Verizon ends sale of unlocked phones to fight device theft

Users won't be able to immediately use SIM cards from other carriers in Verizon phones after the change.

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  • Verizon is locking its phones, changing a policy that used to let consumers buy unlocked phones and use other carriers' SIM cards in the devices.
  • The company is aiming to cut down on phone theft with the policy change, as it would be tougher to switch the carrier of a stolen phone.

Verizon will stop selling unlocked phones in order to combat phone theft, according to CNET.

The carrier used to sell unlocked phones, allowing consumers to immediately use a different carrier's SIM card if they wanted. Now, the phone will remain locked for a period of time after purchase, a change that may prevent phone theft.

New unlocked phones, especially ones with high resale values like the iPhone, are popular for theft because they can be resold and the purchaser can use them with any carrier. By keeping the phones locked after purchase, Verizon hopes fewer phones will be stolen and resold on the black market, CNET said.

SEE: BYOD (bring-your-own-device) policy (Tech Pro Research)

"These steps will make our phones exponentially less desirable to criminals," Tami Erwin, executive vice president of wireless operations for Verizon, said in a statement to CNET.

Other carriers already have similar policies, unlocking the phone after a certain period of time has passed. For example, AT&T keeps new phones locked for 60 days. Verizon hasn't said how long they'll keep new phones locked for when the policy begins in the spring.

After the policy takes effect, Verizon customers will need to contact the company to have their phone unlocked. The change could make it more difficult to switch carriers in the US or use a local SIM card to stay connected while traveling abroad, our sister site ZDNet said.

The change may go against FCC policy, which requires Verizon to keep most of its phones unlocked. FCC policy says Verizon can't lock its phones to prevent them from being used on other carriers, ZDNet said. Verizon said the change doesn't violate FCC policy because the change is rooted in preventing theft, not preventing people from switching carriers.

Verizon said more details will be announced before the policy officially changes.

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