Smartphones that come with postpaid plans are affordable but often locked in with a particular network provider, which is known as a SIM lock. This business model allows network providers to sell smartphones at a lower price and recoup the cost over the contract’s duration (typically up to three years). If the customer wishes to allow their phone to use other networks, they’ll need to pay a termination fee that might cost as much as the phone itself.
Fortunately for consumers, hope is just on the horizon. A growing number of countries have passed laws making SIM locking illegal; the U.K. is among the most recent, with the law taking effect on December 2021. It also aims to empower consumers by allowing them to leave a network without paying any penalties, or asking for a clear summary of any contract before subscribing.
Until then, SIM-locked smartphone owners will have to rely on unlocking services. Requiring only the unit’s IMEI number, these services can disable the SIM lock on the phone remotely using state-of-the-art software. It works with all modern smartphone models, especially Samsung, considering it has regained dominance in the smartphone market.
Switching to another network isn’t the only reason to unlock a phone. Here are other great reasons to do so:
After briefly losing to Apple and Huawei, Samsung regained the top position with a 22.7% global market share as of the third quarter of 2020. Its mid-range lines like the A-series and flagship ones like the Note 20 offered admirable performance for a fraction of the cost. With so many Samsung phones selling like hotcakes, expect secondhand units to grow in number as well.
While cheaper than a new phone, secondhand phones sometimes come with issues like a SIM lock. It usually means that the previous owner had decided to sell the phone while still in the middle of the lock-in period. If you happen to come across one and want to buy it anyway, you can have a service unlock a Samsung device.
Some people unlock the device before selling, but they’ll usually demand a higher price since they unlocked it for the next owner. You can save on buying a secondhand unit by doing the unlocking yourself.
It’s Not Illegal
There was a time in the U.S. when unlocking a phone was illegal, specifically no longer exempted under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. After then-President Barack Obama signed into law the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act in 2014, it became legal again. By this point, the world was now questioning the necessity of SIM locks.
As its only reason is to force the consumer to use the provided network, disabling SIM locks won’t compromise the consumer’s welfare in any way. The network provider has little reason to go after you for unlocking it; you’ll still end up paying whether you stick with the network provider or end the contract. The customer gets an unlocked phone, while the network provider still gets its money.
Another term that often gets interchanged with unlocking a phone is ‘jailbreaking.’ Some countries don’t allow it, while some manufacturers consider it a breach of their end-user agreements. To be safe, stick with network unlocking.
You’ll Be Traveling Overseas
SIM locks prevent a phone from accepting other SIMs, especially in other countries. Travelers and frequent flyers usually switch to a local SIM while overseas to save on data roaming and additional costs. If you spend most of your life going places, an unlocked phone will be a huge benefit.
Choosing between local SIMs and data roaming should depend on the situation. With a local SIM, you can reduce your phone bill but end up with a number different from the one friends and family are more familiar with. Meanwhile, data roaming allows you to keep the same number no matter where you are, but it can be expensive.
No Need to Update Phones Fast
As mentioned earlier, smartphones that come with a data plan are affordable but network-locked. For many people, buying the unit alone isn’t an option, as flagship models like the Samsung Galaxy S21+ nearly breached the GBP£1,000-mark at launch. In this case, people would buy a high-end phone as part of the plan and stick with it for years.
Thanks to SIM-only plans, people can keep their devices from their original data plan. As soon as it’s unlocked, the device can accept any SIM from the more affordable SIM-only offers. When the time to finally switch to a newer phone comes, you’ll have saved enough for one. Perhaps fancy a flip phone like the Galaxy Z Flip 3 or a foldable one like the Galaxy Z Fold E.
Conversely, this plan also works if you have an old phone from the original data plan that requires an upgrade fast. Because making a smartphone has been easier than ever before, new models flood the market every several months.
Models such as the Galaxy S10 and Note10 have dual-SIM or hybrid variants, allowing two SIMs in one phone. A SIM-locked device with this feature means its two SIMs must come from the same network provider. It’s not a surprise if someone questions the point of this redundant setup.
Unlocking the phone expands your options with your dual-SIM device. The first SIM can be from the original network provider, while the second SIM can be from another; both SIMs can also be from different providers.
While traveling overseas, a dual-SIM device can carry one SIM from home and a local one. Since the system keeps both SIMs active, the phone can still receive calls to the original number. Friends and family will remain a phone call away, no matter where you are.
Unlocking a SIM-locked phone gives people the freedom to pick how they want to stay connected in this small world. Calling or texting loved ones or colleagues wherever they are shouldn’t come at the expense of staying with an unsuitable plan for years. Don’t hesitate to have the SIM lock in your Samsung disabled when you need it the most.