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Friday Poll: Will you unlock your phone when it's illegal?

New federal rules go into effect on January 26 making it illegal to unlock a carrier-locked phone. Are you going to fight the law or follow it?

Android phone with padlock
If only it were this simple. Amanda Kooser/CNET

It looks like today is the last day for smartphone-unlocking freedom in this country. A new federal mandate kicks in tomorrow saying that carrier-locked phones are not allowed to be unlocked without the carrier's permission.

The feds figure there are enough unlocked-phone purchasing options out there. If you want the sweet, sweet sugar of a fat carrier-sponsored discount, you'll be stuck with a locked phone. Unless you want to go outlaw.

I could see the United States descending into a new version of the Wild West. Roaming packs of smartphone-unlocking outlaws will defend their hideouts against raids from carriers with federal backing. They'll sport nicknames like "The Android Kid," "Samsung Calamity S3," and "Unlockin' Larry."

The new rules will impact people who buy new smartphones starting tomorrow. Legacy phones already purchased or acquired are exempt. Though carriers have never been thrilled about their customers unlocking phones, this change will actually give them some enforcement teeth when they sniff out illegal unlockings.

Maybe your unlocking days are over. The next time you need a new phone and you're eyeing those carrier discounts, what will you do? Vote in our poll and talk it up in the comments. And to be clear, CNET never recommends doing anything illegal.