Verizon has historically been one of the best carriers when it comes to selling unlocked phones — every major smartphone it offers comes unlocked out of the box — but that generous policy is changing, according to a report from CNET. Verizon is now set to revert to selling carrier-locked phones in what it claims is an attempt to combat theft. The new policy will roll out in steps. First, Verizon will lock phones initially, unlocking them once customers finish the activation process, which would be in line with the companys explanation of preventing thieves from stealing phones from retail stores. Sometime this spring, Verizon will be instituting a wait period, where new phones will be locked to Verizon for an unspecified amount of time before customers will be able to unlock them. The company has yet to detail how long customers will need to wait or whether theyll have to submit manual requests to have their phones unlocked. But its hard not to view the longer wait period as more hostile to consumers, since its not obvious how making customers wait longer to unlock their devices will prevent people from stealing phone from Verizon trucks and storerooms. That said, it is a policy thats more or less in line with how the other major US carriers function. Sprint requires that devices be active on the Sprint network for a minimum of 50 days before it will unlock the device, although for devices launched after February 2015, Sprint will automatically unlock phones when they become eligible without requiring users to submit a manual requests. AT&T has the strictest rules, requiring that the phone be active for at least 60 days. Theres an additional caveat that if users have upgraded to a new phone, they still need to wait 14 days before AT&T will unlock the old phone theyve upgraded from. T-Mobile requires that a device be active at least 40 days, with a limit of two unlock requests per line per year. Verizon has said that itll provide more details on the extended wait period closer to when it rolls out the new policy, although the company hasnt offered any details on when that will be aside from the vague spring date. But if youre planning on getting a Verizon phone, its definitely something to be aware of going forward.
It's not clear when the phones will be unlocked after purchase. Verizon currently has the most generous unlocked phones policy of all wireless carriers, but according to CNET, that will be changing soon. In an effort to combat phone theft, Verizon will begin locking the phones it sells to consumers starting Monday. While the phones will immediately be unlocked as soon as the customer activates service, later this spring the wireless carrier will begin keeping phones locked for a certain amount of time after purchase. This is actually standard practice among US wireless carriers. AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint all require devices to be paid off before they can be unlocked; there's also an unlocking waiting period, ranging from 14 to 50 days after a customer makes a request. Verizon will not require customers to have paid off their phones to unlock them, and will continue to allow customers to use unlocked phones from other carriers. Verizon claims that the focus of this policy change is scammers and thieves who target brand new phones. Unlocked phones are a valuable target because they can be quickly resold on the domestic or international market. The timeline of this change isn't clear, but Verizon said it will provide an update before the policy goes into place. This change could really affect Verizon customers who travel internationally. Using an unlocked phone overseas is a standard practice for frequent travelers; it's simple to buy a SIM card and swap it out for your own. It's not clear whether Verizon will unlock the phone early at a purchaser's request once the policy is in place. Verizon owns Engadget's parent company, Oath (formerly AOL). Rest assured, Verizon has no control over our coverage. Engadget remains editorially independent.