Unlocked cell phones provide consumers with more flexibility and greater choice. However in the united States and many other parts of the world, the majority of consumers have phones that are “locked” to a cellular service provider. That being said, that doesn’t mean you can’t purchase an unlocked phone.
What is an Unlocked Phone?
Virtually every single phone purchased through a carrier (mobile service provider) is “locked” to that carrier. This means that the phone cannot be used with another carrier. For example, if you purchased an iPhone 11 on a contract through AT&T, you can only use that iPhone on AT&T’s network. You would not be able to insert a SIM card from another carrier, like T-Mobile, and use that iPhone on T-Mobile’s network. On the other hand, an unlocked phone can be used with any carrier at any time. All you need to do is swap the SIM card and you’re good to go.
A Word of Caution
Generally, buying an unlocked phone means that you will be able to use that phone on any cellular network. However in the United States, there are two frequencies that cellular networks operate on. Sprint, Verizon and US Cellular operate on CDMA, whereas AT&T and T-Mobile use GSM. Most of the rest of the world uses GSM as well. When buying an unlocked phone, you must ensure that the phone is compatible with the frequency of the network you intend to use it on. Finally, purchasing an unlocked phone requires more money upfront compared to buying a locked phone under a contract. However, buying a phone upfront is usually the less expensive route in the long run, but more on that later.
A Lot More Choice
As we mentioned earlier, buying a “locked” phone from a carrier means that you are limited to the phones that are offered by your cellular provider. As you may have noticed, carriers do not carry every model phone from every manufacturer. Opting for an unlocked phone will open up a whole new world of choice. Because unlocked phones can be used with the provider of your choice, you can shop around for a phone that fulfills all your needs. Speaking of more choice, many phones from overseas manufacturers are unlocked. Some may not even be officially available in the US, however you can import them through resellers like Amazon and pop in any SIM card you like.
Easier to Resell
Since a locked phone can only be used on one particular network, selling a locked phone means finding a buyer who also uses the same service provider. Additionally, if your phone is still under contract, you will be responsible for paying out the remainder of your contract even if you decide to sell it. Since an unlocked phone can be used with any service provider, the chances of finding a buyer increases significantly.
Faster Updates & Less Bloatware
Carrier locked phones often have a bunch of software pre-installed on them. These applications are notoriously difficult to get rid of. In addition, many carrier locked phones include customization that make it difficult for manufacturers to deliver timely software and security updates. As a result, carrier locked phones rely on the carrier to issue these vital updates. Unlocked phones, on the other hand, do not have these pre-installed customization. As a result, unlocked phones often receive their updates directly through the manufacturer rather than the carrier. This usually translates to faster and more frequent updates.
Switch Service Providers Including Those Abroad
As we mentioned earlier, switching service providers with an unlocked phone is as simple as swapping SIM cards. Furthermore, if you have a dual SIM phone, you can use SIM cards from two different providers simultaneously. This makes an unlocked phone perfect for someone who has a personal and business line. Furthermore, an unlocked phone would also allow you to use SIM cards from other countries, perfect when travelling abroad.
No Contracts & Cheaper Plans
In the past, the biggest advantage of buying an unlocked phone was avoiding a contract. These cellular contracts bundled the cost of the phone with the wireless service. What this meant for the consumer was that they paid far more than the phone was actually worth over the duration of their contract. In recent years. carriers separate the cost of service from the cost of the phone. This means that if you bring your own device, you can save a lot of money on your monthly plan. Furthermore, many carriers in the US also own virtual network operators that offer the same service at a significantly lower price. For example, Cricket is owned by AT&T. Cricket offers cheaper plans for the same exact service as AT&T. All you need to do is supply your own phone.
Do you use a locked or unlocked phone? Which do you prefer? Let us know in the comments!