Dell and AT&T are offering the Dell Streak 5 inch Android tablet for $299.99 when you sign up for a 2-year contract. But you can also get the tablet without a contract for $549.99. At that price the device is yours to do with as you will, which means you can use it as a WiFi-only tablet if you want. But unlike other tablets (I’m looking at you iPad), every Dell Streak that’s sold will come with a 3G modem.

That means you can still sign up for AT&T service to make phone calls or use the internet. You just don’t have to commit to a 2-year service plan when you buy the Streak at the higher price.

That’s the good news. Here’s the bad news. Some folks had assumed that the higher priced model was essentially unlocked, meaning you could use it with other wireless networks. It’s not, and you can’t.

According to Dell, the Streak is SIM-locked to AT&T’s network.

That means you won’t just be able to pick up a Dell Streak and use it on Verizon, Sprint, or T-Mobile — even though T-Mobile and AT&T use the same similar GSM technology.

On the other hand, I’m pretty sure that plenty of Android hackers will see the SIM-lock as a challenge rather than a limitation. How long do you think it will be before we start seeing hacked firmware for the Dell Streak that lets you use it with T-Mobile or other networks?

Update: I’ve been reminded that the Dell Streak likely doesn’t have the correct hardware to run on T-Mobile’s network anyway, since AT&T and T-Mobile use different bands.

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8 replies on “Dell Streak tablet to be SIM-locked to AT&T, with or without contract”

  1. You’re never going to get this to work on T-Mobile in 3G because they use the 1700 band and AT&T is at 1900. I can see enabling the unit for usage on other wireless carriers in Europe, but seeing as only one Canadian and one US telecom use 1700, I doubt it’s ever been hard programmed in.

  2. Locking an outright purchase to a single vendor’s optional service sounds like an antitrust anticompetitive issue to me. Fortunately for Dell, the U.S. is pretty lax on enforcement these days. The E.U. might have an issue if the device is sold internationally.

  3. The Streak won’t support anyone other than AT&T due to hardware, so there is little point in unlocking it. In Europe, all the carriers use the same bands so there is a point in unlocking.

  4. Does the Dell Streak even support T-Mobile USA’s 3G band? Otherwise, it’s still pretty much locked with AT&T (in the US at least).

  5. Are there any cheaper plans available for the unlocked version?
    Or perhaps a data-only plan without a mandatory voice plan
    (like the iPad has) ?

  6. It won’t even take a hacked firmware to remove the SIM-lock – typically those can be removed simply by inserting a non-AT&T SIM card and then entering a special code.

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