Verizon will temporarily lock phones to its network starting this spring

Verizon new logo stock
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.


This is hilarious considering my recent experience with activating a new Verizon phone with service.

Verizon really used to have a strong customer service department but in the last few years it seems as though no one knows what they are doing. It took a whole week just to get new service activated.

Complete nightmare. They’ll learn their lesson when people start returning phones and canceling service due to the inability to get things up and running.

My experience with Verizon sales is a group of asshats telling me what I want rather than conversing with me or doing what I ask.

Verizon is just a company with horrible customer service in my opinion ( THEBIGDaniel ) That’s why I use Tmobile which gives excellent customer service and never fails to put a smile on my face ( THEBIGDaniel’s face ) you know what they say "save money live better Walmart!"

Since Verizon is GSM (and many of their phones are GSM only) you’re often functionally carrier "locked" anyway.

Verizon’s actually a CDMA carrier. But some phones like iPhones (since the 6) and Pixel phones that are sold at Verizon have modems that work on other carriers.

To clarify this beyond the responses… Verizon has been a member of the GSM Association since they adopted LTE and are on that roadmap going forward. CDMA is a legacy platform for them they are ripping and replacing.

Part of the open access rules that google pushed for from the 700 Upper C auction are some open access rules they need to follow. Notably, they can’t lock their phones and need to accept any compatible device. They can’t block apps they don’t explicitly provide (common practice on their old blackberry phones).

They’ve challenged these rules constantly since they were adopted in 2007. And this is certainly a move to get a court challenge against them – with a corrupt FTC, FCC and presidential administration – to finally get them overturned.

You nailed it.

The first sentence of the article, stating that "Verizon has historically been one of the best carriers when it comes to selling unlocked phones." misses a very big point. They have only been unlocking their LTE phones as part of an agreement that they signed with the FCC when they bought spectrum that required them to do so. I am quite sure, like you are the they are doing this purely to "have a battle" with the current administration. the results of which have almost certainly already been determined in a back room meeting…

AT&T, and T-Mobile are GSM, Verizon is historically CDMA but is mostly GSM at this point with their LTE network.. I am not sure what you mean.

You mean CDMA? That’s become less relevant with 4G

Verizon is CDMA….
That’s like stating tiger are felines….

Verizon’s a GSM carrier at this point. Literally and figuratively. The primary means to which they provide service is over a gsm technology with CDMA due to be phased out next year. Even their next network will be built on GSM since we’re on the subject.

Opps, I meant to type CDMA of course.

I think they’re doing this because of T-Mobile’s #GetOutOfTheRed promo where if you bring a compatible phone that still needs to be paid off from Verizon to T-Mobile and activate a line on a T-Mobile One Plus plan, they’ll give you up to $650 to pay off the rest of the phone.

This actually makes sense.

Ahh Verizon, the company pulling Ajit Pai’s puppet strings at the FCC

Carrier locks are ridiculous.

That second part is frought with suckage. The system is broken. With our current porting rules, how do you prove to the carrier that you’ve been a customer of theirs if when you port out your number on a prepaid account, the account cancels and completely disappears from their system the instant it’s ported? Then no front line technician is able to help you because unlocking is supposed to be "automated" and no one can seem to talk to the unlocking department unless you know an executive or higher up muckety muck in the organization? This move is completely anti-consumer. They just want you to pay an extra two months of service without giving you service to unlock your phone.

Back during the Palm Treo PDA phone days, I had one and AT&T. I sorted out to T-Mobile. Then the phone started having issues. Even though it was less than a year for warranty, when I called up AT&T they couldn’t help Mr at all because I was no longer a customer, calling Palm they wouldn’t help me and that AT&T had to help me…

I thought they HAD to sell unlocked 3G/4G phones do to FCC forcing them to?

Yeah. I was under the impression that one of the conditions for the spectrum the got to build their LTE network came with the conditions that they had to sell their phones completely unlocked. Either that period is over (similar to have Spectrums period of no data caps is 7 year from completion of the merger) or they know the FCC won’t go after them.

They do. Open Access Rules for 700 upper C.

Now, a question for you. Do you really think that concerns them at all in 2018 America?

"that generous policy is changing"

Ha… Verizon generous. They were forced to do it… And even after being forced to do it, they aren’t going to do it.

This article needs to be updated with additional information.

Like others mentioned, this may be bait for a court battle they know they’ll win with the currently corrupt led FCC by Pai.

I thought Verizon was required by the FCC to sell their phones unlocked, is that somehow changing or do they have reason to believe the FCC won’t enforce that requirement (that reason possibly being that they have enough puppets there now)?

They better have the stipulation that any phones bought at full value be available for unlock immediately.

Either having the Apple Stote or the retailer from where you purchased the phone have enough authority to verify and confirm with Verizon right there on the spot. And provide the unlock code. No waiting period, nothing.

But history will repeat itself and you’ll have a nightmare experience.

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