At some point or another, you have likely heard the term phone unlock. There are a lot of misconceptions out there regarding the term. Let’s clear that up.
Unlocking (also called factory unlocking, sim unlocking, gsm unlock, phone unlock, etc.)
Unlocking is giving a device the ability to connect to an alternative service provider. When you purchase a device through a cellular provider, that device is generally locked to that specific network. If you were to find yourself changing networks at a later point in time, you will find that your current phone will need to be unlocked to come along.
On the surface, this seems unfair. However, most people don’t realize that the phone you use daily is technically not yours. In reality, you are leasing it.
For example, the Nexus 6 can be acquired for around $200 on a new contract. Whereas it would cost about $700 to purchase it unlocked through the manufacturer. The service provider absorbs the full cost of the phone. The consumer gets the bargain on the phone, only because the cost will be compensated over the course of the two year contract.
Most consumers are unaware, your service provider is willing to unlock your phone for free.
If you have fulfilled your end of the bargain and completed the two year contract, your provider will likely unlock your phone for free. Simply contact your service provider, and ask them to unlock your device. It’s that easy.
Another misconception I see quite often is the idea that phones can be purchased on a contract, unlocked right away by a third party unlocker, and then used with a cheaper service provider. This is wrong, and is actually considered theft in most states.
To be clear, devices on contract can still be unlocked. There are many reasons why this is allowed. One of the more logical reasons is to allow those who travel, the ability to connect to a network in a foreign destination.
Purchasing a phone unlock to deceive a service provider is not a good solution.
It is more common that people will try to unlock a device while in contract, with the intention to use a cheaper provider and stop paying for the contracted service. However as soon as the contract defaults with the provider that the phone was originally locked to, it is likely that provider will blacklist the phone. This will make the phone unusable with any service provider. Regardless of the unlock status.
So in summary, unlocking is a service provided by device manufacturers. This service is usually completed for you by a service provider upon request. This service can also be competed by third party unlockers who have access to the unlock services provided by the device manufacturer.
Unlocking is not Jailbreaking or Rooting, nor will Jailbreaking or Rooting alone unlock your device.
The following links provide information regarding the unlock policy of the four major US service providers.
Information regarding Jailbreaking and Rooting can be found at the bottom of the following links.