Verizon will start locking iPhones to deter theft

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Verizon plans to start locking all phones, including iPhones, to its network for a certain period of time. The carrier is hoping the move, which will prevent customers from using other SIM cards in Verizon devices, will help it fight theft.

It’s common for carriers to lock the devices they sell to their own network. This prevents customers from jumping ship before they’ve paid off their plan. But Verizon generously started selling handsets unlocked when it introduced 4G LTE devices.

No more unlocked phones

Now the company is reversing its decision in an effort to combat theft and reduce fraud.

Starting soon, all handsets Verizon sells will accept only Verizon SIM cards. Initially, the phones will be unlocked as soon as a customer signs up and activates their service. Later in the spring, however, the lock will remain active for a certain period of time after the phone is purchased.

“These steps will make our phones exponentially less desirable to criminals,” explained Tami Erwin, executive vice president of wireless operations for Verizon.

Unlocked handsets are easier to sell because they can be used in almost any country on almost any network, and they typically fetch larger price tags as a result. That makes them a bigger target for smartphone thieves.

It’ll be harder to use your phone abroad

You might assume you won’t be impacted by the lock if you don’t plan to switch from Verizon to another carrier. But it’s worth noting that the lock also prevents you from using a SIM card from a local carrier when you travel abroad.

Buying a local SIM can make calls, texts, and web browsing in particular significantly cheaper when you’re outside of the United States. Now you’ll have to remain connected to Verizon and pay higher roaming fees, or buy a cheap, unlocked device.

Verizon won’t confirm how long its lock will last after this spring. It told CNET it will provide an update after its new policy rolls out.