1. saras112's Avatar
    I'm from Europe, Lithuania specifically. and I keep hearing these carriers, carrier specific phones don't work on other carriers, carriers control your updates and so on. In EU you buy a phone from a carrier and you can pop in any SIM card you wish. Can someone explain the system in U.S. .
    RJ Priest likes this.
    09-18-2015 03:56 AM
  2. Poirots Progeny's Avatar
    I'm from Europe, Lithuania specifically. and I keep hearing these carriers, carrier specific phones don't work on other carriers, carriers control your updates and so on. In EU you buy a phone from a carrier and you can pop in any SIM card you wish. Can someone explain the system in U.S. .
    You're not quite right there - I don't know where you are but I'm in the UK and even here you get carrier locked phones and updates are sketchy. It's a company issue, depends entirely on how a company wants to operate. Just because you've not experienced doesn't mean it's not happening. It's really rather annoying. For me, personally, I hands, for the last 20 years, purchased the phones outright and then I'll look for a sim. But then I can afford it and I'm not the ideal customer for a carrier: They want you to be tied into a contact for two years with no ability to use competing networks. This is just business ;)
    09-18-2015 04:07 AM
  3. a5cent's Avatar
    ^ The UK is pretty much the exception. The UK adopts many policies that originated in the U.S. , carrier policies being amongst them. Everywhere else in Europe locking phones is very rare. In fact, the rest of Europe has legally divorced the smartphone market from the carrier market, for very good reasons IMHO, but which I don't want to get into here.
    Last edited by a5cent; 09-18-2015 at 08:41 AM. Reason: illegal > rare
    09-18-2015 04:42 AM
  4. Poirots Progeny's Avatar
    Really? I've bought locked devices in Belgium, France and Germany. Orange and t mobile? If things have changed then great.
    a5cent likes this.
    09-18-2015 06:25 AM
  5. a5cent's Avatar
    I haven't looked into this for quite some time, so my info could be out of date. At least a few years ago it was common practice in many EU countries to interpret "locking" as the practice of legally binding a customer to a contract for a period of time. That's just not what we here typically understand to be a locked device. That practice seems fair to me, because if you're getting a discounted device, you should have to pay that off over the agreed duration of the contract.

    Every country has their own rules, so my previous statement was admittedly an oversimplification, but in practice that's what I see it coming down to. For example, I know that in France it's possible to purchase SIM locked devices (AFAIK only from T-Mobile), but you can ask them to unlock it in the store on the day you buy it and they are legally required to do so.

    I also know that T-Mobile in Germany was sued a few years back over their attempt to lock the iPhone to their network, at which point T-Mobile instantly caved. I'm not sure how that would have been possible if there wasn't some provision in their laws stating that locking isn't acceptable.
    Laura Knotek and xandros9 like this.
    09-18-2015 06:52 AM
  6. Poirots Progeny's Avatar
    09-18-2015 08:18 AM
  7. Poirots Progeny's Avatar
    The issue with t mobile, that you refer to, was very specific, and overturned; Vodafone effectively sued as they didn't want t mobile exercising carrier locked phones as a way of subsidising the device and contract. It's all about subsidizing and am income sustained over the contract duration. Europa (eu portal) specifically talks about the law also - carrier locks are dependant on local legislation and only very few countries outright ban locking. Really, it's a business decision.
    09-18-2015 08:23 AM
  8. a5cent's Avatar
    Looking through the page you linked to, it would seem almost every EU country has laws stating when a carrier that does lock their phone must unlock it, whereas carriers in the UK are not legally obliged to do so. In that case it's not the locking that is illegal in most of the EU, but a carrier's refusal to unlock.

    Maybe it's those laws that prevent most EU carriers from locking in the first place. I don't know.

    Anyway, in practice, it's quite hard to find locked devices in most of Europe. That is very different from the UK and the US where it's far more common or even the norm. I live in Switzerland and I literally can't get a locked device, even if I wanted one.
    09-18-2015 08:39 AM
  9. Poirots Progeny's Avatar
    Hmmm. Perhaps. Personally I've never wanted to purchased a locked down device anyway - maybe it's because I hail from a different time but I can't get my head around getting into debt to own a telephone lol
    09-18-2015 05:58 PM
  10. tgp's Avatar
    I'm from the US so that's the system I'm accustomed to, but I myself use the unlocked phone method. I'm on Verizon, but fortunately there are several factory unlocked devices that work on Verizon.

    My question about the "other" system is: where do you go for support? Does the carrier totally support an unlocked phone you bought yourself and use with their SIM card? Or does the carrier stock unlocked phones that they've certified for their system, and support only those?

    Say for example you bought an unlocked phone directly from Microsoft or a store that sells phones or an online retailer like Amazon and inserted your carrier's SIM card. Now MMS doesn't work. Do you go to the carrier? The retailer where you bought the phone? The manufacturer? Do you start with one and go down the line until the problem is resolved?

    The reason I'm asking is because I've heard from at least one carrier employee that support is at least part of the reason they lock the phones down. I'm sure that's not all of it, but it does kind of make sense. In the US, a carrier store is a one stop shop. The average customer never ever talks to anybody else, with the exception of Apple if an Apple store is close by. The carrier supports the phone and service from A to Z. I can see why they wouldn't want just any unlocked phone. At least this way they can say "You're on your own." if someone brings in a phone from a Chinese manufacturer that they never heard of. It would be a logistical nightmare to provide total support for the thousands of different handsets out there. They actually do provide some support to even those customers, but most of the people who use cheap unlocked phones are on an MVNO anyway.

    Another thing to consider is the fact that a device is locked and doesn't always received timely updates means nothing to 99% of the customers. It's the few enthusiasts like us who even know about it. Go ask the average smartphone user which OS their phone has, and they won't even know. All they know is "It's an iPhone/Samsung/Nokia."

    I am not trying to justify the system used in the US and UK and a few other places. I think the unlocked BYOD system is superior. But at the same time, the other does have its place. I think we sometimes make a bigger deal out of things like this than they really are in the real world.
    Last edited by tgp; 09-19-2015 at 08:42 AM.
    Laura Knotek, libra89 and rhapdog like this.
    09-19-2015 08:30 AM
  11. a5cent's Avatar
    The reason I'm asking is because I've heard from at least one carrier employee that support is at least part of the reason they lock the phones down. I'm sure that's not all of it, but it does kind of make sense. In the US, a carrier store is a one stop shop. The average customer never ever talks to anybody else, with the exception of Apple if an Apple store is close by. The carrier supports the phone and service from A to Z. I can see why they wouldn't want just any unlocked phone.
    I'm assuming the idea is that AT&T shouldn't have to support a L1520 after the customer takes it over to Sprint. If you believe that support is necessarily tied to the sale of the device/hardware, granted, that just manages to make some sense, but barely, and only from a U.S. perspective. From a European perspective it makes no sense at all. More below...

    Does the carrier totally support an unlocked phone you bought yourself and use with their SIM card?
    Yes, because in Europe, support is not tied to the device/hardware. Instead, it's tied to the carrier you're paying to provide cellular service.

    Or does the carrier stock unlocked phones that they've certified for their system, and support only those?
    No. In most of Europe there is no concept of a "carrier device". Popular phones sold by carriers may be branded (not locked but may include carrier bloatware), but they are still generally viewed as phones that the carrier just happens to stock. They are generally not viewed as carrier devices, any more than a Samsung TV would be a Best-Buy TV or a Radio Shack TV. No matter where you buy a TV, you're unlikely to think of it as being anything more than a Samsung TV. That's how Europeans see phones. If you suddenly have a problem where your TV isn't getting all your digital channels, where would you go to? Likely you'd call your cable provider, not Best Buy. That's how people deal with phone issues in Europe.

    My brother owns and manages a carrier store (franchise). Employees are expected to know how GSM works and how to get any GSM phone with European bands successfully exchanging data, voice, MMS and SMS in under two minutes, even if they've never seen the phone before.

    The U.S. model implies that while an AT&T store rep could support an L1520 running WP8.1, she/he will be too incompetent to support a Verizon L735 running WP8.1. My brother would instantly fire anybody with that attitude. Carriers train their store reps in OSes and OEMs, not individual device models. It seems to work just fine, which is why I don't really buy the argument those carrier reps gave you.

    I for one am very happy that I can get pretty much any phone (including any Lumia ever released), unlocked, and paired with any contract from any carrier of my choosing. I'm also happy that the cost of cellular service always excludes the cost of device financing, which is only added if I get a discounted device, and which is modified depending on the cost of the device I chose (an iPhone will add $35 over 24 months, while a L640 will add $5 over 24 months).

    I value that transparency and those freedoms, particularly after realizing it's not like that everywhere, but obviously the importance of that will be subjective.
    Last edited by a5cent; 09-27-2015 at 04:32 AM. Reason: spelling
    09-19-2015 11:22 AM
  12. tgp's Avatar
    I'm assuming the idea is that AT&T shouldn't have to support a L1520 after the customer takes it over to Sprint. If you believe that support is necessarily tied to the sale of the device/hardware, granted, that just manages to make some sense, but barely, and only from a U.S. perspective. From a European perspective it makes no sense at all. More below...
    No, the idea is exactly the opposite. Should Sprint be expected to support a phone I bring over from AT&T?

    Thanks for explaining the European system to me. It makes sense. Part of the problem in the US is that CDMA is prevalent. Back when Verizon's predecessors and Sprint switched from analog to digital in the mid 1990's, CDMA had the superior technology. It offered more capacity, better call quality and more potential than the GSM of the day. GSM caught up, but by then those carriers' paths were set.

    CDMA devices by nature are locked to a carrier. I don't know for sure, so I'm guessing here, but AT&T and T-Mobile probably saw financial advantages to locking their phones, which is why we have locked GSM devices. Since locking was the norm, it was not a problem.

    A still valid advantage for US carriers of CDMA is better range. Most people have no idea of how large and sparsely populated the United States is compared to most of the rest of the world. I scarcely comprehend it myself; I live in the heavily populated East Coast. The Continental US (48 states, excluding Alaska and Hawaii) has roughly twice the land area of the EU, with about half the population. This of course calculates to 25% of the population density of the EU. So, a cell phone tower in Europe covers four times as many potential customers on average as the same tower in the US. CDMA's better range makes it desirable, especially in areas where population density is lower.

    The coverage maps of AT&T and Verizon reveal an obvious difference. Verizon unarguably has the best overall coverage of any one carrier across the whole US.

    Someday, as lowering costs and increased population make it feasible, the US will be switched to GSM. Verizon at least already has it on their roadmap. Once that happens, maybe competition and/or government regulation will turn the tide to a fully unlocked system.

    And just for interest's sake, the global spread of GSM at least in part came about because in 1987, Europe mandated the technology by law. I'm not a fan government interference, but it worked out for the better in this case.

    The U.S. model implies that while an AT&T store rep could support an L1520 running WP8.1, he will be too incompetent to support a Verizon L735 running WP8.1. My brother would instantly fire anybody with that attitude. They train OSes and OEMs, not individual device models.
    Huh? I'm not sure what you're getting at. OSs and OEMs are trained here too.

    If I understand you correctly, you're saying that an AT&T employee is not familiear with a Lumia 735. See, this issue of only one carrier supporting a certain device is, with few exceptions, unique to WP. If someone wants an iPhone 6 or a Samsung Galaxy S6 or Note 5 or an LG G4, they can walk into any carrier store and get one. To the customer, they are all identical. Granted, they cannot take it to another carrier for the most part, but that is another issue. The complaints about carrier exclusivity seen in this forum are only in this forum, because it is an issue only with WP.
    Last edited by tgp; 09-19-2015 at 12:40 PM.
    09-19-2015 12:25 PM
  13. Rose640's Avatar
    Well that unlocked phones situation isn't the same in entire Europe. Here in Bosnia it's very similar, but again a bit different. We do have carrier lockes phones but they do not differ from carrier to carrier like in US. Also there are also not so rare cases when a carriee sels an unlocked phone with their SIM, without contract, but still gives you the warranty, 6-12months i think. Another thing, those locked phones will work on any other carrier if you unlock them by yourself, but then you will loose your warranty. And that thing about the updates, it's more like 'Hey we just sell you those phones and provide our services. Bloatware? Updates? Wtf?' So yes, i get all my updates directly from MS.
    What i find very specific and odd is that if you have a DS phone, like i do, the SIM No.1 is locked, but the No.2 is opened for any carrier. So i, for example, use two different carriers on my phone, which is actually great.
    09-19-2015 01:09 PM
  14. a5cent's Avatar
    No, the idea is exactly the opposite. Should Sprint be expected to support a phone I bring over from AT&T?
    Ehm....I don't get it. AT&T locks their own phones to their network. Explain to me exactly how that phone being locked benefits AT&Ts support efforts/services. I'm pretty sure AT&T couldn't care less about what phones Sprint does or does not support on Sprint's network.

    Taken exactly as you've written it, at least from a European's point of view, the answer to your question is an obvious "yes". The customer is paying Sprint for cell service. If that service isn't working as advertised, Sprint can either choose to support their customer, or let the customer take their business elsewhere without being penalised. I'd assume carriers would generally prefer to keep the customer's business.

    And just for interest's sake, the global spread of GSM at least in part came about because in 1987, Europe mandated the technology by law. I'm not a fan government interference, but it worked out for the better in this case.
    I've met a lot of Americans that have difficulty taking a nuanced approach to the topic of government regulations. I've often wondered why. I'd agree that a hands-off approach should be the default position, but ultimately it depends on what is being regulated and how/why.

    Generally I'm for anything that promotes technological or engineering standards. The U.S. has a million such nationally enforced standards which any citizen will appreciate (why look at this, the gas nuzzle fits every car! Isn't it great that I can fill up at any gas station of my choice???). Wireless technologies are no different. It's also just an infrastructure service. As long as governments only require industries to agree on the standardization of an infrastructure service, rather than mandating the standard themselves, than that's almost always a good thing.

    Huh? I'm not sure what you're getting at. OSs and OEMs are trained here too.
    At my brother's store, the staff doesn't care about supporting any particular Android device. They are more interested in particular versions of Android and related OEM customizations they must be aware of to do their job. The specific device model name/number is only relevant to them when dealing with bugs. Like I said, they are expected to support any Android device on their network, not just those they sell themselves.

    In the same way, they don't care about any particular WP device. They care only about the different versions of WP (8.0, 8.1, etc) and what differences they must be aware of to do their jobs. They are expected to support any WP device on their network, not just those they sell themselves.

    This has nothing to do with carrier exclusivity.

    That's the difference to the U.S. where you're apparently prevented from taking your L1520 from carrier A to carrier B, even if carrier B has other WP devices on offer running the exact same OS. If carrier B already has a practically identical device running the same OS, what would it really cost to also support the L1520? The obvious answer is more or less nothing.

    Given that, it's hard to believe U.S. carrier's decision to lock devices is really related to support issues. If our store reps can do it, so can yours. At least that's what I think.

    I understand and agree with all your other points.
    Last edited by a5cent; 09-27-2015 at 04:23 AM. Reason: spelling
    tgp and sahib lopez like this.
    09-19-2015 04:18 PM
  15. Harry Wild's Avatar
    According to one carrier executive; they lock the phones as a service to their customer! LOL!
    09-22-2015 05:35 PM
  16. rhapdog's Avatar
    According to one carrier executive; they lock the phones as a service to their customer! LOL!
    It's true! It is service. BAD service.

    They lock the phones for the same reason they used to require a 2 year contract: to discourage people from leaving the carrier and make it more expensive for a consumer who decides to change their loyalty.

    I'm glad things have changed somewhat in the US, and look for things to continue to improve, even if slowly. Dropping the 2 year contracts in the US is a good thing, and within the next year or so all the major carriers will have done so. Unlocked phones are more available than they used to be here, and I believe over the next few years they will become even more available.

    Buy an AT&T GoPhone, and you can get it unlocked without ever having it activated, and it can usually be done within the same day, and in some cases it will take up to 3 days. No charge for getting it unlocked. This is certainly a very big change from the carrier attitude we saw a few short years ago.
    libra89 likes this.
    09-26-2015 09:02 AM

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