As of Saturday, it will be illegal for Americans to unlock a smartphone without carrier authorization. Anyone interested in an unlocked phone will have to purchase it that way, without the heavily discounted and highly appealing subsidized price offered when signing on to a carrier contract.
It’s all thanks to Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The recent interpretation coming into effect tomorrow means all smartphones must be unlocked via traditional channels. Those who choose to do so through third-party hacks could find themselves before a judge. But it’s unlikely it is law enforcement that will track down offenders. Instead, expect carriers to begin monitoring and sending notices to those caught breaking the rules.
Carriers will continue to sell unlocked phones, which remain completely legal. For those with locked phones, there is speculation some carriers may allow customers to unlock the device when their contract is complete.