AT&T (building logo 001)

There’s been a lot of commotion lately regarding the recent expiration of a DMCA exemption that makes the unlocking of smartphones illegal. The people are talking about it, the government is talking about it, and the word is, it could lead to new legislation.

Today, AT&T issued a statement on the topic, reassuring customers that the DMCA rule has no effect on its unlocking stance. The whole thing comes off as a bit garish, as no one was really worried about that in the first place. But it does offer clarity on their policy…

Here’s an important excerpt from the blog entry, which was posted by AT&T’s Vice President of Federal Regulatory Joan Marsh:

“I want to be completely clear that AT&T’s policy is to unlock our customers’ devices if they’ve met the terms of their service agreements and we have the unlock code. It’s a straightforward policy, and we aim to make the unlocking process as easy as possible.”

It’s nice that AT&T has put this down in writing, because, as evidenced in the comments of the blog post, the carrier hasn’t always happily fulfilled unlock requests. It seems recent media attention on the subject though has pushed the policy further company-wide.

Of course, you’ll have to make sure you meet all of AT&T’s service terms and requirements before you can go arguing with your customer service rep that they have to unlock your cell phone. Luckily, they’ve included all of that in today’s statement as well.

“As we make clear on our website, if we have the unlock code or can reasonably get it from the manufacturer, AT&T currently will unlock a device for any customer whose account has been active for at least sixty days; whose account is in good standing and has no unpaid balance; and who has fulfilled his or her service agreement commitment.  If the conditions are met we will unlock up to five devices per account per year. We will not unlock devices that have been reported lost or stolen.”

So to get your phone unlocked, it must be active on AT&T’s network for 60 days, your account must be paid up, and you have to have fulfilled your service agreement—which for most folks is two years. That’s quite a few ducks to get in a row before you can demand an unlock.

It’s worth mentioning, however, that it was reported last fall that AT&T was unlocking iPhones that were still under contract. In fact, we were able to confirm this, getting them to unlock our then-in-contract phones without issue. So we’re not convinced they won’t do it if you ask.

Anyway, we’re hoping that all of this will be moot in a few years anyway. Yesterday, Senator Ron Wyden announced on Twitter that he is proposing a new bill that will make the process of unlocking your smartphone forever legal.

  • Manuel Molina

    I’m lucky to be on Verizon and to know the iPhone came unlocked right out the box. Although AT&T is nice enough to unlock the phone, it seems like a long process just to ask for an unlock on a phone you should be able to do whatever with.

    • Verizon iPhone 5 is unlocked, but you can’t use it on other GSM 4G LTE network, which is the best part of the iPhone 5.

      As for this unlocking statement, it is pointless…

      The only reason I want an unlocked iPhone because I don’t want to pay the expensive roaming during my vacation. Other than that, 95% of my time I am in US.

      • Jaye

        You can use it on AT&T and Tmobile..

      • Manuel Molina

        You can, but what Jack Wong means is you can’t use it on either GSM’s LTE servers;even if you have a LTE sim or whatever they give you. You will only get HSPA+ or what we call 3G plus.

      • Thank you, I did not make it clear enough.

        It is impossible for me to go back to 3G/HSPA+, the speed different is like 10times+.

        Back in 3G/HSPA+, all I do on my iPhone is email and cache the google reader when I am under wifi connection so I can read it on train, my monthly bandwidth was around 1GB only…

        Since we have 4G LTE, I can stream video and cache the google reader whenever I want~ my monthly bandwidth is around 5GB.

        Moreover, I still pay the same monthly data fee which is 30bucks.

        What about this? iPhone 3GS-Verizon and it is unlocked, you can use the EDGE data service with Tmobile and at&t 😡 no thanks.

      • Manuel Molina

        I have unlimited and used 54GB this month on Verizon. I’m sure they hate me but who cares.

      • Tikimaker

        That is awesome you used 54 GB are you using your phone as a modem? I have unlimited with AT&T but when I hit 3GB they slow my data speed. “BASTARDS”

      • Manuel Molina

        Yeah – jailbreak with tetherme. I didn’t have Internet for the time within my home, so I decided to use their LTE for everything for that month. Got few calls from Verizon asking what I am doing though.

      • Damn… Verizon is that stupid?

        Back to 3GS, at&t caught me twice that I do jb-tethering because my usage were around 10GB.

      • In last 2-3 months, my usage were around 5GB+, I am surprised that they did not slow down my speed at all.

        <3 4G LTE~ this is why they were trying so hard to get rid of all the unlimited data plan.

        I hardly able to get to 1GB usage back to 3G, because… I hate to wait…

      • Tom

        For the ATT users, I know a good site for unlocking your phone, it’s attiphoneunlocking, they are able to unlock all ATT phones up to date.

      • Jack Wong

        Good to know that too, but I have been getting this from the eBay guy for more than… 5 iPhones as I remember.


        I will stick with the eBay guy, he is asking for 3-5bucks only, and that website is asking for $25-35.

      • david

        For the people who wants to unlock ATT phones, go google attiphoneunlocking, took me only two hours to unlock my new 5.

    • People who want to unlock their AT&T iPhones can use iphoneattunlock[dot]com. Their prices are cheap and they’re one of the most trusted source of iPhone Unlocking.

      • Manuel Molina

        Weird, I never wrote that shit

  • Peter Wilk

    I requested an unlock of my iPhone 5 twice, once in December and once in January. They declined both times. My contract won’t be finished until 2014 so I assume that is why they didn’t unlock it. I’m only interested in the unlock for travelling abroad, not switching US carriers.

    Not sure why they won’t unlock and add a new clause to your contract which states you’ll pay fines totaling their subsidy for the phone if you cancel your contract. That way they aren’t out any money for their unlocking and you switching.

    • $20 unlock on most websites.

    • felixtaf

      2$ in ebay… Seller name unlock_fusion… Trusted seller… I have unlocked few iphones.

      • That is the seller I purchased from also!

      • felixtaf

        Yes… Since Jan 26 the listing may come n go within few hours. But if we buy in that time, we will get our phones unlocked. From 3gs to 5 – at&t only. Less than 3$. Hope this is helpful for new unlockers. Seller info is unlock_fusion! And thanks for backing up my post….

      • yes, they do, sometimes in a few yours, I got lots of unlock from them, only problem they never answer emails 😛 but I have never had problems with them

    • I unlocked it officially(restore firmware from iTunes and received an official unlocked message) for 5bucks from eBay back in Dec 2012.

      I have also unlocked another iPhone 2G and 3GS(2-3bucks) through eBay seller, it is much easier than ask at&t for it.

  • I have been with AT&T since the days of Cingular and have fulfilled many of contracts over and over with various phones. But when I ask for an unlock code, I can not get one. How can it be possible to fulfill many contracts on good standings and still not get a code? It’s all BS!

  • AppleBits

    My friend walked into an AT&T store and asked to get hers unlocked (fully owned, no contract)… They told her they can’t anymore because its illegal as of a couple weeks ago, and sent her packing. So I did the online option with to try unlocking mine…it was done in a couple hours. Tried hers online, but I had wrong info so it was denied. So I got corrected info, called AT&T, they unlocked it right then, and even called me back the next day to make sure it worked for me.
    Her reason to unlock was so she could sign up with that Straight Talk thru Walmart. But THAT is a whole different topic you don’t wanna hear about. She got back on AT&T, no contract. Very helpful.
    Hope this info is helpful. 🙂

    • Did you post this story under other topic?

      All the local stores are sales room, they don’t do customer service.

      • AppleBits

        Ah, no. That makes sense. Thanks!
        The online or phone methods worked fine for me.
        That said, I haven’t tried my ip5. It is still under contract, but I have no reason to unlock.

      • Do it from eBay, less than 5bucks.

        I did that last year, I really hate that they are locking the phone so we have to pay for roaming when we travel, even tho I only travel once a year.

        Moreover, don’t you notice that iPhone is the only phone that has no carrier logo on it? Thanks to Apple.

    • most of the retail stores will not do it, one: because they need contracts, two: they don’t do techincal support most of the times, three: “you wan’t to unlock to use in another company? No!”

      but they are also short with info, as the unlock as of now is not completely illegal, it is illegal if you get the unlock code/ unlock permission with other company that doesn’t have nothing to do with your phone, lets say the internet seller who provided your iphone’s unlock permission, but if your company gives you permission you can, so if someone make a complaint about someone doing unlocks without carrier permission this person is going to have a lot of problems if the phone was sold after Jan 26 2013, and you don’t need to unlock the phone to use on straight talk or other company that uses att network, ask for sim cards from “straighttalk/net10(net 10 blue sim card uses att network) bring your own phone program”, same with t-mobile phones, you don’t need to unlock if you are using a company that uses t-mobile networks like simple mobile or net10 (purple sim, this sim uses t-mobile network)

      I hope this helps 🙂

  • felixtaf

    @iDB – Can you plz do an article on Unlocking sites (Trusted). May be after new legislation…

  • I am lucky to Malaysian, it’s illegal to lock phones. 🙂

  • fucking crooks. period