CrackBerry Asks: Should RIM offer unlocked BlackBerry 10 devices?

By Adam Zeis on 30 Nov 2012 09:20 am EST
 BlackBerry 10

As BlackBerry users we've always been into finding the best devices for personal use - regardless of carrier - and unlocking them if need be. I can only think of maybe one or two devices that I've actually bought from a carrier and not had to unlock. Apple has offered up the iPhone unlocked in a generic, GSM version from retailers, but RIM has never really gone that route.

We're curious to know just what the demand for unlocked devices would be. By this we mean buying a device all-out that is unlocked for use with any compatible carrier (ie. use the same device on Rogers or AT&T). This would keep you from having to get locked down with a contract and also allow you to easily swap carriers when traveling without having to get the device unlocked. Granted, the unlocked models would come at a premium price, but for some users it may be well worth it.

So what do you think? Should RIM offer unlocked BlackBerry 10 devices? Let us know in the poll above then sound off in the comments! 

Adam Zeis Adam Zeis "Mobile Nations Content Strategist" 3740 (articles) 2892 (forum posts)

Reader comments

CrackBerry Asks: Should RIM offer unlocked BlackBerry 10 devices?


Yes. Now that I'm an investor. It matters. Ha. Still switching to T-Mobile with BB10 and getting a contract.

There are two sides to this coin: Locked phones help Carriers' bottom lines and thus promote a healthy relationship between themselves and RIM which is good for both parties.

Unlocked phones are especially handy for travellers and people moving from carrier to carrier, obviously.

A simple thing to do would be to have Carriers offer "cheap" locked phones and "off contract" unlocked phones. Of course - there is always a thriving after-market unlocking scene out there which would add, perhaps, $25 to the cost of a locked phone if needed.


I'm an investor too and I want RIM to go after every single potential user. Don't give them an excuse not to pick up the new device. Thats the way for RIM to get back into the US market. Offer unlocked, unbranded, unbloated devices for a premium on on day one!

unlocked phones are really important to people like me who lives in another country... its cheaper buy in usa.. by example here in Venezuela the blackberrys are very expensive cuse their popularity its pretty much.. from 30millons of phones users here 5 millions are blackberry users. the 30 millions its counting smartphones, featured phones and everything. so rim offering unlocked smartphones that would be great not only for usa population., for latin america in general too!

I refuse to go on contract and buy my device outright. Why shouldn't I be able to get it unlocked. RIM should make it easy to get an unbranded device.

Me too... Never got a phone on contract and never will. I like my phone pure & free of operator bloatware..

In most cases, I agree with you. In the US, nearly all carriers are priced so that buying it outright doesn't save you much money because you aren't allowed to get, let's say, BIS without having the $50/mo plan. Oh, and BIS is an additional $70/mo. You might as well get the phone on contract for $50/mo + $20/mo and be happy that you didn't spend an extra $400.

Now, if BB10 did NOT require BIS, then I would go to StraightTalk for $45/mo unlimited everything.

I refuse to pay $600 for a phone then pay $X/month. I'd rather go on contract, get the phone at a discount, then pay the same $X/month. I know I'm always going to have a phone and I don't need to upgrade my phone every year... but if I do want to upgrade, Telus lets its customers upgrade after one year. I'm saving money.

I kinda agree. I only buy used phone outright. New phones are always with phone contracts. But then again, they have to offer unlocked devices in my country. It is illegal to sell locked phones here. :D

I guess we will always get an unlocked version in India... all phones most of the time are unlocked...

i definitely agree with this, an unlocked device would get updates as soon as they are available without having to go through the carrier, i would definitely appreciate that

I'd love it if they did, but I don't think that they should. I imagine the carriers wouldn't like it much, and they need all of the support from carriers that they can get to make this launch a success.

In a generation (of phones) or two they should definitely look into it, once BB10 is established.

It's absurd you guys are even asking this question, and even more absurd that people are voting No. The only people that want locked devices are the carriers, period.

Very true, mscrivo. The US market is so controlled by carriers (whereas majority of rest of the world is not) that consumers are deprived of free choice. From an outsider perspective, it is very against US values.

If only the US market was more-balanced, RIM would not have had such a hard time selling PB. The Bridge function was such a blessing to consumers but it angered US carriers and they just don't carry PB. Sorry I digressed.

Exactly. A lot of the negative press about RIM probably derives from the influence of your carriers, who wanted phones that used a lot of bandwidth and could be prevented from tethering.

Too many Americans go on about freedom and fail to recognise that in quite important ways they are are often limited in their choices by the actions of large corporations. In the EU, the Competition Commision would be investigating carrier monopoly abuse and doing something about it. Which is perhaps why in Europe we can get SIM-only accounts which allow us to move phones from carrier to carrier quite easily, and we don't have the price of a phone + markup factored into contract price.

The question isn't if you want one, it's if RIM should offer one. From a business standpoint, I don't think they should, because it wouldn't be in their best interest as a company.

Having lived in the ME for quite some time, being able to swap SIM cards when I come back to Europe is a must. I have always bought unlocked BB's.

i hope the OP was referring to North America with the post.

if RIMM has any intention of succeding with the BB10, they'll follow the Samsung GS3 release model and release the international version to as many countries outside NA as possible, make all the money they can and get all the positive reviews they can get especially from the UK and other parts of Europe before releasing the locked versions to the US carriers

All the high-end BlackBerrys are unlocked here in Portugal.

I bought a 9000 and a 9800 from diferrent carriers and none of them were locked.

In Hong Kong where I am, most blackberry models can be had unlocked like the 9800 I am still using.


Does this question need to be asked? It'll be 2013 next year. Why is North America still stuck in the 90s?!

I would buy it unlocked. That way I can replace this outdated Curve my work got me so I can just shove the SIM card in the new phone. I'm sure the company wouldn't pay to get a new BB10.

sadly there was 2 reasons for this that never happened before 1 was devices became exclusives to the carries ie torch and AT&T was there for 6 months. Now problems with this was when you unlocked an exclusive device and used it on a carrier that did not have it was the service books would not get pushed to the device and it would not work properly.

2nd reason was RIM was always at the mercy of carriers they determined what was allowed and what was not i heard many horror stories how how we where the carriers B!tch they said no we got with no they say yes we go with yes.

Hopefully with BB10 however this changes and they can do it like apple and sell off their own devices unlocked and unbranded. Working for RIM i want unbranded devices rather than a stupid rogers logo on it.

In the past, RIM has behaved like it's a slave to carriers while Apple, Android have always put customer's/end-user's interest ahead of carrier's. Eg: PIN locking, disabling Skype like apps, making it incredibly hard to swap sim-cards (while traveling internationally, for instance), rendering the phone almost useless when using a regular data-plan! Other smartphones have prioritized end-user's more. You can buy them unlocked, you can swap sim cards and use any data plan without severely crippling your phone!

Look where they (Apple and Android) are now and where BlackBerry is now.

Dear RIM, I am a shareholder -- and consider this my vote -- put end-user's interest ahead of carrier's this time! Go BB 10!

Locking is only in the interest of carrier's, not end-users.

Maybe I'm missing a detail or something, but I honestly don't see the big deal about getting a unlocked BlackBerry. Sure it's nice if your smartphone isn't locked to one specific carrier and I love having unlocked, normal smartphones, BUT this is a BlackBerry we are talking about.

What is the point of having a BlackBerry that is carrier unlocked if you are still locked into having to have BIS or BES to make it even remotely useful? There is no such thing as a truly unlocked BlackBerry smartphone yet. Because all of them have you locked into RIM.

That's the point. BlackBerry should be available unlocked and should still be usable on a non-BB data plan. Sure, block some features like BBM. But at-least let users use browser, 3rd party apps, like all other smartphones let you do so!

RIM shouldn't be a bitc* or slave of carriers!

This poll doesn't address those concerns at all though. This is just asking if RIM should sell BlackBerry Smartphones that are carrier unlocked. I think RIM should stop milking people for BIS money, and sell a smartphone that is fully usable without any locking.

CrackBerry is asking a completely pointless question, because RIM doesn't and isn't willing to offer a unlocked phone. Carrier unlocking is utterly pointless if you're still locked to RIM. That's all I'm saying. People can go out right now and easily unlock any BlackBerry phone they want and use it on different carriers. But good luck trying to unlock yourself from RIM and their completely anti-consumer requirement of BIS.

Good luck with "unlocking" your iPhone from having the purchase price factor in those Apple services, which is why it is so expensive.

In the UK, the cost of a SIM-only contract with BIS works out cheaper than a SIM-only contract with the additional data allowance you need to compensate. Start emailing large attachment and you will soon see the point. (In fact, Virgin Mobile are currently offering BIS for free.)

Then there is the fact that your email isn't being read by Apple of Google...

You're right. Bell in Canada always has two versions of a plan... BlackBerry and non-BlackBerry. The only time they differ is on the "lite" data plans or plans that don't qualify for device subsidies.

For example a $35 plan might have 100MB of data but the BlackBerry version might have BBM, facebook and twitter. On the high end, they both come with say 1GB or 2GB of data for $53... the only difference is if the person selecting the plan/setting your account up doesn't select a BB plan, you won't get your data. Essentially the customer pays nothing extra for BIS (at least on Bell and Telus).

It's not such a pointless question in countries with PAYG BlackBerry plans or virtual operators that offer affordable BIS options but don't themselves carry subsidized phones. In the first kind of plan, the PAYG phones are usually older, or current versions of Curves. In the second case, you either need an unlocked phone or one that runs on the parent network. The single-point-of-failure lockin is a separate issue, but a £5/month lockin for BIS traffic on a wifi-enabled device is not bad at all for those whose usage is more messaging- than app-intensive. And just as it's currently nice to use a 9900 on this kind of plan, it would attractive to be able to upgrade to a BB10 device, if BB10 is supported on PAYG plans and by MVNOs.

Here in the US there are a handful of bring your own device MVNOs that offer no-contact plans. I use one called Simple Mobile and pay $50 a month for unlimited everything on my Curve 9360. I bought the phone unlocked off of eBay (It's a T-mobile device) and haven't had any issues with it.

I'm willing to pay a premium on an unlocked or no contract BB10 device as ever since I got my first cell phone 13 years ago, I've never had a contract. I started out with the typical pay-as-you plans which often meant having a crappy phone and when I got my first BlackBerry back in July of 2010, I went to a no-contract monthly plan that included all of the BB bells and whistles.

No bis, no blackberry features. Simple. Either pay for the data plan, or don't have one at all. Or just get a damn Samsung windows phone or android and be done with it. But DO NOT bash rim.

Either you pay for the BIS plan, or don't pay for it and lose the features, or get a non-blackberry. It's that simple. RIM isn't going to bow down to you and let you not use BIS.

It's called having a choice. Either you pay for bis or you don't and be left with a qwerty phone, or switch to another platform. RIM isn't going to bow down just for you.

RIM's real customers are the carriers, not the end users. The last thing RIM should do is piss off their customers. If the carriers don't mind unlocked phones, fine. Otherwise, keep the customers happy.

I saw Balsille saying this at Mobile Wold Congress 2011 and remember thinking how out of touch this guy was. I hope to God, this kind of thinking has gone out of RIM with Balsille. I know RIM is not Apple and cannot dictate terms to carriers. But if they seriously consider the carriers as their customers instead of their real customers, the end users, I wish them good luck with their comeback!

I am curious to hear why anybody would vote no on this poll. Choice is a good thing. If you voted no, could you please explain what the downside is to offering unlocked phones? Thanks.

When you are away in another country, it will save you a (huge) bundle of cash by popping in a local pay-as-you-go phone card with voice+internet services in that foreign country.

BlackBerry roaming charges in general is very expensive.

But alas, I've heard that BB10 will require you to use BIS, so you cannot pop in a pay-as-you-go phone card with voice+internet to use your favorite Apps :(

I have never had an issue with buying locked phones from carriers and this is because it is SO cheap to unlock themself. Cheap and easy. I have probably unlocked 6 BlackBerry Smartphones for myself and 4 or 5 from friends. I have paid between $3 and $10 for the codes to unlock.

I do agree with an earlier comment saying that locked phones are probably good for the carrier/RIM relationship and I would rather see them maintain a good relationship. As long as I can always still unlock phones for this cheap and this easy. I know that it's a lot more difficult to unlock an iPhone and if this was the case to unlock a BB then I think RIM should offer unlocked phones but because it is so easy I say keep locking them!

Why can't it be that a consumer buys a cell phone and then chooses the carrier and let the best carrier win? Why does buying a cell phone have to tie you to a carrier? Would anyone buy a Ford and then you have to use Ford tires, Ford batteries, even Ford gasoline? Imagine buying an HP computer and then being tied to the ISP that HP itself provides. No one would do such a thing. But for some reason, people with cell phones do.

Cell phone carriers are anti competitive and they know they can sucker punch us and we just take it. Why is it when one carrier raises rates, all the rest do too. You would think a competing carrier would LOWER rates and steal the other carrier's customers. So there you have it. Collusion. Government doesn't care either.

And yes I am tired of BIS, paying and extra $10/month for it. So I am dumping Virgin Mobile for too many obvious reason, Just recently bought an unlocked Android and loving it.

I don't get why people sign 2 year cell phone contracts. Think the main reason is they want the latest and greatest. But people don't understand you don't need the latest and greatest. That's all marketing hype. Phone I bought that came out last year. Has Gingerbread. I saved over $200 by buying it now.

People think they could buy a $700 phone for $299 if they go 2 year contract. Suckers!!!!!!

GSM all the way. CDMA can go take a hike.

Im buying it off contract anyways, it will just be easier if its unlocked for me. I hope they do or hope its unlockable right from the getgo

For Blackberry users that live in different parts of the world like me MATTERS VERY MUCH.
I am actually traveling to the United States just to get my BB10 as soon as its available and I NEED AN UNLOCKED DEVICE since I cant be stuck in a contract since I dont live there.
So it is important that RIM thinks in people like me that does not want to wait for my local carrier to bring BB10

Giovanni Cedeño
La Concordia - Ecuador

I voted yes but at the same time I don't mind either way provided that I can still have the option to unlock it whenever I need and/or choose. Unlocking is cheap and I've unlocked quite a few for my family and friends.

I think RIM should open a couple of stores in Toronto to sell their devices since 9 times out of 10 I have to purchase the device I want from another carrier who forces me to buy a cheap data plan which I have to cancel a month or two later and I am stuck playing for 3 months of service from that other carrier that I will never use just to own the device which I have to take and get unlocked.

I use Virgin Mobile Canada which doesn't carrier most BlackBerry devices, I use them because I pay one flat fee for my service but I get both BIS and BES, unlike Roger, Telus and Bell were they charge you a lot more to get BES service on your device I don't have to go through that.

I want GSM unlocked, all frequencies BB10 phones at reasonable prices. From RIM. Look at the Nexus series of phones. An unlocked Nexus 4, 16gig, all the frequencies needed for much of the world, including T-Mo USA's 1700 band. $349. It sold out at least once, they pointed everyone to T-Mo, who was selling the exact same phone for $499 & THEY sold out. If RIM does the same thing, they have more than the carrier options for sales, the customer can use it on a no contract carrier, the carriers get their normal upgrade customers, everyone wins.

I want my phone to be unbranded, don't need a rogers logo, I don't want to see the Rogers splashscreen when turning it on, I want to be able to add a pay as you go data plan when I travel which will allow me to use email, and bbm so I can avoid Carrier Roaming Fees.

Android phones are very easy to use with travel because they are easy to unlock and you are able to easily add any data plan.


1. The new breed of phones have the fugly carrier logos behind the glass. There is no way to remove these logos without replacing the screen.

2. Even if you get your phone unlocked aftermarket, you have voided your warranty.

3. Firmware modifications (boot splash screen) and other bloatware ruin the premium device experience.

4. Allow imap email access and BBM on unlocked phones on regular data plans. If you want added security by way of encryption on RIM servers and better battery life due to true push capabilities by RIM nodes, get a BIS plan.

5. Single point of OS updates directly form RIM. No vendor.xml hell.

What's so hard about that!

BIS gives you the features a blackberry owner benefits from. If you don't haven't, you don't get those features. Either pay, or go without. RIM isn't going to bow down.

But we should still have the opportunity to avoid paying insane data fees on our phones if we decide to add a new sim when traveling.

@Rootbrian read #4 above fully. I think there is a middle ground between paying for BIS benefits and having no email on your phone at all. That is having basic imap access to email when you are traveling. I'm not even talking about exchange. Its of course RIMs call but IMHO RIM is no longer in a position to adopt a my way or highway attitude. Not here in the US anyway.

I paid full tilt for my last BB. A 9930 on VZW. Why? because I hate contracts. One thing I think carriers should do is if you buy the phone out right they should offer you discounted monthly service. No one is doing this except T-mobile. This topic came at a particularly fortuitous moment. I'm researching switching to TM for discounted pre-paid service. I'm looking to purchase either a Nexus 4 or an iPhone 5. It would be really wonderful to have a third choice of a BB10 handset.

hey you people with locked carriers phones......get it in discounted price and pay 3$ to get any BB unlocked.If you travel abroad then just put another SIM.....if back in US your device still works with the respective carrier.
@India,Indonesia,srilanka and some south american countries...i bet if they had the option of phones on discounted prices/free with connection/contract.......many millions would do it too.......grass looks greener on the other side ALWAYS.

if im purchasing physical hardware its my right to do wtf i want to do with it. if i want to use my phone on another carrier then i shall. noone should have to pay premium.

so what in the future are we gonna have gas tanks that only fit gas nozzles from Sunoco? if we want to buy gas from anywhere we have to pay for the premium package model?

"We're curious to know just what the demand for unlocked devices would be."
wth thinks up these polls


Personally, I want an unlocked device for the following reasons:

1. So I (hopefully) will not have to reset my current contract. This makes it easier to switch carriers.
2. I hope this would mean that I would not have to wait for a carrier to approve a software update to get it. I feel this is a huge advantage that Apple has over Google and Rim (no wait for updates as everyone gets them directly from Apple). ie. Some features being deleted/blocked by carriers. At least Google has the Nexus series as well. I want to receive every updated from RIM directly, without delay.
3. No carrier branding/bloatware. We do not need to be constantly reminded which carrier we chose - we already know.

There is a huge market in the U.K for unlocked/sim free mobile phones that BB10 can't afford to miss out on!. Most of my family and friends buy unlocked SIM free devices as they already have contracts and like to keep up to date with the latest gadgets.
I've said it here before and I'll say it again, I will be buying a unlocked BB10 phone on day 1 of release and will be extremely annoyed and disappointed if this wasn't an option open to me.


This is a VERY US centric article.
Unlocked BlackBerry's are presently available in other markets, and not to do so what be certain death for some countries for BB10.....

A better survey question would be
Should RIM offer an alternative direct BIS package for customers on existing non-BIS plans under contract or whose operators don't support BIS/BES.

For example, in Australia there are three network companies (Telstra, Optus, Vodafone) - who all support BIS/BES, and at least thirty MVNOs (Boost, Amaysim, TPG, Woolworths, RedBull, Dodo) of which very few support BIS/BES (most of these are predominately prepaid operators)

This would also make it much easier for the BlackBerry user to switch SIMs when travelling internationally, as the BIS/BES server would follow the phone.

Definitely should have an unlocked. Would be great for enterprise users who travel a lot since BB 10 still dont' provide dual sim phones.

i dont really understand what happen in US with all the locked and unlocked devices. i thought in US you can only buy phones from carriers lol. can someone explain these to me please:

1. are carriers there monopolizing the phone market? for example if you don't buy from carriers you have to pay more expensive plans than if you buy from them? if so, how's the government see that monopoly? they let it be? they allow or even protect it with some laws?

2. who decides you can buy this type of device unlocked but you can't buy that device without being locked by contract? carriers or phone makers? or is it you can buy any type of devices whether it's locked or not?

3. who decides if RIM can or can't sell their devices directly to stores (without being locked by carriers)? RIM/cariers/laws by government? or is it you can buy it directly from stores without being locked by carriers (via screen/bootup logo)?

4. who decides BIS subscription fee consumers have to pay? RIM or carriers?

lucky me carriers here where i live are in a very competitive market. i switched from a $10/month full BIS to a $3/month full BIS :p i was thinking to go to one carrier that offer a $12/three months but decided to go for the $3/month instead :p

oh by the way, BIS is really a lifesaver here. if i don't use BIS, i would only get limited/capped plans (in carrier's term, fair usage data transfer limit).

and one more thing, here where i live, paid plans are outdated. everything is prepaid here, even BIS ;) i assume prepaid is similar to pay as you go in US. and since locked devices are as expensive as unlocked devices here, most people prefer unlocked devices :p

Here in the UK we do have the option.
I only ever buy sim-free/generic/unbranded devices.
No carrier splash-screen and bloatware thank you very much…I'll have mine as RIM intended!

I'm laughing at all the people complaining about paying for BIS. If you don't want it, realize you won't have those features you love. You have a choice and nobody is telling you to switch carriers or platforms. I am content and don't care if a logo is displayed on my blackberry from my carrier. I don't care if it's branded or unbranded. ITS STILL A BLACKBERRY.

I think it would be a smart idea to have a unlocked model sold from RIM directly. Like through or someplace similar. RIM could sell them at a lower price then the carrier off contract pricing, similar to Google, although I don't see RIM selling them that low, but I could see them selling the L and N series for about $450. At this price point, I see them selling many more then at $600+.

I don't buy phones on contract anymore and haven't done so for more than a year (I have five phones with at&t). Most people don't even know what that feels like. It can relegate you to last year's model, but that's not always a bad thing, and it is much less of a bad thing if you are really into GTD use of a phone. A lot of new phones are defined by specifications and features that most people don't use.

As an example, I called DirecTV when my bill went up inexplicably. Without a happy resolution, I asked when my contract expired. It was that very day. I was put through to the cancellation/retention department and in 10 minutes had free channels exceeding my current plan and a lower bill.

As a further example, at&t "accidentally" deleted my unlimited data when I conscientiously called to report changing a phone. Three weeks later when I found out, I called and, having long ago satisfied my contract, was put through to the cancellation/retention department. It took a few days, but I had unlimited data restored and numerous retention credits to my bill. First, it is a lie that the carriers cannot restore unlimited data. Second, what a world it would be if we did not have to passively accept changes to our pricing structures and "just take it" without such a fuss. That is the world you live in if the utility provider doesn't have a huge cancellation charge hanging over your head.

The Nexus 4 is a stunted phone in terms of its data speeds, and is selling like hotcakes because it is reasonably priced without a contract. Blackberry should put a phone in every hand. Offering unlocked phones is a way to do that. Then if your carrier pisses you off, you can be on another by nightfall. If more people were in that circumstance, we would have better lan offerings and more responsive carriers just by pure competition.

now i'm more confused. is RIM not selling unlocked devices there in US? they sell unlocked devices outside US. if selling unlocked devices can give more profit to blackberry, why won't they sell unlocked devices in US too? who forbid RIM for selling unlocked devices?

Unlocked devices would be great!
Now where would RIM sell them out of, you can buy devices now from a carrier store outright, but they are still locked, and charge dumb amounts to give you the unlock passcodes
...with Apple you have their webstore as well as instore..Google you have GoolePlay....
RIM doesn't really have a web store....

I needed a phone and ended up with an iPhone 5. I was willing to pay full price up front for the convienence of being able to choose a provider, leave them any time, swap out cards when I wanted to travel, and not be tied to long-term exhorbitant contracts.

I appreciate some users like to have their purchase "subsidized"; I am not one of them. I also appreciate not everyone as $750+ to drop on a phone. But I do appreciate the option to puchase as I see fit, and regardless of trying to appease Bell or Rogers or any other provider, their sole interest should be keeping me as a customer.

I hate the iphone and will be looking to regain a phone with a real keyboard. Unlocked.

Are you listening, RIM?

I think speaking of the issue of providing unlocked BB 10 devices would be an issue for the US carries because in other markets unlocked devices is what is the norm, on the other hand people need not forget many of the no contract providers that have popped up in the past few years such as simple mobile, or even t mobile that offers a great no contract plan, I even had a unlocked blackberry tour at the time I was using t mobiles no contract plan for my work phone. In my opinion I think Blackberry will provide unlocked bb 10 devices there are people that don't mind paying full price for a phone if that means not being tied down to annual contracts with cell phone providers.