While the industry’s voluntary standards bring us a little closer to that perfect world, we aren’t quite there yet.
Carriers had to adopt at least three (any three) out of the six standards this spring. One of those standards is that carriers have to make their unlocking policy clear to consumers. Even if that policy is, for now, “nope.” That’s why Sprint has published a clear new policy on their site. That policy: you’ll be able to unlock your device and flee Sprint sometime in 2017, because they don’t sell any phones that will work with other domestic carriers yet.
Specifically, devices manufactured with a SIM slot within the past three years (including, but not limited to, all Apple iPhone devices), cannot be unlocked to accept a different domestic carrier’s SIM for use on another domestic carrier’s network. Sprint has no technological process available to do this.
We were going to bold the more ridiculous passages for emphasis, but that would have been the entire excerpt. No, there is no technological process for unlocking phones, because Sprint didn’t design one into phones to be used on their network.
Newer dual-band phones can be unlocked for use on foreign GSM carriers, though. We have multiple GSM carriers in the United States: AT&T, T-Mobile, and virtual network operators including Straight Talk that lease capacity from other carriers. There’s no reason why Sprint doesn’t have a “technological process” to allow customers who are no longer under contract to use their phones on other carriers except that Sprint didn’t want that “technological process” to be available.