Illegal to Unlock New Phones Without Authorization in US

If you’ve been contemplating the idea of unlocking your iPhone to use it on various carriers, especially useful for those who travel internationally and prefer using local SIM cards to avoid hefty roaming fees, or simply wish to switch carriers freely, take note. Starting from January 26, 2013, which is just around the corner, unauthorized unlocking of new phones becomes illegal in the US.

For those still interested in an unlocked iPhone, there are still legal alternatives. Purchasing an iPhone 5 from Verizon, for instance, means it comes unlocked right out of the box.

AT&T offers unlocking for their phones once the contract period ends, typically after two years. Additionally, unlocked iPhones can be purchased at full price directly from most carriers and Apple.

For anyone who has recently bought a new iPhone and is considering unlocking it themselves before the new rule takes effect, it’s advisable to first request your carrier to unlock it. If they decline, you can then use various online services to unlock the device.

However, be aware that starting tomorrow, doing so would be considered illegal.

The regulation in question stems from the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a federal law aimed at combating hacking. In October 2012, the Librarian of Congress ruled that personal unlocking of phones would be prohibited. This decision was followed by a 90-day window during which consumers could still purchase and legally unlock their phones.


Kevin is a dedicated writer for TUAW, where he brings the latest Apple news to life. With a keen eye for detail, Kevin covers everything from the newest iPhone releases to the latest updates on macOS. His insightful articles help readers stay informed about their favorite Apple products, including the iPad, Apple Watch, and MacBook. Kevin’s commitment to delivering accurate and engaging content makes him a trusted voice in the Apple community.