In recent years, Verizon has sold its 4G LTE smartphones unlocked out of the box as part of an agreement with the FCC for a purchase of 700MHz spectrum. Verizon's policy is going to change in the near future, though.
Verizon will begin locking its new smartphones in the spring. An exact start date hasn't been confirmed by Verizon, nor has the carrier explained how long customers will need to wait before they're able to unlock a smartphone that they purchase from Verizon.
One thing Verizon did explain is why this change is being made. Verizon hopes to deter criminals who steal the unlocked smartphones and then turn around and sell them.
The other major US already make customers wait before unlocking a new smartphone. AT&T requires that you have service for 60 days before unlocking and also enforces a 14-day wait after you request an unlock. Meanwhile, Sprint requires that you have service for 50 days before it'll unlock your phone, and T-Mobile has a 40-day wait.
All three of those carriers also require that you completely pay off your phone before they'll unlock your device. That's one way that Verizon's unlocking policy will differ, as it will not require that your phone be fully paid off before it unlocks it.
Many consumers probably won't notice this change, but it could be a pain for those people that buy a new phone and travel internationally shortly after. Calling Verizon to explain your travel and ask for an unlock is an option in this situation, but that's definitely not as easy as simply getting an unlocked phone out of the box. At least we've gotten a heads-up about the change before it rolls out. Stay tuned and we'll update you with more info on this Verizon policy change as we get it.