Bring Your Own Device!
What does Bring Your Own Device mean? This term has been
around for a long time, however, in recent years it has become more
common/popular. It's usually referred to in its short form,
BYOD, once people are familiar with its use. Wireless
use the term to refer to customers bringing a device they already own,
and activating it on their network.
Note that this goes well beyond simply bringing an unused phone from a
particular carrier back to the same carrier to activate service.
It means that you can bring ANY phone that's compatible with
the carrier's cellular network, regardless of where you originally
bought it. In other words, if you own a Sprint phone, you
theoretically activate it on dozens of differing Sprint MVNOs, which
all use the Sprint network, and are therefore technologically
Historically, especially in North America, even providers like MVNOs
that obviously work on their host's network, wouldn't allow you to
phones to their service. Essentially, once you buy a phone
that works on one carrier's network, it forever into the future can
only be used on that provider's service. So if you buy a
Sprint phone, you can't use it on Virgin Mobile, Boost Mobile, Ready
Mobile, kajeet, etc.
Why Carriers Historically Restricted Phones?
Historically wireless providers wanted to control the customer
experience 100%. In fact, it makes a lot of sense.
They spend a ton of money testing devices to ensure that all
of the functions work properly, and the phone performs as it should.
This delivers that best user experience, and avoids costs
later down the line when customers call with complaints and issues with
phones that the carrier many not know anything about.
Also, a major concern has been that carriers usually subsidize phones
(even prepaid carriers, though that is becoming less common), which
means that if you don't continue service with them, they could lose
money. Postpaid carriers have early contract termination fees
this issue, however, prepaid carriers can actually lose money if you
don't stay around long enough. So if they unlock your phone
for you, or you otherwise find a way to unlock it on your own and use
it on another compatible carrier's network, they could stand to lose
Why The Change Of Heart?
Wireless has evolved such that now, on average, people have at least on
(or more!) wireless phones. In other words, the game has
growth is no longer about getting new wireless customers (i.e. people
who have never had a wireless phone before) to essentially stealing
customers from other providers. Allowing you to bring your
own phone allows them to broaden their reach. You may have a
perfectly good working phone that you enjoy using, and don't want to
carriers because that would mean that you would have to buy a new
Well, if you could take your phone with you, wouldn't you be
more open to more and better service options? I know I would
Does Any Phone Work?
There's one important element that any bring your own device program
is that the phone has to un-activated, and not on their blacklist.
What this means, simply put, is that you must fulfill your
contract if you are on a postpaid plan before you can take that phone
to a carrier that has a bring your own device program.
Second, you cannot steal a phone and activate under one of
these programs. This is a good thing as it protects everyone
but thieves, and is a very reasonable restriction.
How Is BYOD Different Than Phone Flashing?
Wireless dealers have been flashing compatible phones to
various networks for many many years. What's unique about
BYOD is that the carrier officially supports certain phones.
When you flash over a phone at a wireless dealers, not only
do you have to pay for that service, but there's no guarantee that all
of the features of the phone will work. Some will support
voice and text only (i.e. no data!), others will not support MMS (i.e.
picture messaging), and some will work 100% for all features.
You'll often never really know until you try. That
with bring your own device programs, be sure to ask about these
features to ensure that there's no surprises.
Conclusion About BYOD
Generally speaking, this is a win-win for customers and carriers.
Wireless providers in European countries have long since
focused on service features, allowing customers to bring any phone
they want. These are usually GSM countries, and
customers there are used to paying full price for their phones (i.e.
What Carriers Support Bring Your Own Device?
Note that many carriers have allowed flashed phones on their
network; some knowingly (ex. Cricket with their Customer Provided
Equipment program, Page Plus, Simple Mobile, etc.), and others
There are so many carriers now that support it one way or the
other, and the number continues to grow everyday as people expect more
flexibility. The following table summarizes the various ways
you can ultimately bring your own phone to a given carrier.
- Usually best supported at an independent wireless
dealer for a nominal fee (usually no greater than $50).
- There are also software tools that you can purchase
online to do your own flashing; this is for the technically inclined,
and has the greatest risk if something goes wrong.
- Any non-SIM-based wireless technology (ex. CDMA)
requires that the phone be flashed for use on their network.
Carriers that support BYOD will flash the phone for you;
there are usually no fees. If they want to charge you, try
negotiating to waive the fee (they want you as a customer, and don't
have to subsidize selling you a phone!).
- Most SIM-based technologies (ex. GSM) will enable you
to simply put a SIM card into any unlocked phone (i.e. it's not locked
for use on one network provider), and it will work.
- If you're out of contract with your existing carrier,
call them and ask them to provide the unlock code; many will these
days. If not, you can purchase the code for under $20 on
various online sites.
- Sometimes SIM-swapping won't quite register correctly
on the network, and you may not be able to properly access all plans
and features properly. Also, sometimes unlocking a phone will
allow you to use international SIM cards, but won't allow the phone on
another domestic provider's network (even if the technology is the
same); if this is the case, phone flashing may also be required.
- Many carriers will sell you a SIM for use in your
unlocked phone as part of their Bring Your Own Device program.
While they won't guarantee that all features will work
properly, there's more support than with carriers that don't officially