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AT&T Commits to Phone Unlocking

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Despite laws saying users cannot unlock their cellphones to work on any carrier, AT&T today said in a blog post that it will continue to unlock phones that are out of contract.

In order to get AT&T to unlock a phone, the user must have had an account with AT&T for at least 60 days with no current contract on the phone they want to unlock and no money owed to AT&T. After the two-year contract is up on the phone, AT&T will unlock any phone it has the unlock code for, or can easily obtain the unlock code for.

For iPhone users the method for getting AT&T to unlock the phone is simple. AT&T has a website where users can submit requests to have their iPhone unlocked. Approval typically takes just two or three days. AT&T says that it will unlock up to five devices per user every year.AT&T Logo

AT&T also touts that it will let users take any unlocked phone onto the network. AT&T offers users a SIM card for any unlocked phone they want to bring to the network. That includes phones that support 4G LTE like the upcoming Sony Xperia ZL which Sony will sell unlocked in the U.S. in the near future.

AT&T felt the need to clarify its position on unlocking phones due to a recent decision from the Librarian of Congress. Last year the Librarian ruled that users couldn’t unlock their own phone unless they met certain circumstances under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The ruling effectively banned users from unlocking their phones.

Earlier this week the White House responded to a petition against the ruling saying that it thinks users should have the opportunity to unlock their phones. The response noted that simply reversing the decision wouldn’t be enough, and that Congress would have to pass litigation letting users unlock their phones for use on other networks and abroad.

Shawn is a tech junkie who spends most of his time reading and writing about it. You can follow him on Twitter, @shawn_i.

5 Comments

  1. Geezy

    03/08/2013 at 2:20 pm

    Does this mean that if I have an iPhone 4 for over 2 years and don’t owe any money on my phone bill, then they can unlock it for me and I can take the device to Tmobile? I don’t see the benefit of AT&T. And no way they are being nice for the same of it. Can someone please explain? Thx.

  2. hate att

    03/08/2013 at 2:20 pm

    lumia920 is still unlockable

  3. Zeke

    03/08/2013 at 5:48 pm

    I bought a pantech crossover for 80 dollars, and it was already unlocked when I got it. After installing an Android upgrade it was re locked to att. They refuse to give me an unlock code, they say I have to get a 2 year agreement, wait it out before they’ll give it to me. That’s a scam. I already unlocked my phone, without their help. They refused to help me because I’m prepaid.

    Wireless companies have too much control over what customers can and can’t do, with the equipment that they buy. I bought this phone in full, why should AT&T have any say over my phone?

    I can not use mobile hotspot because I’m prepaid, they are denying me the right to use the equipment that I bought, but then again every company has stupid restrictions. That deny their customers rights, even after buying extremely overpriced equipment.

  4. Brandon

    03/09/2013 at 6:50 pm

    Shawn your title is misleading, AT&T has not changed their policy one bit regarding unlocks, requiring hoops 1, 2, 3 and 4 be jumped through before they will even consider unlocking a device. Hardly “committing”. And they didn’t feel the need to clarify their position because of the Librarian’s decision, which they lobbied for in the first place, instead, this is a PR push in direct response to the White House’s comments.

    If you are the legal, legitimate owner of a ready-to-activate device that is not under a contract, you should be able to unlock the device. No other “requirements” needed. Those are basic property rights that should remain in place even after you have sold the phone to someone else.

    What if you buy a phone online? AT&T’s not going to unlock that. This abuse of the DMCA, which was meant to fight pirates, really strikes right at the heart of the basic question of property ownership.

  5. Warren Riddock

    06/13/2013 at 8:51 pm

    We provide unlock code AT&T iPhone 5 4 4S 3GS at unlockmytalk.com

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