T-Mobile: If You Cancel, You Own The Phone, Can Be Unlocked Once Paid Off


At the Q&A session for the Uncarrier event today, T-Mobile confirmed that devices are locked to the carrier at purchase. However, if you cancel your service, you have a few options if you bought your phone from T-Mobile on a payment plan.

The first is to pay it off all at once and wash your hands of T-Mobile entirely. This is the only thing you have to pay to leave T-Mobile early. However, you don’t even have to do that! Your second option is to continue paying for the phone monthly and not subscribe to T-Mobile service. Finally, you could return your device to T-Mobile and have it assessed for a “fair market value” credit to go toward the remaining balance on your phone payments.

Once the phone is paid off, T-Mobile can immediately process a SIM subsidy unlock for the device. This is especially important for iPhones, as they do not use unlock codes. Instead, iPhones use Apple-controlled whitelisting signals sent to iPhones when synchronized with iTunes on a computer. T-Mobile agents in stores will be empowered to immediately process a request to get the device whitelisted by Apple right after it is paid for.

Sound good?

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  • Bigjavar101

    Ahhh… I’m lovin’ T-mobile right now!!!

    • Will

      I am glad someone is. I would love T-Mobile if they did the right thing and freed the Value Plan slaves.

  • RaverCWB

    What about removal of tons of T-Mobile bloatware that they have been throwing on their devices? Will we be able to uninstall them?

    • Get_at_Me

      only geeks are concerned about bloatware and we are a minority in the grand scheme of things…dont get your hopes up….lol

      • Agreed – a lot of those who complain about perceived “bloat” are generally the one’s who care capable to do something about it via root.

        • qpinto

          or get one of us to do it for them. tmobile’s basic phones has so much crap on them its not even funny. i got tired of it and am all nexus devices now.

  • cielomoreno127

    Fair market value, hmmm. No thanks.

    • RaverCWB

      Yeah, right! As soon as you leave the store your phone is worthless, they probably would value it in what, $200 bucks???? With a day of use!!!

      • cielomoreno127

        Don’t get me wrong these are awesome options. Yet, like you stated. Say I don’t like the service after a month. I’m sure what they’ll offer is way below your pay off.

        • Get_at_Me

          depends on when youre ready to pay the phone off….u have the freedom to put more down upfront and or to pay more monthly on the phone itself….it works just like a car….if u put a bigger dp on a new car and pay more than your required payment, you stay ahead of the curve in terms of payoff amount vs current value….if you’re a tech savvy buyer who wants the latest and greatest, simply get ahead by overpaying upfront and or monthly to get the lowest down payment on a newer device

        • cielomoreno127

          I buy my handsets unlocked and full price.

        • Get_at_Me

          you can do the same with TMO…you can walk into a retail store, pay full price for an ip5, then have your device unlocked almost immediately

      • Get_at_Me

        its used at that point….a day old s3 is the same as a 6 month old s3….think of it as trade in value on a car vs what you can get selling it private party…its foolish to think tmo will give you more than other 3rd party trade in sites, pawn shops, resellers etc.

  • NYCTheBronx

    Lol, nice! Someone help me out please? Engadget said that San Jose is live with 4G LTE? Yet, I am still running on HSPA+ with a “4G” logo on the top with not “LTE” on the bottom? Am I suppose to put a new APN in? Because I still don’t have 4G LTE. Or I must not be in a 4G LTE area? I hope T-Mobile updates their HSPA+ coverage map so we can see where the 4G LTE areas are in our City.

    • ashrafisawesome

      The new APN should be fast.tmobile.com

    • Amy Tran

      Here is the answer:

      Your iPhone 5 purchased from Apple does not run LTE, Apple disabled it during manufacturing and the only way to get it work on LTE is to buy another one after April 12. This is a good way to treat their customer, check engadget, they have confirmed this from Apple!

      These evil folks at Apple deserve to be thrown into prison!!!! VERY BAD!!!

      I will sell my iPhone 5 on eBay and switch to Samsung Galaxy, never will use another product made by Apple!!!!

      • NYCTheBronx

        Huh? I don’t own an IPhone 5 lololol. I am talking about my Samsung Galaxy Note II which I purchased from T-Mobile. Any ideas?

        • Amy Tran

          Other phones will be OK, these iPhone 5 purchased before April 12th will NOT have T-Mobile LTE service because Apple disabled it at factory!!!! I mean these unlockded A1428 from Apple store!!! I will curse them for the rest of my life!!!!

        • NYCTheBronx

          Well I’m not an IPhone fan but yes, that is very upsetting. I’m sure Apple and T-Mobile will resolve that issue soon. T-Mobile wants to gain more subscribers, not lose more so I know that they are working on it.

        • TBN27

          according to the other article the current iPhone 5 will work on the LTE network when it debuts in whatever city.

        • jonathan3579

          Did you get the update to be able to use LTE for your unlocked AT&T (or factory unlocked) iPhone 5?

        • carlos

          have you done the update? if not, then you wont see it.

        • NYCTheBronx

          Yes I have. I even have the new 4G logo and I am currently running android firmware 4.1.2 I might not even be in a 4G LTE area. I’ll check around my City today if I can connect to 4G LTE.

        • SouthernBlackNerd

          Tmobile probably just pulled a Sprint. Put LTE on 30-40% of the towers, then say you have launched knowing that people in that area will not be completely blanketed.

          Isnt that what they did with their refarmed HSPA+ launch? I remember people saying I only get HSPA+ 25% of the time.

        • Taron19119

          No because tmobile said in 2012/2013 half of the towers wher going to get reframe and in2014 2015 the rest well be done to give people wit Hspa aws only phones well still work

      • Guest911

        WTF is wrong with you? Why would Apple have put a band on a phone that was not being sold by TMo? Now that TMo has agreed to sell it, they will add a band. Its simple, why are you getting all nutty on something that makes sense? You need more fiber in your diet.

      • Adrayven

        Huh? They did not Disable LTE. It’s simply not configured in the OS right now and Apple has to enable it for T-Mobile. LTE itself works fine on any other carrier with the same band’s.

    • John


      ^ take a look and it’ll explain that you have to put in APN Fast.T-Mobile.com and being using an LTE capable device in an LTE area.

  • kdawg

    Only the first of those 3 options is correct. Your final bill will be the balance you owe on the phone. You cannot trade it in for a bill credit, nor can you continue to make phone payments on a completely closed account.

    • cielomoreno127

      Oh wow, they did sound unbelievably good. Oh well.

    • Get_at_Me

      correct….tmo will only give credit for a trade-in on an active acct….and if u cancel service, the remaining balance of the phone will be billed in full

    • sloanie

      And you know this because you were at the Q&A at T-Mobile’s event today?

      • Get_at_Me

        It’s policy and common sense. Why continue to let a person who’s leaving the company the courtesy and convenience of making monthly payments on a device? It won’t get unlocked until its paid off anyway and TMO reserves the right to IMEI block the device if service is cancelled and the device isnt pad off. Also, TMo isnt giving you cash for your old device then letting you walk out the door without service…This isn’t a pawn shop. You get credit by being a new or existing customer who purchases a new device.

        • mdosu

          In addition, if you walk without paying off the balance, your credit could also get hit. But the reality is, people with bad credit won’t qualify for the low down payment quote to begin with, they will get quoted $300 down for a $500 phone. And most high credit people will not purposely walk away from such a contract, hence why they have high credit. So I suspect you won’t get many deliberate walk-aways. Just like how any asset purchase should work on credit be it buying houses or cars…

      • vrm

        It will not work on another carrier without unlocking. It will not be unlocked without being paid off. Do the math.

        • mmunson

          Simple Mobile?

        • Sammieyousuf

          Simple mobile is a Tmobile based mvno. If you are purchasing the device from Tmobile, then you should have no problem using it with either simple mobile or solavei or ultra mobile or telcel USA. Plus I am thinking about opening my own mvno based on Tmobile. Registration fee is $50k. If everything goes my way , services will be dirt cheap.

  • mdosu

    One way or another, you’re on the hook to pay off the phone. Makes sense

    • Sammieyousuf

      Still $579.99 is way better than $649.99.

  • RaverCWB

    What about the tons of bloatware they put on the phones? will they unlock those to be uninstalled as well?

    • One word: CyanogenMod

      • Bangincrazy

        This is what rooting takes care of :D

      • moises1204

        about any custom rom of your choosing? i just happen to think CyanogenMod rom is boring.

    • Garrett

      No, unlocking in this case refers to the ability to use your device on other carriers. Since the bloatware is built into the ROM, you would need to root your device or flash a new custom ROM to remove it.

  • Will

    Now Free the Value Plan slaves that brought our own factory unlocked iPhones to the network but are still wearing “handcuffs”.

    • Garrett

      Why did you sign a contract if you were bringing your own device?

      • Will

        You don’t have a choice. In order to get the nano sims for my factory unlocked iPhones, they required a contract. See all these people keep saying that I got a discount or some subsidized equipment but that’s not true. All Value Plan lines required a contract. So there really is no reason for T-Mobile to hold Value Plan customers to contracts if they never subsidized the phone. But then again the new “un-Carrier” is nothing more than marketing. They are just the same as the other carriers.

        • Garrett

          No, you do not have to sign a contract to get a nano SIM. All you have to do is go into a corporate store and they would have given you one to use on the Monthly 4G prepaid plans…

        • Will

          Prepaid? Why in the world would I do prepaid? What’s next, prepaid electricity? Or how about prepaid natural gas? No thanks, many people prefer post-paid (especially for companies that reimburse actual expenses not future expenses).

          You did have to sign a contract for post-paid Value Plans.

        • Garrett

          The reason to go prepaid is that you don’t have to sign a contract, which was your complaint in the original post I replied to… So, you didn’t want a contract and you didn’t want prepaid. I don’t think you can complain anymore about those “handcuffs”.

        • Will

          I didn’t have to sign a contract with Verizon for FiOS yet it is post-paid. So yes I do have a legitimate reason to complain about signing a contract.

          The solution is easy: Free the Value Plan slaves.

        • Garrett

          Before today, which carriers offered a non-contract postpaid plan? The solution isn’t to free the Value Plan “slaves” from something they voluntarily entered into. The solution to your “problem” was to choose the prepaid route, but you decided not to do that. This is not a valid reason to be angry at T-Mobile…

        • Will

          Since you ask, both Verizon and AT&T offer month-month post-paid no-contract plans (ok technically it is a one month contract but that’s just for billing convenience). You just must pay for device in full. Since many Value Plan customers did that as well, there was no reason (nor is there still a reason) for a contract.

          So the solution here is to free the Value Plan slaves.

          You also make the solution that pre-paid is an option. It is not if you want to get reimbursed for an expense. You can’t pre-pay for an expense, it must usually be expense+30 (days) to be a valid expense.

          So once again, why do post-paid Value plans have to have a contract if they don’t owe anything for EIP nor did they receive a subsidy for the phone?

        • Garrett

          I don’t know why Value plans needed a contract, but they did. Judging from your requirements, you probably should’ve gone with one of those AT&T or Verizon plans.

        • JadedNYer

          The reason I heard was that you had to have a contract because the rate plan was so low. I have a Value Plan. I’m not sure what this means in terms of EIPs being available for those of us with contracts. The Value Plan wasn’t even around for two years.

        • thepanttherlady

          If you’re on a Value plan (contract or not) EIP options will be available to you.

        • Jason

          T-Mobile USA offered a non-contract postpaid plan in Dec 2009 when I became a T-Mobile customer. It was a primary decision factor that caused me to switch to them. I don’t know why today’s contract-free announcement is such a big deal since they’ve offered this before, then took it away, now offer it again.

        • moises1204

          you are right, like you i got my self into one of those value plan contract when it first came out back in November of 2012 it was the only plan that give you unlimited everything for 69.99, but these new ones are different now you don’t get into contracts anymore.

        • Will

          Join me brother. We are slaves that should rise up and let our voices be heard at T-Mobile. They claim they want to be different so now they should put this in practice and free those of us with contracts.

          There is no reason for a contract if T-Mobile is doing its job. Verizon does not require a contract for FIOS because they live up to their claim that service is so good, no contract needed.

          Free the Value Plan slaves!!

        • REPUBLICAN

          Your not slaves your just dumb asses who made a decision and now regret it. Be a man and be responsible for the choice you made.

        • Will

          You make the assumption that there was a choice to not sign a contract. All Value Plans required a contract. So there was no choice.

          But then again you are a Republican. Face it, you lost the election. Time to rethink your politics.

  • Will

    Somehow I don’t believe T-Mobile. They will find a new way to keep us in cuffs. For example, they will probably charge us $200 for a sim card removal fee to take the T-Mobile sim out of the phone.

    • TechHog


      Edit: Oh it’s you. You really need to only comment when you’re sober.

      • Will

        You are show how ignorant you are. You no nothing about someone and assume they are drunk. How sad.

        • TechHog


          “You are show how ignorant you are. You no nothing about someone and assume they are drunk. How sad.”
          There. Now you can’t edit that away.

        • Will

          Hey I blame this horrible Chromebook that Google gave me. At least it was free. Too bad the k key sticks. But you are still ignorant and I am not drunk.

        • Michael Naughtin

          No key stick on my Samsung chromebook 3.sure I paid $299 several years ago. No computer has lasted me this long.

        • DtotheB

          You do realize you come across as not very intelligent? Nothing you are stating is true. I just had a Samsung S5, paid it off via T-Mobile, and it’s now unlocked and ready to sell etc. They didn’t even bother to keep me as a customer, and that’s what actually made me stay and buy a new phone.

          If you don’t want others accusing you of being drunk etc, stop trolling and making statements that aren’t founded on any true experiences, regarding the details of this article, and what T-Mobile now offers as a no contract carrier.

          In short, grow up and find some form of maturity.

    • Michael Naughtin

      Are you a tmobile customer if you were you would no that is the same thing as a gas station charging you for poping open your gas tank then fill it. I’ve been to places like this but I would prefer the option being able to give a tip to the guy without asking or requirin.

  • timmyjoe42

    This sounds like an easy way to rationalize way around low early termination fees that don’t cover the costs of the devices.

  • Hector F.

    So you can use the phone with an MVNO like Simple Mobile or Ultra while still paying the monthly payments for the phone.

  • Herb

    David can you please try to clarify this with T-Mobile? I called a couple stores and they say that If you discontinue service you are immediately responsible for the remaining cost of the phone. Both stores said I couldn’t keep an EIP plan after cancelling service.

    • Will

      Don’t worry about it. T-Mobile will never let you go. They will find some way to keep you locked into an invisible contract. They will own your soul.

      • Herb

        Oh, OK. Thanks for your helpful response!

      • TechHog

        You forgot to talk about how you’re a slave or whatever intoxicated nonsense you were spewing.

        • Will

          Free the Value Plan slaves. Thanks for reminding me. And by the way it’s not nice to call some intoxicated.

  • MatthewMurawski

    Can they unlock my phone if I buy it full retail price but still plan on staying with T-Mobile?

    • thepanttherlady

      I don’t see why not. If you buy it outright, you own it regardless of which network you’ll use it on.

  • Don Kim

    This is a pretty cool deal when you really think about it.
    You’re locked in for 2 years on a subsidized bill in any other carriers anyways, and you still have to pay more up front, AND pay more every month.

  • Kory

    I just paid off the phone but it’s still working by text messages and I can still make calls, when will it unlock ?

  • ..art

    I want change my phone for lg g 3 .and change my 50$ pre paid plan.my Samsung s4 has monthly payment 17$ .i paid 6-7 moths. Now I’m interested stop all my contract with t mobile.how I can return my phone.do I have any option .( I’m dreaming for return this phone and do not pay any fee – be if I can get something back.

  • Lamont Jones

    can i use my phone with another carrier if i get it unlocked but i still owe money for the phone?