Why mandatory unlocked phones ain’t happening here?

The recent report of Chile implementing the mandatory unlocking of all phones that are sold in the country this month got me thinking if this is possible in the Philippines. Of course it’s possible but I doubt it will be happening anytime soon.

The current norm is that all mobile phones and most mobile devices (the iPad 2 3G isn’t locked with Globe) being sold and provided by local telcos are given out to subscribers locked for the entire contract period.

In other countries, like Hong Kong or Singapore, handsets sold by telcos are required to be unlocked. Despite that, you wil still see gadget stores in Mongkok, HK selling locked phones although at a much cheaper price than the international versions.

The rationale behind locked phones is that since the carrier is the one subsidizing the price of the handset, they wanted their subscribers to use the device on their network and recoup the amount from usage of the plan or credits. The same is true to prepaid kit plans.

But in a country like the Philippines where prepaid users outnumber postpaid users 5 to 1, Filipinos tend to get their phones elsewhere and just buy a Php40 SIM card in the nearest sari-sari store. That means only 20% or less of the handsets are locked to their respective networks.

In some instances, having a handset locked ot a network is often used as a marketing tool. This is a huge deal especially when specific handsets are very popular — like the iPhone 3G or Galaxy S on Globe or the Nokia N9 or the Galaxy Note on Smart. In the early years of the iPhone in the Philippines, every time you see someone using an iPhone 3G, you’d definitely think they are Globe subscribers. These folks are like walking billboards — free advertising.

If and when mandatory unlocked phones be implemented in the Philippines, we might see those postpaid plans and prepaid kits to end up much more expensive than what they are right now. That’s the most likely scenario.

However, I believe that once your contract has expired with your carrier (normally after 24 months), you can now demand that your handset be unlocked (although I don’t think a lot of people know about this). This is why carriers often provide additional incentives to renew contracts or offer retention plans. (Update: Just got off the phone with one of the reps from a local telco and they explained the unlocking is not done on their end but on the manufacturers side.)

What I think is a more important move is the number portability scheme which allows a subscriber to bring their number to any carrier when they switch or move between telcos.

Update: After talking to both reps of Smart and Globe, both clarified that the devices shipped to the by the manufacturers are already locked to their network. It’s up to the individual subscriber if they want the device unlocked on their own accord, whether or not the contract has expired or not. Unlocking will need to be done by the manufacturer or by 3rd party.

50 Comments on this Post

  1. Just got off chat with a globe representative:

    Welcome to Talk2GLOBE Chat
    I am now connecting you to our live chat agent. Please wait.
    01.10.2012 04:55:56 PM
    Begin live chat.
    You are talking to Robert
    Ticket Number is 1201100953
    You may terminate this session at any time by typing in END SESSION
    Robert: Hi! This is Robert your live chat agent. How can I help you today?
    [me]: Hi, I have a question about the iPhone 4S
    Robert: may I ask is this for postpaid or prepaid iphone 4s?
    [me]: it’s for postpaid
    Robert: I’m not very familiar with that. I’ll be transferring you to another chat agent who can assist you better.
    Robert: Since your concern is about your postpaid mobile account. I will endorse your concern to one of our live chat agent for postpaid account for better assistance. Please stay online.
    [me]: ok
    I got your name. Edric Chan
    I got your e-mail address. edricchan@gmail.com
    Your ticket number is 1201100953
    Your account number is 639178373763
    I am now connecting you to our live chat agent. Please wait.
    Begin live chat.
    You are talking to Jean
    Ticket Number is 1201100953
    You may terminate this session at any time by typing in END SESSION
    Jean: Hi! This is your live chat agent. How can I help you today?
    [me]: hi jean, i have a few quick questions about my iphone 4s
    Jean: Yes Sir, may I know your concern please?
    [me]: we bought these from globe two weeks ago, and i was told that after the two-year contract is over, the phones can be unlocked upon our request?
    Jean: Are you referring to lock up period or contract?
    [me]: aren’t they the same?
    [me]: we got the P1800 plan, which was for two-years.
    [me]: these are new plans, btw.
    Jean: Let me check your records. I’ll be back after 30 seconds.
    [me]: ok. do you need additional information?
    Jean: Thank you for waiting. After your 2 year contract end the handset will be free from lock up.
    Jean: **It means that
    [me]: I’m sorry, I think your last message was cut off.
    Jean: Sir it means that after your 2 year contract end the handset will be free from lock up.
    [me]: ah ok. and globe will be sending the unlock request to apple?
    Jean: Just want to clarify, are you pertaining for the lock up period of your handset?
    [me]: i am talking about my phone’s sim lock to globe
    [me]: at the end of the two year contract with globe, you are supposed to be obligated to unlock my phone at my request, right?
    Jean: Let me check that for you. I’ll be right back with the needed information in a few seconds. Please wait.
    [me]: thanks.
    Jean: Thank you for waiting. Just want to ask if you’re going to open line your phone?
    [me]: after my two-year contract with globe is over, yes.
    Jean: With that case you can unlock the if you request but Globe is not obligated to unlock your phone.
    Jean: **you can unlock the phone
    Jean: Its your discretion.
    [me]: so i can request globe to unlock the phone?
    Jean: Yes you can request.
    [me]: ok. thanks jean.
    Jean: Thank you for using Talk2GLOBE Chat! I’m glad to have served you today
    [me]: have a good day.
    Ticket Number : 1201100953

  2. Lawrence

    Hi, I just want to share my experience with unlocking. I was solid Globe user and I never had any need to get a Smart Plan since over 90% of my contacts are also Globe users.

    Things changed with Smart’s release of Sony Xperia Z2. I had to open a postpaid account with Smart to get the Sony phone. Smart reps say they don’t do unlocking. Even authorized Sony service centers don’t. I don’t want to risk going to phone shop or to Greenhills for fear that the repair guys may tamper with the microchips or software and possibly void the device’s warranty.

    I researched online and found that there are sites that offer IMEI unlocking. After rigorous checking for potential bogus sites, I risked trying doctorsim.com in Spanish.

    I first tried it with my Samsung Galaxy S4 from Globe. I paid Php 1500 online to get an unlock code. After 2 hours, they sent me the code. I inserted a non-Globe SIM to my S4 and it asked for a SIM Network unlock key. I entered the code and now, I’m a happy camper.


  3. House Bill 5790 has been approved mobile providers should be able to unlock postpaid phones with a fee or for free if you have finished your contract.


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