Thursday, August 23, 2007

Unlocked Phones?

Perhaps we will have to hope for Google to win the right to build a national wireless broadband network before we see unlocked phones on a wide scale. To this point, wireless carriers have argued they have to lock phones for several reasons, including some that are technical, but also to subsidize the handsets and control monthly recurring costs. Up to a point, that's reasonable.

But carriers could dispense with the objections some customers have to locked devices in a pretty simply way: create separate plans for unlocked phones. Sell the phones for full retail price and charge different prices for access. Warn users that some features might not work, or work in the same way, as they do on "locked" devices.

Carriers might just find out that most users don't care whether their phones are locked or not. Others will be passionate about using their own devices, and might not mind higher device prices or even higher monthly access fees.

Of course, one significant reason for locking phones is to prevent use of data connections for mobile VoIP. But people already can do this, even on phones that don't run the Symbian operating system. Sooner or later, unlocking will happen. As is always the case, it probably won't until somebody really dangerous convinces the legcy carriers to move. That somebody has to be Google.

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