Most phones sold with a carrier subsidy in the United States are locked. Even after the contract is up, most phones (and all previous iPhones) can’t switch carriers unless you ask your carrier to “unlock” it, and most carriers would only do so if you had a reason, such as international travel. Today, Verizon announced that after contract, iPhone 5s on the Verizon network will be unlocked. In a way, it is betting that its network is so much better for the iPhone 5 that most consumers will choose to stick with Verizon after two years or that most consumers will opt for a new device and contract at that time.
Even though they’re unlocked, Verizon iPhones work best on Verizon’s network. A Verizon iPhone 5 will only receive LTE service on Verizon’s network; for instance, if a Verizon iPhone was run on AT&T’s network, it would only receive HSPA+ data, which is significantly slower. So those hoping to get LTE speed at a pay-as-you-go price may be disappointed. Bringing an iPhone over to T-Mobile will result in slower speeds than AT&T. However, if you’re happy with the physical device of the iPhone 5, after your contract is over, you can sign up for a Verizon pay-as-you-go plan and potentially save a lot of money.
AT&T unlocks its devices after their contract is up, and Sprint Nextel said that its iPhone 5s are locked.