Under settlement, AT&T to unlock phones - but not the iPhone

According to the terms of a proposed class action settlement, AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) will be required to provide the codes to unlock just about any of the phones it has sold during the past decade--except for the Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone.

The issue centers on software locks that wireless carriers routinely apply to the mobile phones they subsidize, locks that prevent subscribers from using the phones on the networks of other carriers. Locking phones down to a particular network ensures that carriers can recoup the subsidy they apply to those devices.

However, the lawsuit against AT&T centers on whether the carrier "properly disclosed" that restriction to consumers. Under the terms of the settlement, AT&T denied any wrongdoing but agreed to provide unlock codes for most of the phone it sells.

The caveat?

"AT&T Mobility agrees to give to its eligible... customers, upon request and where available, codes that unlock... handsets other than (i) the Apple iPhone; or (ii) any handset that AT&T Mobility introduces or has introduced for sale pursuant to a contract with a handset manufacturer that provides for an exclusivity period of ten (10) months or longer," according to the settlement.

Those eligible for the unlock codes include:

  • Postpaid customers with 90 days of active service under their belt and who are current in their payments.
  • Prepaid customers who can provide a receipt or other proof of purchase of their handset.

Customers who own handsets for which AT&T has an exclusive sales arrangement with a manufacturer of less than 10 months will have to wait until the 10-month period is over before they can get the phone unlocked.

For more:
- see this document (PDF)
- see this BGR post
- see this Consumerist article

Related Articles:
Apple warns unlocked iPhone users
Copyright Office: Unlocking phones is legal
Apple releases unlocked iPhone 3G in Hong Kong

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