Unlocking your iPhone is finally going to be legal in the U.S.

iphone_4S_sim

Today the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill that lets customers legally unlock their cell phones and switch carriers. The same bill was passed in the Senate last week, and now President Obama is expected to sign it into law.

The process of unlocking a phone to take it to another carrier in the U.S. has been a convoluted and questionably illegal one. The “Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act” is designed to make the process easier for those looking to take phones to a different service provider. But there’s an important caveat.

The bill won’t permit you to unlock your phone mid-contract and take it from, for example, AT&T to Verizon. The goal is to restore “he Library of Congress’s former exemption so that consumers may unlock their phones after their contracts have expired.” (Emphasis added.)

That’s right, legal unlocking is only being applied to situations where the life of a carrier contract has been fulfilled and you own the phone outright. A decision by the U.S. Copyright Office in 2012 made it so you to have to ask your carrier’s permission to get your phone unlocked after your contract was up.

If this new bill is made into law, the same exemption could be applied to a broader set of devices, including tablets.

  • Johnnola504

    Yes! So F Sprint!!!!!

  • Admire AnAngel

    yeah but that’s the current situation now. You call up your carrier and tell them to unlock it after your contract. What is changing?

  • http://tomperconti.blogspot.com Tom Perconti

    How does that apply (if it does) for prepaid carriers like VirginMobile?

    • Greg_the_Rugger

      It should mean that I can take my VM phone to any LTE carrier. But why? An’t nobody else has $30 all you can eat plan.

  • dcj001

    “If this new bill is made into law, the same exemption could be applied to a broader set of devices, including tablets.”

    Cellular iPad Airs come with one carrier’s SIM card, but they also accept and work with the other carriers’ SIM cards. Therefore they are already unlocked.

    • lucascott

      now. the idea is to make sure they stay that way

  • http://officialandreascy.blogspot.com/ The *Official AndreasCY*

    What took so long?

  • Charlotte Maher

    This is so crazy!! It’s always been legal in Australia to unlock your phone PLUS you can always buy them outright! :)

  • lucascott

    Better move, change the laws so they aren’t locked in the first place

About the author

Alex HeathAlex Heath is a staff writer at Cult of Mac and co-host of the CultCast. He has been quoted by the likes of the BBC, KRON 4 News, and books like "ICONIC: A Photographic Tribute to Apple Innovation." If you want to pitch a story, share a tip, or just get in touch, additional contact information is available on his personal site. Twitter always works too.

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