February 12th 2018
By Mike Flaminio
The nation's largest wireless carrier said Monday that it would begin locking the phones it sells to consumers, which will prevent them from using a SIM card from another carrier. Initially, the phones will be unlocked as soon as a customer signs up and activates the service. But later in the spring, the company will begin the practice of keeping the phone locked for a period of time after the purchase -- in line with the rest of the industry.
The first part seems reasonable for mail-order devices. If a new unlocked device is shipped to you, that's a pretty attractive target for thieves. By locking the devices to the network, it should help reduce the value of that device as it can't be activated on any network, particularly overseas. The next phase of this will lock devices after they have been activated. The second lock is a little shadier, however, it seems in line with other U.S.-based carriers. The justification is someone could steal your identity and buy a new device on your account to turn sell it. Verizon hasn't stated the timeframe of this period or whether the lock must be requested by the customer.
I've been irritated with Verizon's constant data plan tinkering. What was a pretty consumer-friendly menu of options have slowly turned to funneling people into pricy unlimited plans with bandwidth restrictions. So, I guess I'm a little skeptical of the stated intent of this change. This seems to benefit Verizon by locking people into its service. If you're buying the device outright or on an installment loan, there should be nothing preventing you from going to another wireless provider, assuming, of course, the device is technically supported.