Senate clears bill that will make it easier to unlock phones

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The unsightley symbols on your iPhone might soon disappear Photo: Moridin, Flickr
The unsightley symbols on your iPhone might soon disappear Photo: Moridin, Flickr

You should be able to easily switch carriers in the U.S. once you fulfill your two-year contract, but most of the time it’s easier said than done. A new bill being reviewed in Washington plans to let you unlock your phone to take it to any carrier after your contact is over.

100,000+ Americans Want The White House To Make Smartphone Unlocking Legal

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A petition against a phone unlocking ban that was introduced last month has now received more than 100,000 online signatures, the threshold petitions must reach to get an official response from the Obama Administration. The petition calls for the White House to make cellphone unlocking legal again, without having to go through a carrier.

Unlocking A New iPhone Is Now Illegal, But Jailbreaking Is Still Safe — What It All Means For You

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illegal iPhone unlock

It can be easy to get “unlocking” and “jailbreaking” confused, but the two terms mean totally different things. Unlocking refers to freeing your phone to work on any carrier instead of just the one you bought it on. Jailbreaking is the process of circumventing Apple’s security measures in iOS to install tweaks, hacks, and mods that aren’t allowed in the App Store.

The U.S. Library of Congress has ruled that it is now illegal for you to unlock your smartphone if it was bought after January 26th, 2013. Carriers can still legally unlock your device for you, but it’s illegal to go through a third-party unlock vendor.

Jailbreaking your iPhone has been kept legal through 2015 under an exemption in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The crazy catch is that jailbreaking the iPad has technically been made illegal, while the iPhone and iPod touch both remain exempt. So jailbreaking is safe mostly, but unofficial unlocking is not. This is important to mention as the iOS 6.1 jailbreak approaches.

Keeping up with the U.S. legal system is very confusing, so what does all this unlocking and jailbreaking legal jargon mean for you?