T-Mobile handset unlocking app on its way?

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Just before the Uncarrier 5.0 event last month, we received information from a T-Mobile test engineer telling us that the test version of the upcoming Galaxy Avant came equipped with a device unlocking app. The source told us that the app worked very simply. But where we were a little unconvinced was when we were told that the app just “disappeared” once it had been used.

However, we’ve been sent an internal guide today showing that such an app is in development and that T-Mobile has a guide set up for it. From the information in the guide it would appear that the app is only going to be compatible with specific Android phones. Right now, that’s only the unreleased Samsung Galaxy Avant.

mdu2

It would also seem like the process of unlocking a smartphone is very simple. All the customer would need to do is launch the Device Unlock app and tap ‘Continue’. The app will connect the smartphone to the server and then offer the choice of a temporary or permanent unlock. Once selected, the device requests the unlock and will then inform the user if the request has been successful. A handset reboot is required for both kinds of unlock request.

Following an announcement recently that the Senate was pushing through changes to cellphone unlocking rules, it would make sense for T-Mobile to make the most of it, and show itself as the “Uncarrier” yet again. As I’ve written in the past, making phone unlocking much simpler – or just selling them unlocked – would give the “Uncarrier” name a whole new meaning.

Still, we don’t know much else about the Device Unlock app. We’re almost certain that it won’t be available on the Google Play Store, so it’s not going to be a public, freely available app. Instead, T-Mobile wants to work on getting working on more devices and having it as a built-in default app. But from what we’ve been told by our sources, nothing has been finalized yet. It’s still very much in testing mode. We still don’t know for certain if the app really does “just disappear” after use.

Bad luck though for iPhone users. Given Apple’s hatred of carriers installing software on to phones and the fact that it more than likely breaks the rules of the App Store, it’s almost certainly never going to be available on iOS.

If we hear any more on this, we’ll be sure to keep you updated. In the meantime, what do you make of this?

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  • Mike Coleman

    Why would you ever want a ‘temporary’ unlock? Just curious

    • Jeremy Turnley

      If you are travelling and don’t want to use TMO (say, if their coverage in an area isn’t great) you could unlock, throw in a prepaid SIM and you would be set for the trip.

      • Paul

        That is a valid point that didn’t come to mind. I don’t usually travel but I could see how that would help.

      • Roger Sales

        Perfect for the occasional stint on AT&T when going super rural.

        • T-Mobile Cares

          The temporary unlock will not provide benefit domestically. It is designed for international travelers that are visiting counties where Simple Choice Global is not present or an option. Sorry if there was some confusion surrounding this. In areas where T-Mobile does not have tower presence domestically, you should be about to roam on our partner networks, such as AT&T. Just access your settings and go to “More Networks”, “Mobile Networks”, “Network Operators” and tap “Search Now”. Once the results appear, select the appropriate network to roam on.

      • MvP77

        That would’ve came in handy when I was in Northern Michigan where tmobile coverage is nonexistent.

        • T-Mobile Cares

          The temporary unlock will not provide benefit domestically. It is designed for international travelers that are visiting counties where Simple Choice Global is not present or an option. Sorry if there was some confusion surrounding this. In areas where T-Mobile does not have tower presence domestically, you should be about to roam on our partner networks, such as AT&T.

        • MvP77

          To be fair AT&T service was spotty at best in the area I was in. The only reliable service was Verizon. Luckily I was able to use my phone when I was back at the cabin thanks to WiFi calling.

        • T-Mobile Cares

          I am so sorry you had that experience. As I am sure you know, we work hard to provide the best network we can, but there are areas we do still have some work to do. Thankfully you found your Wi-Fi calling feature to be if benefit. Your business is very important to us and we appreciate your feedback.

        • test

          Cant roam on prepaid. In that case, temporary unlock will work and popping an AT&T SIM will work.

      • 21stNow

        I get that scenario, but why not go for a permanent unlock anyway? Maybe T-Mobile will have different guidelines for temporary and permanent unlocks.

        • schweddyballs

          The temporary unlocks are reserved for those who have NOT paid off their EIP, But do need to travel abroad and use their phone on an intl network.

        • test

          Makes Sense,

  • Jeremy Turnley

    Now that they’re not tying devices to contracts, this makes a lot of sense. With the new JUMP plans, you need to have your device paid off 50% to get a new phone, and this would allow you to ebay your phone to get to (or past) that point, keeping customers happy with new devices and on payment plans to keep them loyal.

    • bob90210

      To use JUMP, you have to trade in your current phone so there’s no advantage to having an unlocked device here. You certainly can not sell the phone one ebay and use the money to upgrade.

      • Jeremy Turnley

        Doh. Right, not sure what I was thinking there.

  • Pitahson

    This is fantastic News for US that buy T-Mobile phones outside of T-Mobile. That server thing scares me though. I don;t have T-Mobile. I have Solavei. Say I get a G3 and throw in my SIM card and also want to unlock it, how would T-Mobile go about this?

    • qpinto

      as long as you buy the phone outright they will unlock the phone for you no problem. just give them a call and they take care of it. in that case id just get the unlocked version and call it a day.

      • Pitahson

        Oh awesome. Alright. And I don’t buy unlocked devices because many don’t have the 1700mhz band that we need on T-Mobile towers

      • Medion

        If you buy on EIP, you can unlock after making two payments and waiting 40 days, whichever comes last. So you don’t have to pay full price to get the unlock. We still owe a about $200 on my wife’s iPhone 5s and we got it unlocked after about two months.

    • T-Mobile Cares

      As a Solavei customer, you would still be required to submit your request through Solevei. At this time T-Mobile customer devices would be the only ones capable of using this app. Although it may roll out to our MVNO customers sometime in the future, this will not be available anytime soon. I hope this answers your question.

      • interesting

        Will this be available on all phones? And if so how long in the future? And if you’re not a tmobile customer you’d still have to request a code?

        • T-Mobile Cares

          This will roll out to most devices, but no timeline has been set as of yet. As with any new feature, certain issues arise, such as devices running older non-compatible software and the such. Our hope is to have this available for new device releases going forward. I hope this answers your question. Regardless, if you are a T-Mobile customer or one of our partner MVNO’s, you would still need to request an unlock code.

        • interesting

          You mean if I was NOT a Tmobile or partner MVNO I would need to request a code? Reason I ask is I am not a Tmobile customer but love Tmobile phones and buy a new one every 6 months or so and unlock them for my personal daily phone. So if I needed to unlock my device (being as I am not a Tmobile or Partner MVNO I would then need to request an unlock code and unlock it the old way?? (power on phone and it asks for the code)

        • interesting

          To confirm – this only works for Tmobile customers? And if I belong to a different carrier I will have to request an unlock code from a third party or my new carrier?

        • T-Mobile Cares

          The processes we would implement to provide transparency to T-Mobile devices purchased through a 3rd party, but used on other carriers is still being determined. We would hope the party you purchased the device from would have already unlocked the device prior to your purchase, but should that not be the case, we would like to provide some other positive resolution. As more details become available, we will keep you posted. I will go back and address this question to our unlock team. Thanks for bringing this particular concern to our attention. Let me confirm this and I will get back to you.

  • Trevnerdio

    T-Mobile, say hello to XDA Developers. They will insure that your app does not go anywhere once it’s used and will be easily copied from device to device :)

    • pseudoswede

      lol

      Signed,
      T-Mobile WiFi Calling

      • Trevnerdio

        What I don’t get about T-Mobile’s Wi-Fi calling is that it’s open source…I guess they have restrictions…on their “open” code?

        • timmyjoe42

          I thought the phones it does not work on are missing some hardware.

        • Trevnerdio

          That could be. But say you put the Cyanogenmod on a phone that previously had Wi-Fi Calling…it’s not coming back.

        • pseudoswede

          My response was a little tongue-in-cheek, but T-Mobile’s WiFi Calling is now built into the Android framework since Ice Cream Sandwich. Before that (Gingerbread), it was simply an .apk file which could easily be moved from device to device. It’s no longer an open source feature. If you do a search on XDA for “t-mobile wifi calling bounty”, you’ll see that it’s been open for almost two years with zero progress.

          I will speculate this new unlocking app will also be baked into the framework.

        • Trevnerdio

          Aw booo…that’s lame.

        • timmyjoe42

          I concur. Wifi calling worked with CM back when I had my LG G2x because it had the hardware to support the wifi calling app. My Nexus 4 does not have the app or hardware.

        • peharri

          My experience is that CyanogenMod tends to support Wi-Fi calling if the phone supports it. In some cases, it even supports it if the Wi-Fi calling isn’t yet available to customers – that is, I installed CM on a myTouch Slide 3G when 2.1 was still current for the official HTC firmware, and suddenly had Wi-Fi calling. Apparently the officially published kernel had the features, but T-Mobile hadn’t bundled the app yet.

        • Trevnerdio

          Oh, really? Hm…I haven’t used CM in a very long time, so I don’t know.

      • UMA_Fan

        Nice

    • RLB63

      It says it connects to the servers. I take it that they make sure you have PAID for the phone first. So if that is true, then porting it to different devices wont help you.

  • bob90210

    Although an unlock app is better than the current system (send a request to the unlock team), a much better solution is to sell unlocked phones. Unlock codes can found for $10 so locking a phone does not prevent scammers. T-Mobile can still blacklist phones and make a negative credit history reports if people do not pay what they owe on the phones.

  • Ordeith

    Easier to just sell them unlocked, I think.

    • nycplayboy78

      You think??!! GAWD!!! Well this is a start at least. My experience with T-Mo is that when I buy the phone fully all I have to do is wait ONE FULL billing period and call customer service and they unlock it no worries with no questions….Hmmmm…Could it also be that I have been with T-Mo for over 10 years since the VoiceStream days??!! I dunno :/

      • archerian

        It depends on the model too. Some devices like the Lumias are not in their system within a month or so. They will send the unlock code of course but the wait might be longer especially for recently released devices.

  • curious

    Tmobile cares – Will this be available on all phones? And if so how long in the future?

    • T-Mobile Cares

      This will roll out to most devices, but no timeline has been set as of yet. As with any new feature, certain issues arise, such as devices running older non-compatible software and the such. Our hope is to have this available for new device releases going forward. I hope this answers your question.

      • interesting

        To confirm – this only works for Tmobile customers? And if I belong
        to a different carrier I will have to request an unlock code from a
        third party or my new carrier?

        • T-Mobile Cares

          The processes we would implement to provide transparency to T-Mobile devices purchased through a 3rd party, but used on other carriers is still being determined. We would hope the party you purchased the device from would have already unlocked the device prior to your purchase, but should that not be the case, we would like to provide some other positive resolution. As more details become available, we will keep you posted. I will go back and address this question to our unlock team. Thanks for bringing this particular concern to our attention.

        • interesting

          Well most people don’t unlock their phone unless they need to it’s the next user that unlocks it. And it’s only tmobile customers that can use the app?

      • Interesting

        Sorry so many questions it’s just I’m buying about 4 more tmobile phones for family this year and unlocking has been an issue I’m the past. When you say hopefully to all new device releases do you mean phones that have already been released just not sold yet or future phones releases that Havn’t been released yet ie like galaxy note 4 or lg g4 for example

  • patstar5

    Why?? I am with att and could just buy a phone I want from tmobile. How does it benefit them?

  • Brutally Honest

    Thanks for posting this info. I have to find a good IP attorney now.

  • Mike

    Hey, ATT has an unlocking policy that easy to access, so LONG as you are one of their customers, or even a former client, are current on your bill and have completed your contract obligations. No cost and takes about a day or so. All down via a phone call or submission to request the unlock. No codes, no visited to the store it’s all done through the network. Once ATT confirms the unlock your all set. I bought an ATT iPhone and asked the seller to get the phone Unlocked by ATT. Seriously took about 24 hours. Once it was confirmed as unlocked just put the TMO SIM card in. Turn on the phone and fire up ITunes on your computer. Works like a charm. I don’t know why more people don’t take advantage of this if they are trying to sell an iphone, especially those who are upgrading. Increases the value of the phone and makes it easier to sell. No need to pay a third party unlock service or jailbreak the phone. Did I mention ATT does this for FREE. See details at ATT link below.

    https://www.att.com/deviceunlock/client/en_US/