Bits & Bytes: It's now illegal to unlock a smartphone
BY ROBERT EVATT World Staff Writer
Sunday, February 10, 2013
2/10/13 at 4:03 AM
The folks at the U.S. Library of Congress, in a move I had no idea they had the power to make, recently ruled that it's illegal to unlock any smartphone sold after Jan. 26, unless the carriers decide to unlock it for you. Jailbreaking them remains OK.
The terminology is a little confusing. "Unlocking" means taking a phone made for one carrier and making it work for another, usually through a software modification or SIM card. An iPhone 5 bought at Verizon could be unlocked and used on AT&T's network.
This move is a blow to consumers because some phones are available only on specific carriers. If you were to get a phone with a carrier's network that doesn't sell it, you're now technically breaking the law.
I'm guessing carriers are happy with this move - making it a little more difficult to switch helps them keep customers. Other than the iPhone, all cellphones sold are modified by the carriers to some extent, from which types of crapware are loaded up to some physical design choices. This ruling helps them keep control.
But jailbreaking, despite the name, remains technically legal, thanks to a ruling last year by the U.S. Copyright office.
Jailbreaking is a software mod that allows you to modify your phone however you see fit. Suddenly you can install non-iPhone apps on an iPhone, use your phone as an Internet hotspot in ways not dictated by carrier restrictions, create your own touchscreen gestures and so on.
It's great for people who want to tweak things or get unapproved apps, though things start to get gray when people who jailbreak use the opportunity to pirate paid apps.
Jailbreaking also carries risk. It's possible to erase your data or break the phone entirely. And every update to the operating system means having to repeat the process.
The capability is there, though I've never done it. And I'm sure the question of whether it's legal won't even cross the minds of the millions who will likely unlock or jailbreak in the future.
App of the week: Rise Alarm Clock (iOS)
Sure, the iPhone has a built-in alarm function, but beyond setting the time and choosing a ring tone, song or text sound to wake up to, there's not much to it. Rise Alarm Clock gives you some additional options and an elegant and soothing experience.
To set the alarm, simply drag the clock up and down, or tap above or below it to fine-tune it to the minute. You can choose from a number of pre-set gentle tones to wake up to, choose your own wake-up song or even set a playlist that activates whenever you go to bed in order to help the Z's arrive.
Suggest an app for App of the Week at firstname.lastname@example.org
Original Print Headline: It's now illegal to unlock a smartphone
New Q10 BlackBerry with keyboard delayed
I've got friends who love physical keyboards on their smartphones and just won't give them up for the virtual ones. Unfortunately, aside from BlackBerry, pickings have been slim when it comes to the keys.
They may notlike the latest news to come out of BlackBerry. The Q10, aka the new BlackBerry with a physical keyboard, has been delayed until May or June. The keyboardless Z10 comes out in March.
I have no idea why this is happening.
The delays in the new BlackBerry operating system were risky, but I could understand the argument that it needed to launch in as good a shape as possible. But BlackBerry perfected its keyboard years ago. Why make the keyboard fans wait?
At least the launch of the Z10 in Canada and the U.K. - they got it a month before us for some reason - generated sales 50 percent higher than any other BlackBerry launch, according to the company.
Time will tell if this translates into better fortunes for the struggling brand.
Photo illustration by ETHAN ERICKSON / Tulsa World