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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.



Abe is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of YugaTech. You Can follow him on Twitter @abeolandres.

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50 Responses

  1. emansky says:

    “one subsidizing the price of the handset”

    – subsidized pa ba un mahal pa nga ung mga phones nila e

    • Galaxy S2 says:

      Ou nga. Lalo na sa GLOBE! Grabeng presyo ng phones nila.

      [email protected]#$% na yan kaya umaalis mga subscriber nila! Poor Customer Service and Satisfaction!

    • Sam says:

      For prepaid units, yes, mas mahal nga sila. But if your signing up a contract, discounted yung phones nila. For my part, I got an iPhone4 16gb with a P499 monthly plan and i got the phone, way back January 2011, for only P27,990. That’s roughly a discount of P10,000 if you buy a prepaid unit – even an unlocked one.

  2. JKisaragi says:

    “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.”

    Is this true (or even applicable) with any iPhone from Globe?

    • yuga says:

      Yes, applicable on any handset.

    • PJ says:

      @yuga – then how come Smart won’t unlock my N82 unit even after my plan 2500 with them has ended? i’m now on plan 1200 and got the SE C902.

    • blue says:

      @PJ “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.”

  3. Tiger says:

    The price difference of Globe’s iPhone and Smart’s iPhone is significantly different. Does not mean that Globe has a windfall profit from its subscribers? If Smart can sell their iPhone at a lower price, why can’t Globe. Globe should lower its iPhone price to retain and attract more iPhone users. Most of my friends prefer to buy in Greenhills rather than get a very expensive iPhone kit from Globe. Can someone from Globe explain why the huge difference in their iPhone price? And do they plan to adjust their price?

  4. jeyem says:

    I don’t think they are really subsidizing “fully” the handsets here in the Phils. See, high-end phones are only free at very expensive plans. How would a typical Filipino consume thousands of load plus thousands of free texts a month? Moreover, if you would want to avail the phone in a lower plan, let us say, plan 500, you need to pay a cash out of like 20k+ just to get it. I don’t think there is really subsidy here.

    • yuga says:

      Even if the discounted price is just Php1,000, that’ still considered a subsidy.

    • Confuzzled says:

      I suggest you re-read your comment. Obviously, high end phones should have more subsidy on more expensive plans. You cannot expect to get a dual-core Android phone, the best Blackberry or an iPhone free on low-end postpaid plans. It’s still reasonable to expect to pay more than 15k for a top of the line phone when all you’re getting is a 500 postpaid plan.
      I believe the problem with low-end plans (350-1200) is that they don’t offer any free compelling phones in their respective tier. For Plans 350-800, telcos should offer low-midrange phones (sub 1Ghz) and beyond those price points, only midrange phones should be available. If you look at Smart’s Plan 500, the best they can offer you would be a Galaxy Y which would be fine. But if you want a slightly better phone for your plan, the cash-out might still be more expensive than buying the phone from your trusted online store.

    • Kyle says:

      You said “text”. Text is supposed to be dirt cheap. I can’t really imagine anyone spending several thousand pesos worth of text in a month. Some people on the other hand, are very reliant on making calls and availing of the telco’s other services. Hell, my mom’s plan is already 2500 Php and she occasionally still goes over every other month.

      High-end phones like the iPhone 4S, Samsung Galaxy S II SHOULD BE and are targeted at power users. Hence, they bundle them with more expensive plans.

      It’s just a bit funny that some of my friends usually have the most expensive phones around, sometimes more than one in fact for different networks, and still bother to be hassled by prepaid unlitext/calls, etc. I don’t get the point. If they’re spending that much on the phones themselves, why not get a plan instead? It’s a hell of a lot more convenient.

    • I used to think the same way, that telcos aren’t really subsidizing the handsets but when compared to postpaid plans in the US where the minimum monthly payment you can expect is $50 per month, and they also have a cash out for some phone models, then it seems that the telco’s subsidized pricing is just right under the plan 2000 and above. However, I think Smart really has the better subsidized pricing compared to Globe.

  5. Chris says:

    I’m one of those who is not aware that we can demand to unlock phone aftr contract.Thank you for this info

  6. Raffy says:

    is it applicable for mobile internet (sticks and mifi) to demand being unlocked?

    how about the Prepaid ones? thanks!

    • vince says:

      malabo. mobile internet sticks and cellphones probably are considered to be different under laws and regulations and have different laws and guidelines

      correct me if i’m wrong

  7. Eason says:

    Gayahin nalang kasi dapat America, ONE NUMBER to any network you want.

  8. cheftonio says:

    What if you got a prepaid unit from them? When will they unlock it?

    If it was a postpaid, will they really unlock it?

    Never heard of anyone availing of this service. I’d like to try this out and blog about it.

  9. JJJJ says:

    Sir Yuga, ask ko lang sana.

    1. say an Iphone 3Gs kahit locked sa globe, so kahit hindi pa expired yung contract you can go to Apple Store to ask them to unlock the device for you? AM I getting this wrong? Please Sir Yuga/Anyone clarify.

    2. Will the manufacturer do this for free or not?

    • Lei says:

      JJJJ, i think hindi allowed yung Apple Store. My sister owns an iPhone and it’s Globe locked. For some reason may recurring issue with the iPhone’s mic so she contacted Power Mac para sana ipaayos pero ang sabi sa kanya e dalhin daw sa Globe kasi hindi daw sila authorized magayos ng iPhone. Ito yung exact words nung representative ng Power Mac: “iPhone service support covering hardware and/or software issues are tied up with the appointed carrier, Globe Telecommunications. This applies to all post-paid and pre-paid iPhones purchased from Globe and Apple Authorized resellers in the Philippines.”

      Hope this helps!

    • Ligrev says:

      I read somewhere that only the telco’s can initiate an “unlock.” What’s unique with the iPhone is that ONLY the telco (where it is locked) initiates the unlock request, sending it to Apple.

      Once the request has been approved, connecting your iPhone to iTunes will display a congratulatory “now unlocked” message.

  10. bunny says:

    hi yuga, question lang. may iphone 4s kasi ako galing singapore, naka-line sa singtel nung binili, sinubukan ko gamitin ang globe sim pero hindi pa rin ma-detect ng iphone. sa tingin mo naka-lock yun sa singtel? or pwede smart sim ang gamitin ko kasi di ba partner sila ng singtel? maraming salamat!

    • merri says:

      THOSE ARE THE SIGNS. OBVIOUSLY IT IS LOCKED. DIDN’T YOU ASK OR RESEARCH BEFORE YOU BUY SINGTEL PHONE UNDER A CONTRACT. HAD IT NEVER COME INTO YOUR MIND IF IT WILL WORK IN LOCAL NETWORK OPERATORS HERE.

    • Lei says:

      Bunny, mukhang locked pa yung phone mo. A colleague of mine bought an iphone overseas din and he had to unlock it pa. I’m not sure how pero ang sabi lang sa kanya nung binilhan nya is to update yung iphone using itunes then to wait for about 6 hours before niya pwede gamitan ng local sim. Try niyo tawagan yung Singtel mismo :)

  11. bunny says:

    ^ naka-line pala sa starhub. pwede kaya ang smart sim or need ipa-unlock na lang? thanks!

  12. vince says:

    with the proliferation of phone unlocking services in the phils for 100-500 pesos, it might be moot. unless one can truly invent a unhackable lock

  13. mon says:

    will unlocking void the warranty?

    • merri says:

      OBVIOUSLY YES. HALER

    • JKisaragi says:

      I guess it depends. Take Apple and their iPhones for example. In some countries, there is such a thing as “Authorized Unlocking”. :)

      In the PH though it’s a different story. In Globe’s case, they do not allow for you to remove the network lock. Although there is no mention of the penalty for unlocking your device (like voiding the warranty). But I guess that should be expected.

      “G. Subscriber acknowledges that the Device he/she receives in connection with his/her all-new MY SUPER PLAN Subscription is locked to GLOBE’s network. The Subscriber shall not have such lock removed or disabled.”

    • Ben says:

      well by the time your contract expires, Im pretty sure your warranty did too. (most warranties are only due a year after the handset was bought)

  14. Tiger says:

    You need a law from Congress or an NTC directive to be able to have mandatory unlocked phones after the contract period. Otherwise, telcos will not initiate unlocking of phones.

  15. otepsphere says:

    Hi yuga, where did you get the “the Philippines where prepaid users outnumber postpaid users 5 to 1,” interesting kasi yung study na yan, gusto ko malaman..Thanks

  16. JKisaragi says:

    I suddenly remembered my experience with having SUN and Sony Ericsson unlock my phone. They were just pointing fingers at each other, it was frustrating.

  17. Neil says:

    This won’t happen until someone starts a petition to NTC and the carriers.

    @Sir Abe: Why not start a petition yourself and gather 1 million signs?? :)

    • Anonymous says:

      … probably not-so-bright-idea… Abe / Yuga will lose his perks and advertisers / sponsors … No more income / freebies / gadgets … In the corporate world, fighting for the average Juan de la Cruz is suicide … sticking your neck out for others is a curse … being a pro gets you big bucks … Right, Abe / Yuga? ;-)

    • lemmings says:

      … probably not-so-bright-idea… Abe / Yuga will lose his perks and advertisers / sponsors … No more income / freebies / gadgets … In the corporate world, fighting for the average Juan de la Cruz is suicide … sticking your neck out for others is a curse … being a pro gets you big bucks … Right, Abe / Yuga?

  18. Lei says:

    I stayed in Melbourne for a year and noticed that mas maraming locked phones kesa unlocked. Tapos mas mahal if you get an unlocked phone kasi parang binayaran mo na rin yung pagpapaunlock ng phone. What I liked most is yung may choice ang subscriber kung anong network pipiliin nya without changing his/her mobile number. So nakakalipat sya ng network pero same number pa rin gamit nya. Sana ganun din dito ;)

  19. Ligrev says:

    For more info on various SIM Locking practices:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SIM_lock

  20. i love swype says:

    i say duck this shot!

  21. thed0t says:

    I think some of the subsidies are actually quite worth it. Take for example, Sun’s Plan 350 that comes with a free Samsung Galaxy Y (at a 30 month contract)

    Php 350 x 30 months = Php 10500 (discounting time value of money)

    The phone itself has an outright value of about Php 6000.

    If you were really planning to get a postpaid line and considered the cost of the phone, you’d only be paying Php 4500 over the span of 30 months. This translates to Php 150 per month to enjoy Php 350 worth of services.

    So while you are locked to a certain network for 30 months, you didn’t have to shell out any initial cash (except for the first month of postpaid service) and you get a “free phone.”

    They even have an add-on Plan 150 where you can get a Samsung E1080 (which costs about Php 900) that is locked for one year. Php 150 x 12 = 1800. So you pay only Php 1800 to get a free phone plus a year of service. Not bad.

  22. steelicon says:

    Data Plan 2,000 * 24 months = P48,000 Total investment
    (Plan Call and Surf Unlimited 999 * 24 months) + P3,500 cashout = P27,476 Total investment

    Data Plan 2000 is using 2G SIM IIRC.
    Call and Surf Unlimited is using 3G SIM IIRC.

    Plan your investment wisely!”

    Phones – Call and Surf Unlimited 999
    Samsung Galaxy Ace

    P3,500 at Call and Surf Unlimited 999

    24-Month Holding Period

  23. vince says:

    About unlocking, in iPhone’s case, if you buy one, it is the network who has the power to unlock it, not the manufacturer, because Apple does not provide direct tools to its customers.

    The locking scheme for iPhone is different because the phone’s “unlock status” is stored in Apple’s servers and the ones who “unlocks” or who sends “unlock requests” are the cellphone networks, not Apple.

  24. sale animal says:

    here is your answer saleanimal com

  25. Edric says:

    In order for Apple to unlock the iPhone 4S, Globe will need to send a request to apple to have the phone’s carrier-lock removed. Once Apple is able to change the data in their servers, the next time you sync your iPhone, there should be an Unlock feature available on iTunes.

    Not sure if Globe is doing this after the two-year lock-up period, however.

  26. Edric says:

    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
    Transferring.
    I got your name. Edric Chan
    I got your e-mail address. [email protected]
    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?
    BUZZ!!!
    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

  27. Lawrence says:

    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.

    Thanks,

  28. Bruce says:

    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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