Sprint plans to enable SIM unlocking on Windows Phone devices next year

American carriers are making progress in being more open and customer-friendly — particularly T-Mobile — but Sprint is preparing to take a significant step forward by ensuring that the devices they sell to customers are able to be SIM unlocked. Eventually. In 2015. In an FAQ on Sprint's unlocking policy, the company states that they are "working to ensure that all devices developed and launched on or after February 11, 2015 are capable of being unlocked domestically."

Seeing as more and more phones these days (including high profile devices like the Apple iPhone 5s and Samsung Galaxy S5) are being built with the CDMA radios that Sprint and Verizon need in addition to the GSM radios that everybody else uses, the only thing holding them back are restrictions like these carrier locks. Even T-Mobile, the self-proclaimed Uncarrier — still locks phones sold in their stores to their network. By making the phones that they sell capable of a domestic carrier unlock, Sprint customers will be able to take their phones to other networks if they leave.

From Sprint's unlocking policy:

I've been told by another carrier that Sprint needs to unlock my SIM slot in order to use my phone on the other carrier's network.For eligible devices, Sprint will unlock the SIM slot, to the extent that a device SIM slot is capable of being unlocked. It is important to note that not all devices are capable of being unlocked, often because of the manufacturers' device designs, and that even for those devices capable of being unlocked, not all device functionality may be capable of being unlocked. Specifically, devices manufactured with a SIM slot within the past three years (including, but not limited to, all Apple iPhone devices), cannot be unlocked to accept a different domestic carrier's SIM for use on another domestic carrier's network. Sprint has no technological process available to do this. In accordance with Sprint's voluntary commitment contained within CTIA's Consumer Code for Wireless Service (“Unlocking Commitment”), Sprint is working to ensure that all devices developed and launched on or after February 11, 2015 are capable of being unlocked domestically.

Sprint does note that many devices they currently sell will not be able to be unlocked. Sprint-branded iPhones, for example, "have been manufactured in a way that prevents them from being unlocked". So while phones that Sprint plans to sell in a year's time will be able to have their SIM locks lifted, there's no guarantee a phone you buy today or before February 11, 2015 will support such an unlock. And, of course, the phone actually needs to offer the radio support for it to be worth unlocking to begin with.

That said, it's still a step forward and a commitment to openness that other carriers haven't yet made. What do you think — is Sprint making the right move here?

Source: Sprint; Via: 9to5Google

Derek Kessler

Derek Kessler is Special Projects Manager for Mobile Nations. He's been writing about tech since 2009, has far more phones than is considered humane, still carries a torch for Palm, and got a Tesla because it was the biggest gadget he could find. You can follow him on Twitter at @derekakessler.

  • Any word on Sprint's plan to offer 8.1 phones?
  • Sprint is my least favorite carrier however this is a step in the right direction. All they need to do now is show a bigger support to Windows Phone. Verizon has a bigger presence when it comes to Windows Phone with the Lumia icon -
  • Sprint's hurting from AT&T and Verizon.. maybe T-Mo too
  • Not really.
  • By making this announcement today, I say they have plans.  More likely it will be Samsung and HTC devices as Nokia has shown no interest in adding more CDMA carriers, or at least meet CDMA carriers on the demands of using updated radios using current Qualcomm CDMA code.  We are talking about 52 CDMA networks and about two dozen MVNOs, as well as Virgin Mobile and Boost.
  • Windows nation
  • Which phones actually can be unlocked on sprint?
  • I have the Sprint Samsung Ativ S unlocked and being used in Afghanistan on the Roshan network I had to call sprint and they unlocked it for me.
  • "cannot be unlocked to accept a different domestic carrier's SIM for use on another domestic carrier's network" Bullshit. If they have the bands they should work but they've locked them out in the baseband software.
  • Who would've thought the two CDMA carriers would offer unlocked GSM capable phones before the GSM carriers did.
  • The GSM carriers will unlock your phones too...
  • Pardon my ignorance on this question; so until Sprint starts to carry Nokia Lumias, could I get an unlocked Lumia and use it on the Sprint network once this takes place?  
  • If I understand it, Sprint and Verizon only use SIM for LTE.  So if the Lumia has sprint LTE bands, then it will work on Sprint LTE only, if Sprint will allow that.
  • Actually, they are called UICC cards, and they are used to make sure any device uses the CDMA network designed to be used on, as well as allowing LTE access.  The same can be said about SIM cards on AT&T and T Mobile.  
  • Wait so you could can use sprint windows phones on any carrier soon?
  • I wish this went both ways. I doubt unlocked phones coming from other carriers will work with Sprint. ie. Lumia Icon from Verizon.
  • Eventually, it will be.  However, Verizon, Sprint, US Cellular, C Spire, and all the regional CDMA carriers participating on the unlock program must come up with an universal plan to allow devices from one CDMA carrier work on another CDMA carrier besides the SIM slot unlock.  This also requires the manufacturers to be compliant with the process by programming all frequencies used by all participating GSM and CDMA carriers on both radios, and currently We have not heard a word from Microsoft if the Lumia line will actually be abiding to this agreement.
  • More carriers need to do this...
  • +infinity
  • Every GSM carrier in the US does this. Sprint is just way behind the curve on it. Also their line about being unable to unlock is straight bullshit, gevey SIMs or third party unlocks work just fine on sprint iPhones.
  • Not in the way devices will work to its full potential as not all bands are programmed on radios.  Try activating a device from a regional GSM carrier like Cincinatti Bell on T Mobile.  Most devices will not connect to higher speeds than EDGE.
  • Besides in the title I didn't see you mention Windows Phone once.  You mentioned the iphone several times though.  Am I missing something here?  The article makes it sound like a lot of phones are going to be unlocked on Sprint but I read the article thinking it was going to give some hint to possible new Windows Phones on Sprint that will be unlockable.  I feel ripped off.
  • They need to change their name to Next Year. They don't sprint no where.
  • +1020
  • Since you hate Sprint so much because they have taken the route of EVERY CDMA network in the US outside of Verizon in not carrying the Nokia Lumia line because of subpar homemade  CDMA radios, why do you still hang on pro Sprint Forums and pages.  Who's the one "riding" now, Mr. Jazmac?
  • If only they had any devices worth using.
  • This is why I hated sprint.
  • Oh how big of them. I left the Sprint network because price was not worth their lousy network.
  • Lol what devices!?
  • Ummm the HTC 8XT, and the Samsung Ativ S Neo which was not reviewed at all until it was offered on AT&T by a Sprint hating Daniel Rubino.  Rember how much of a rant against Sprint and Samsung was because he forgot to request a device for review in order to prove his Anti Sprint agenda.   How people forget hypocrisy and intentional bias aganst a carrier and a manufacturer, yet still cannot do the due diligence to ask Nokia why they haven't been able to get a single device on a CDMA network outside of Verizon.     Note: there are 53 CDMA networks in the US, from which 52 do not carry devices from Nokia, and 50 of them do not carry Windows Phone devices at all.
  • Maybe because Nokia isn't an America-centric OEM and CDMA is a horrible network technology to support when its only used here extensively and with LTE you have to support GSM anyway
  • That would be fine and fair as an answer, only if the other major OEMs did have such attitude as Nokia in regards CDMA technology having a 60% marketshare.  I don't see Samsung nor HTC doing this to the CDMA community.   You need to come with a new argument to defend Nokia since it has been proven time after time they will not be trusted until they use radios in compliance to current Qualcomm CDMA standards.  Nokia is not a trusted brand in the Qualcomm CDMA carrier world, and is not exclusive of the US market, which includes Puerto Rico.
  • Why is Nokia not trusted in the CDMA Carrier community outside of Verizon.  Let me recommend you doing a websearch using Bing or your search engine of your preference with the theme of Qualcomm vs Nokia.  When a company does unauthorized manufacturing of radios with technology Nokia does not own just to save on costs will earn you burned bridges, and most CDMA carriers will not trust Nokia using their own radios unless they can guarantee using current Qualcomm CDMA radios from a reputable manufacturer or making your homemade radios current in using Qualcomm CDMA standards.     It's a trust issue, and 51 CDMA networks in the US market have Joined Sprint on this, especially all the carriers of the Net America partnership.  Nokia is going to find out if they ever intend to enter any of the regional CDMA carriers, they need more likely than not have a deal in place with Sprint, and that includes most regional CDMA networks which are on the Net America deal between CDMA members of CCA and Sprint.
  • The Nexus 5 from Sprint is already SIM unlocked. You can buy a Nexus 5 from Sprint and use it on AT&T or T-Mobile,  or buy a Nexus 5 FRom T-Mobile or the Google play store and use it on Sprint. Would love to see this happen with Windows Phones. 
  • <p>Hello... &nbsp;Most likely Samsung Sprint is not yet unlockable by using codes . Good news this link : https://blog.unlockbase.com/samsung-sprint-unlock/ they do unlocking cellphones even the new published models (check it out) &nbsp;. It could be a big help if you you will try to visit the said page...<br />
    Goodluck :)&nbsp;</p>