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Verizon will start locking phones to its network again

Verizon unlocked phones

As mobile carriers inch closer to one another year after year, there are fewer and fewer reasons to choose one over another. That trend will continue this spring as Verizon has announced that it will start locking its phones in the coming weeks. For years, the phones that Verizon has sold to customers have been unlocked the moment they are activated, but in order to combat mobile phone theft, Verizon will begin locking phones for a set time after purchase.

As CNET explains, unlocked phones are appealing targets for theft as they can be sold to and used by anyone in any country. By locking the phones upon purchase and activation, they become less valuable for thieves.

“We’re taking steps to combat this theft and reduce fraud,” Tami Erwin, executive vice president of wireless operations for Verizon, said in a statement. “These steps will make our phones exponentially less desirable to criminals.”

Once the policy change is implemented in the spring, Verizon customers will have to wait for a set period of time before they will be able to unlock their phones. Verizon has not announced a date for the change, nor has it said how long the period will be until the phone can be unlocked. This won’t have much of an effect on the average smartphone owner, but anyone who buys a phone and travels internationally during the locked period will be unable to buy a local SIM card to offset the roaming fees. They will have to contact Verizon and hope the carrier will make an exception.

It’s worth noting that all three other major US carriers implemented this policy long ago. AT&T forces you to pay off your phone and have active service for 60 days before the phone can be unlocked, Sprint makes you wait 50 days, and T-Mobile has a 40 day waiting period. The gap between the carriers has shrunk once again.

Jacob Siegal is Associate Editor at BGR, having joined the news team in 2013. He has over a decade of professional writing and editing experience, and helps to lead our technology and entertainment product launch and movie release coverage.