If you’ve been on the fence about whether or not to unlock your smartphone, you might want to hurry up and make a decision one way or another. That’s because starting January 26 (this Saturday), the process will become illegal in the US thanks to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
The law officially went into effect in October 2012 but the Librarian of Congress provided a 90 day grace period for anyone with an unlocked device to do the deed.
It goes without saying that the restriction hasn’t earned the approval of everyone – most notably, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).The advocacy group has questioned whether or not the Digital Millennium Copyright Act has the right to determine who can and cannot unlock a phone.
Those with certain handsets like Verizon’s iPhone 5 aren’t affected as it comes unlocked out of the box. AT&T, meanwhile, will unlock a phone once it is out of contract. Alternately, users can simply purchase an unlocked phone without a carrier subsidy although expect to pay a pretty penny for the opportunity. Unlocked iPhones start at $649 but you can get something cheaper like the Nexus 4 from Google for around $300.
At the end of the day, this really isn’t expected to have a significant impact on most users. At most, it will likely become a thorn in the side of some wireless carriers like T-Mobile that have promoted bringing unlocked handsets to their network in order to save on monthly billing.