers will have to wait, after purchasing their new device, before it’s eligible to be unlocked, saying only that the company will provide an official update ahead of the policy going live.
So, starting [sometime] this spring, if you own a locked Verizon phone, you’ll have to contact the carrier or visit a retail store to have it unlocked — assuming Big Red will grant you its blessing, of course — before trying to swap out your SIM card.
Verizon assures its customers that “a wait period” is necessary to help “deter scammers from signing up for service using stolen identities” — in a fraudulent bid to obtain a new phone, turn around, and sell it for personal gain, for example. It’s also possible, however, that Verizon is merely trying to protect its cushy position amid the ever-competitive U.S. carrier wars..