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Locked cell phones and SIM cards

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You can now take your cell phone number from one service to another, but often the carrier you’re leaving won’t give you the code needed to unlock your phone so its SIM (subscriber identity module) card can be exchanged for your new carrier’s. AT&T Wireless spokesman Ritch Blasi said, “We subsidize the phone and want to make our money back.”

Transfer of your phone is possible if it uses GSM (Global System for Mobile communications) technology, which is the case for most new phones now sold by AT&T Wireless, Cingular, and T-Mobile.

Turns out several class-action lawsuits have been filed against the cell phone companies to challenge this practice. Few people know that their old phone can be used with their new carrier, so they waste their money on a new phone sold to them by their new carrier, which is not likely to tell them of the usability of their old phone.

Enough users have learned of this issue to support a small industry of websites that can look up your phone’s unlocking code for a small fee. All you need to give them is your phone’s 15-digit IMEI (international mobile equipment identity) number, a unique identifier stamped into each GSM phone.

David M. Rowell, publisher of a travel-related technology site called TheTravelInsider.Info, offers the service for $5.

Boy, what a fucked-up system: I mean, look at all the acronyms, for one thing. Shouldn’t be this hard.

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About bookofjoe

  • I think there’s a special place in the afterlife for phone companies.

  • shaun

    the thing is their is no real reason to bring an old phone to a new carrier, the phones become out-dated so quickly. Also all the carriers offer free phones with activation.

  • shaun – I think the price determines how often one will realistically want to buy new phones.

    If you drop a couple hundred dollars for a phone, that isn’t something a lot of folks are going to want to replace within 6 months or a year.

    I am satisfied with our current cell carrier and Samsung A600 phone [$350 USD], but if I were to switch I wouldn’t want to buy a new phone. Well, not for the forseeable future anyway.

    Then again, when they start putting all the goodies into one device (these smart phones are getting close) it makes it worth considering moving everything to one device to carry instead of a phone and a PDA.

  • shaun

    ya just reinforced my comment. better products hitting the market. and i don’t anybody that changes carriers every six months to a year.

    You do have a nice phone though. Samsungs are great phones, but sprint sucks.

    Oh and just to let you know i have been selling cell phone for about two and a half years

  • I was with my last cell phone carrier for over 4 years. When we left they had all these great deals they would give us if we stayed.

    I say fuck them to companies who treat their loyal customers this way. If they weren’t giving us the great deals all along, then that’s a serious customer service issue. Almost every study every done shows that loyal customers will be repeat customers and make you more money than the acquistion of new customers, which is much more expensive.

    Then on our way out they threatened us with collections two weeks after we cancelled service if we didn’t pay the final bill (we paid every bill on time, every time, for over 4 years). The problem was the bill hadn’t even been received yet for us to pay. Don’t you just love treatment like this?

    SprintPCS isn’t the best as far as features for phones, agreed, but that unlimited Vision service for 15 bones a month is sweet. And we can do a lot of stuff account-wise online, which is another nice benefit if the bill doesn’t come.

    Now if only Sprint had Bluetooth! Grrr! It’s the one thing that would probably get me to switch, because I’d like to have the integration with my HP 1945 Pocket PC, but then when I’m the day comes that I’m in the market for another cell phone (a couple years, most likely) I’ll want only one device to carry.

    Also in my area, Sprint has the best coverage. So sometimes you have to go with whomever has the best coverage. Best phone and best company doesn’t equal squat if you can’t get a good signal.

  • shaun

    I sell at&t (soon to be cingular), and i will tell ya verizon is the best overall. Killer customer service, by far the best coverage, but weakminute plans. Sprint has the best phones, and overall weak coverage and weak customer service

  • Peter jan tenti

    I have an idea of additional technology to your G.S.M handset product which would be highly markatable in NIGERIAN market. It would be of security usage.If interested, let’s agree and talk. HERE is my phone NO(2348036169694

  • Danilo

    I want to buy used cell phone like nokia 6210 or 6310 or 7110.Please if anyone sell these-email me please!!!

  • Luckily unlocked cellphones can be bought on ebay very easily now.

  • jeff

    we have sprint service and my daughter broke her samsung pm-A840 phone which we need to replace. we got 2 phones on sign up for $69 2 for 1. if I buy one on ebay for $39..99 which gives a $39.99 rebate with new account which I do not need, is there any way to use this phone which is presumably locked?

    Thanks, Jeff

  • Nowadays sim only contracts are very popular. People can save lots of money on them and most phones are sim lock free.

  • yeah this is correct. I like using phones that are not sim locked because i often changes number. many people always bother me.