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Verizon will temporarily lock phones to its network starting this spring

Verizon will temporarily lock phones to its network starting this spring

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In order to deter theft

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Photo: Chris Welch / The Verge

Verizon has historically been one of the best carriers when it comes to selling unlocked phones — every major smartphone it offers comes unlocked out of the box — but that generous policy is changing, according to a report from CNET. Verizon is now set to revert to selling carrier-locked phones in what it claims is an attempt to combat theft.

The new policy will roll out in steps. First, Verizon will lock phones initially, unlocking them once customers finish the activation process, which would be in line with the company’s explanation of preventing thieves from stealing phones from retail stores.

Sometime this spring, Verizon will be instituting a wait period, where new phones will be locked to Verizon for an unspecified amount of time before customers will be able to unlock them. The company has yet to detail how long customers will need to wait or whether they’ll have to submit manual requests to have their phones unlocked.

But it’s hard not to view the longer wait period as more hostile to consumers, since it’s not obvious how making customers wait longer to unlock their devices will prevent people from stealing phone from Verizon trucks and storerooms.

That said, it is a policy that’s more or less in line with how the other major US carriers function. Sprint requires that devices be “active on the Sprint network for a minimum of 50 days” before it will unlock the device, although for devices launched after February 2015, Sprint will automatically unlock phones when they become eligible without requiring users to submit a manual requests.

AT&T has the strictest rules, requiring that the phone be active for at least 60 days. There’s an additional caveat that if users have upgraded to a new phone, they still need to wait 14 days before AT&T will unlock the old phone they’ve upgraded from.

T-Mobile requires that a device be active at least 40 days, with a limit of two unlock requests per line per year.

Verizon has said that it’ll provide more details on the extended wait period closer to when it rolls out the new policy, although the company hasn’t offered any details on when that will be aside from the vague “spring” date. But if you’re planning on getting a Verizon phone, it’s definitely something to be aware of going forward.

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