Verizon Wireless to Start Locking New Smartphones

Verizon Wireless announced on Monday that it will soon start locking new smartphone purchases made in store or online. This lock would exist for a fixed period of time, during which the user would be unable to insert a new SIM card and activate service through a different cellular carrier.

In recent years, Verizon has sold unlocked smartphones in their retail and online stores. When a customer would buy a new Apple iPhone or Samsung Galaxy, a Verizon SIM card would come pre-installed in the device, but the owner could remove it at any time and activate a new network either in the United States or abroad. Verizon had agreed to follow this process as part of settlement with the FCC, which granted the company access to a block of 4G network space in exchange for not blocking customers from switching networks.

Verizon’s new policy regarding locked phones is expected to go into effect this spring. The company does not believe it contradicts the agreement with the FCC, primarily because the driver of the change is related to theft protection. Verizon believes that by locking all new smartphones after purchase, it will deter criminals from trying to steal the devices.

Verizon has yet to reveal how long the locking policy will apply to new phones. Currently, other major U.S. carriers have similar rules in place. At&T locks smartphones for a minimum of 60 days, while T-Mobile’s wait period is 40 days.

As a result of this announcement from Verizon, more of the network’s customers may choose to shop directly from manufacturers like Apple and Samsung. When a phone is purchased directly from one of those companies’ stores, the device is delivered fully unlocked with no restrictions on what type of SIM card can be activated on it.