Everything You Need to Know About SIM lock

SIM lock

What does a SIM lock mean?

Manufacturers build SIM locks into mobile phones to allow service providers restrict the device’s use to only their network or a particular country. When a SIM lock is activated by a telco, the phone is locked to that telco alone, and can’t be used on another network unless it is unlocked. You can also purchase a phone that’s already unlocked and use it with any Australian telco’s SIM Only plan you want.

Telcos typically provide services to unlock their SIM locked phones. Such a service might cost a fee or require you to terminate an agreement if the phone was purchased on a contract – which could also incur some extra costs, depending on the telco and plan. Other telcos might unlock your phone for free after a certain period of time, usually after the contract (if any) has been successfully fulfilled and the phone has been paid in full.

There are also third party companies online that can unlock your phone, but that will also cost you some money. If you’re tech savvy, you can probably find a guide online to unlock your phone yourself, but you’ll need to access a code to unlock the software, which will likely cost you some money as well.

There are third party companies online that’ll help you unlock your phone, usually for a fee.

Telcos find SIM locks beneficial because it helps keep customers on board. Because switching to a different telco requires a series of extra steps to first unlock a SIM locked device, customers might be discouraged and abandon their desire to move to another service provider.

Pros and Cons of using a locked phone

Locked phones benefit the service providers the most. Remember, if your telco sells you a phone with a SIM lock, you can’t use the phone on another network unless you go through the headaches of getting it unlocked. This process discourages customers from leaving their telco for greener pastures.

But there are some benefits to using a locked phone, so let’s take a look at their primary pros and cons.

Pros

  • Locked phones are less attractive to thieves because they can only be used on a particular network, or in a particular country. For a cell phone thief, this limits the market, making it difficult to offload the stolen goods.
  • Locked phones also give you the option of paying monthly for your phone on a contract. Because they’re usually sold by telcos, you’ll be offered a payment plan if you want, and they frequently offer discounts and promos as incentives.
  • Also, with a locked phone, you’re less likely to be sold a fake or defective device. That’s because they are usually sold by telcos that get their phones directly from the manufacturer.
  • Again, because locked phones are usually sold by telcos, they might come with warranties or phone insurance options, as well as additional tracking software. These can really come in handy if you damage or lose your phone.

Cons

  • Locked phones are locked, and that’s their main disadvantage. They limit your choice and box you in – you can’t switch to a different telco when you see a more attractive offer unless you unlock the phone.
  • To unlock your phone, it’ll cost you money and/or time to unlock. So even if you decide to take that attractive offer from another telco, it’s not going to be a straightforward process.

Pros and Cons of using unlocked phone

Unlocked phones benefit the consumer the most. The limits of a locked phone are virtually nonexistent when you own an unlocked device, but there’s also a key drawback.

Pros

  • Unlocked phones can be used on any network, so you can move telcos easily by just switching SIM cards.
  • Unlocked phones are great for trips overseas. If you want to avoid spending too much money on roaming charges when you’re outside the country, just pick up a local SIM from one of that country’s telcos and plug it into your unlocked phone.
  • Some phones come with dual SIM card slots. If the phone is unlocked, you can have two different plans and phone numbers – from two different telcos – on those dual SIM slots.
  • Unlocked phones are also widely available so you can find second-hand phones that save you some money. And if you want a brand new unlocked phone, there are many sources for that as well, including direct from the manufacturer.
  • Because unlocked phones can be used on any network, they are easier to sell when you no longer need them.

Cons

  • The primary drawback of unlocked phones is that you’ll likely have to pay outright for the device. That upfront cost might be a lot to bear, especially if it’s a brand new, late model flagship phone.

Conclusion

SIM locks give telcos the option to restrict a phones usage to their network alone. These locked phones benefit service providers because they make it difficult for consumers to switch to other telcos when they find a better offer. To unlock your phone, you might have to spend some money. But because most telcos now offer SIM Only plans, you can purchase a phone that’s already unlocked from a third party, and use it with any service provider you wish.

 

Neil Aitken

Having worked in 3 countries for 4 telcos on both voice and data products, Neil is in a position to give you the inside track. Get beyond the marketing messages to the best plan for you.