The US government now officially approves cell phone unlocking, and hopefully that means it soon won't be such a headache to unshackle your phone. T-Mobile looks to be doing its part with a new app that will let you unlock your phone — no lengthy customer support call required. There's a catch, though: the app is only available on one mid-range Android phone called the Samsung Galaxy Avant.
Nevertheless, the fact that this app event exists in the first place is promising. US carriers have traditionally made unlocking phones such a complicated and convoluted process that many consumers don't even know it's an option. According to reports from TMoNews and Android Central, the app pre-loaded on the Avant allows users to request either a 30-day or permanent unlock. The former has fewer restrictions, and should suffice for trips abroad.
While the full list of restrictions are currently unavailable, the app checks your account records to make sure you're eligible for an unlock. T-Mobile's current unlocking rules have several requirements, including that phones purchased on an installment payment plan are entirely paid off. In addition, the device must have been active on the carrier's network for at least 40 days to be eligible.
Most carriers sell phones with a digital "lock" that only allows the device to connect through a single service provider. By unlocking a device — either through a carrier or via less official means — you can swap out your SIM card when you travel, for instance, and avoid costly international roaming charges. T-Mobile did not immediately return requests for comment, but it's likely that the app will make it to other Android devices in the future,.