What does locked EXP mean? can you unlock it?
It means it won’t receive experience from interactions. To unlock it, click the menu icon (the three lines on a Pokémon page) and there should be a option to unlock it under EXP Unlock.
I have a follow up question to this. What exactly is the purpose to locking exp? Given there isn't automatic evolution and such, I wanted to know if there's some general reason to hold off on leveling.
Some users prefer to keep their Pokemon at a specific level. Some do it to keep a Pokemon from getting too overleveled in case they planned on breeding them. Some prefer not to deal with constant notification that their Pokemon is ready to evolve. All in all, it comes down to the user.
I know some people who like their specials all at level one, so they lock them/buy them locked
Avatar by the most amazing Mochafox
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