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Verizon Will Stop Selling Unlocked Phones Soon: How Will This Affect Customers?

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Verizon, the last major carrier in the United States to sell unlocked smartphones, will soon stop doing so, falling in line with its rivals in the telecommunications industry. How will this decision affect Verizon and its subscribers?  ( Scott Olson | Getty Images )

Verizon will soon stop selling unlocked smartphones, a move that the carrier said will protect its customers from thieves because unlocked phones are prime targets.

The decision marks a reversal of Verizon's policy to sell all phones it offers unlocked, which was part of an agreement with the Federal Communications Commission. Verizon was the last major carrier in the United States to sell unlocked smartphones.

Verizon To Stop Selling Unlocked Smartphones

Verizon will start locking the smartphones that it sells to its customers, preventing the devices to be used with SIM cards released by another carrier.

At first, the devices will become unlocked after customers sign up for the service and activate it on their smartphones. However, in the spring, Verizon will keep the smartphone locked for a certain duration of time after the customer buys it, similar to its rivals in the telecommunications industry.

To illustrate, Sprint requires smartphones to be active on its network for 50 days, after which the devices will be unlocked without the need for customers to request it. T-Mobile, on the other hand, required only 40 days, but limits unlock requests to two per line per year. AT&T is the strictest, requiring 60 days and an additional 14 days for old phones from which customers upgraded to new phones.

Verizon, however, has not yet revealed any details on how long the wait will be for customers who would want to unlock their smartphones, and if a manual request would be needed.

The Impact Of The Move On Verizon And Its Customers

According to Verizon, the decision to stop selling unlocked smartphones will deter thieves from targeting the devices while on their way to stores or right after the devices are purchased by customers. Unlocked smartphones are prime targets for thieves as they are easy to sell in the black market, particularly iPhones which have high resale values.

The customers most affected by the move are those who purchase a smartphone from Verizon and then travel to another country while the lock period is still in effect. Most consumers, however, will likely not feel the pending change once it goes online.

Verizon, meanwhile, may find itself in trouble. As part of its acquisition of the C block of 700 MHz spectrum, Verizon was required to keep their phones unlocked. According to Verizon, however, the carrier is still following the intention of the requirements of the C block. Is a meeting with the FCC in the cards?

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