rules for getting their phones and tablets unlocked again and the changes are mostly for the worse. To qualify for a free unlock a prepaid phone now has to have been active on T-Mobile for more than 365 consecutive days or had more than $25 in refills applied for basic phones or $100 in refills for smartphones. Users are limited to two unlocks per year.
This is the third change to T-Mobile's unlocking policy in less than a year.
Before April 12, 2013 T-Mobile had one of the most lenient unlocking policies of any US operator. T-Mobile would provide up to four unlocks per year to anyone who had been a customer for at least 60 days with either $50 in refills over the lifetime of the account or a refill of any amount in the last 30 days. The phone being unlocked only had to have been used on T-Mobile once, even if only for a day.
On April 12, 2013 T-Mobile started requiring that the user have a either $50 account balance or a refill in the last 30 days and that the phone be active on the user's account for 60 consecutive days.
On April, 24 T-Mobile changed the rules again cutting the phone usage requirement from 60 to 40 consecutive days but limiting customers to two unlocks per year instead of four.
The new policy is clearly designed to discourage users from buying T-Mobile phones for use on another network or for resale (unlocked phones are worth more). However, it makes things more difficult for normal users who want the freedom to switch operators should they move to an area with lousy T-Mobile coverage or if and when a competitor offers a better deal.
The only users I see this change benefiting are those who need to get a new phone unlocked immediately for international travel and who plan on using the phone on T-Mobile when they return and thus have a use for $110 in required airtime purchases.
I still consider the new rules overly restrictive particularly as T-Mobile doesn't subsidize it's prepaid phones by very much compared with other operators. Tightening the unlocking rules is definitely not an "un-carrier" move
These changes should also come as a wake up call for anyone who thought that the much ballyhooed "Carrier Unlocking Voluntary Commitment" that T-Mobile and the other three national carriers agreed to December will make getting phones unlocked easier. That agreement specifically allows carriers to withhold unlocks of prepaid phones for up to a year after purchase and to impose payment and usage requirements and charge a fee for unlocking. Up to now no US operator has required more than a six month wait for a prepaid unlock. It seems like T-Mobile sees the agreement as justification for extending the wait to a full year. Let's hope the other operators don't follow suit.
Although I haven't seen any announcement, I suspect the new rules will also apply to T-Mobile owned MetroPCS as well as to Target's Brightspot and Walmart's Family Mobile, as their unlocking policies have mirrored T-Mobile's in the past.
Get Your Prepaid Phone Unlocked For Free - US Operator's Prepaid Unlocking Policies
Prepaid Operator Profile: T-Mobile
Source T-Mobile via HowardForums