If there’s one thing that hasn’t changed in decades, from “dumb” feature phones to smartphones, is that carriers always try to lock customers into their service. In addition to contracts, carriers also tend to lock their phones so you can’t use any other network’s SIM on them within that period. Of course, platform makers do their share in enabling this business practice and it seems that the next Android release, Android Q, will give carriers even more control in that regard.
It’s already possible to lock down Android phones, though there was a time when that almost wasn’t the case. Despite the openness of the platform, Google would have no choice but to cater to carriers’ requirements anyway. But as 9to5Google discovered, it might be taking carrier lock-in to a whole new level.
For one, carriers will be able to have a blacklist and whitelist of networks that can be used on a locked phone. As such, they can shutout rivals as much as they want. They can even block virtual operators (MVNOs) that are piggybacking on their own networks.
The second new power carriers will be getting is with regards to dual SIM support. Some Android phones are able to get around carrier lock-in through that but Android Q could change everything. In particular, it could lock down the second SIM slot unless there’s an approved SIM card in the first slot, no matter how many types you reset the phone.
Although it’s not at all surprising that Android would support carrier lock-in but these new restrictions do seem to be a bit over the top. Of course, there are unlocked phones but, despite a brief period of change, most consumers still get their phones from carriers, especially in the US.