Sprint Fires Customer For Excessive Roaming, Won't Unlock His iPhone

Sprint fired Christian. Oh, he didn’t work for them: they fired him as a customer. He doesn’t live near any of their towers, and so he ended up doing a lot of data roaming. Displeased, Sprint sent him a letter to tell him that he was being let go. Christian called up Sprint and was told that he would be allowed to unlock his shiny new iPhone 4S and use it on AT&T. He ported his number out to AT&T, then learned that the representative he had talked to is the only person in the Sprint organization who will tell customers that they can use their iPhones on another US carrier.

As you may remember from a few weeks ago, it is technically possible for a Sprint iPhone to be unlocked for use as a GSM phone outside of the United States. Pop in a foreign SIM, and away you go. In theory, at least. Here in the real world, it doesn’t work as well. Or at all. They’re just going to resist doing it, and no one seems to know what the actual policy is. The problem is that even though the phone physically has that capability, Sprint isn’t about to unlock that precious SIM slot and let Christian take his subsidized iPhone to AT&T. They don’t lose anything by letting Christian take his iPhone to AT&T, but that’s the policy: unlock that slot for international use only.

Christian writes:

I need some help in this situation. Sprint cancelled my contract due to excessive data roaming (I don’t have Sprint service where I live). I received a letter in the mail telling me I had 30 days to find a new provider. I called into Sprint and I talked to a gentleman from account services, and he told me that Sprint would unlock my iPhone once my contract was over. I take his word for it, and I port my number out to AT&T.

I called Sprint back after I had my number ported out and on my sim card and talked to someone from every single department. Sprint claims that they can’t do a domestic unlock and that I would need to talk to Apple for further assistance. I called Apple and they told me that this is all on Sprint’s shoulders.

At this point, I have a useless iPhone, a SIM Card with my phone number ported out, and no phone to make calls on. Can I get some help?

We referred him to the Sprint Consumerist Hotline, and they weren’t able to help. They reiterated the international-unlocking-only policy. How infuriating to know that the phone could be unlocked, but just won’t. Because Sprint says so, that’s why.

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.