Stop Making Locked Phones

By Mike Maddaloni on Monday, October 01, 2007 at 03:13 PM with 2 comments

Dear Palm,
Please make unlocked versions of your smart phones.

Last week Palm introduced the Centro, the latest addition to their Treo line of smartphones. This model is only $99, and has features of many of the pricier models. However, this model is only available to Sprint customers in the US.

When a phone of any model only works with a certain network, it is considered a “locked” device. This is nothing new, and has been the case in the US for years. In Europe, most phones are unlocked, where you can use them no matter who you get your service from. So if you change service providers, you don’t have to buy a new phone. Sure, in the US you can get some version of a free phone if you switch, but why bother if the old one only ends up in a landfill?

It has taken the Apple iPhone to raise the issue of locked phones. The iPhone is only available to AT&T customers, so if you want to use the new phone, you have to switch. This prompted people around the globe to work to unlock the phones, much to the dismay of Apple. Their response was cool, only saying software upgrades will render an unlocked phone useless, and more electronics to the landfill.

A locked phone does that – it locks you to a network. As mobile phone service seems to be a commodity these days in the US at least – I’d say the exception is T-Mobile, whom I have – a locked phone and a cancellation is the only way providers retain customers, not on the quality of their service. But if your phone will work elsewhere, it is not only allowing you to choose the best service, but the best phone for you as well. This fact has not resonated with the mobile companies in the US, which would also explain why they still call themselves “wireless” and “cellular” and not mobile.

There are plenty of reviews out there on the Centro, and I won’t be able to contribute to the discussion as I won’t be able to buy one. I still own and like my Treo 680, which unfortunately is the only unlocked model sold by Palm. But the insanity must stop, and unlocked phones must become the standard, as it’s well documented we are running out of landfill space.

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