It appears that New York State is filing a class action suit against cell phone carriers for their practices regarding locking cell phones (preventing you from switching carriers and keeping your phone).
I’m not sure how I feel about this. For one thing I enjoy the substantial subsidies that I get from my carrier (on the order of 50% of the retail price). For my MPX-200 this amounts to about $150 dollars. It will take ATT quite a while to recoup this amount of money. What I do feel is that after a certain amount of time (say 6 months) I be allowed to unlock the phone and take it with me to another carrier. However, now that ATT and Cingular have merged who would that be? T-Mobile? I don’t think so. The only thing I could really do is use it in Europe or the Middle East (the only places I travel) with a Local SIM card. However, with ATT Global Roaming rates so low now, this is at best a waste of money.
In Europe the dynamics of the cell phone industry are quite different. For one thing, there are more carriers, phones are rolled out much faster, and the subsidies aren’t as great (if any at all), and travel between countries is easier and more common than the US. However, the phones are typically unlocked or unlockable after a certain time period. Also, since Europe and much of the world is all GSM, there is a much more compelling argument for taking your phone with you etc.
The beauty of something like GSM is of course, that because there is a sim card, you can just pick and chose the phone you want and make the switch w/o any work on the part of the carrier. Companies like Verizon and Sprint need to do this for the customer. And I’m not even sure if the CDMA technology used by Sprint and Verizon allows for device switching amongst those carriers. Not to mention these phone have all sorts of custom software and radio stacks tuned for the specific carrier. In many cases using a phone that the carrier does not sell leaves you in an unsupported configuration where they won’t even help you if you have network troubles.