It’s ILLEGAL, starting tomorrow.
“After this upcoming weekend, you have to ask your phone company if you want to use the phone you (kind of) bought from them on any other carrier’s network. You used to be able to ask for, or purchase, or hack your way to an “unlocked” phone, but that will be illegal after Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013.”
The author of this article goes on to say the following.
“I think that expecting the carriers to maintain a consistent unlocking policy for transactions they’ve already processed is like asking the scorpion not to sting.”
It does seem rather absurd; I can’t imagine calling up my cell phone carrier and saying, “So, I totally want to dump you and switch to another carrier; can you please unlock my phone?” They have no obligation to actually do so, of course. And I don’t think they will. Who would allow their customers to leave in that way?
Gizmodo thinks that there are ways around the law.
“These changes won’t, of course, limit you ability to unlock phones anyway, but it will give carriers a bit of a heavier stick to wave at you if they catch you using an unlocked phone they didn’t authorize; they can tell. There are also a few technical loopholes. Legacy phones, i.e. “used (or perhaps unused) phones previously purchased or otherwise acquired by a consumer” are still cool to unlock, and that definition has a little bit of play in it. But the practice of unlocking your carrier-discounted phone is still going to be a crime, so get ready to deal with this brave new world, or live the life of an outlaw.”
Either way, you might want to think twice before unlocking your phone. That would be a crappy thing to go to jail for.