When shopping for a new phone, many people think that the cell phones available at their carriers are their only option. This is not the case. Besides the phones that are offered by your carriers, customers can also purchase an unlocked phone from various retailers.
What is an unlocked phone?
So what exactly is an unlocked phone? An unlocked phone is a cell phone that can recognize any SIM card from any carrier. Cell phones that are purchased directly from carriers usually come with pre-installed software settings that place a virtual “lock” on the phone. This setting restricts users from being able to use the phone with different or multiple carriers. Unlocked phones, on the other hand, are specifically designed for more flexibility and are meant to work with virtually any carrier.
When shopping for an unlocked phone, users may be surprised at the prices and have sticker shock at the seemingly high price tags. But keep in mind that unlocked phones are sold at a higher rate because the price is not subsidized by a carrier contract. Phones listed at carrier companies are retailed at a lower rate because the price is subsidized based on the understanding that the customer will be required to sign a contract upon purchasing the phone. Thus, carriers can often offer their phones at drastically lower prices because signing a contract and paying the monthly bill allows for the carrier to offset the reduced price of the phone. Users that initially pay more for an unlocked phone might save more in the long run without having to sign a contract.
Carriers that are compatible with unlocked phones are those within the GSM networks, which in the United States, are AT&T and T-Mobile. Unlocked phones can also be used on any GSM network worldwide so they will also be compatible with international carriers.
Benefits of Unlocked Phones
There are many benefits of using an unlocked phone. Since these phones are not restricted to any one carrier, unlocked phones give users the freedom to switch from phone to phone and even from carrier to carrier. Furthermore, phones that are purchased via carriers are often modified to include specific software as requested by the carrier company. Unlocked phones come in their original state as intended by the manufacturing brand.
Unlocked phones are particularly useful for consumers that travel internationally. By using an unlocked phone and a pre-paid SIM card in that specific country, users eliminate potentially costly international roaming charges.
These no-contract and unlocked phones are vastly growing in popularity for they allow for greater flexibility and ease. As of 2012, unlocked phones account for 25% of the U.S. market, up from 17% a few years ago. They have become the tech product of choice for users that prefer to change their phones frequently or would rather not be tied to carrier contracts.
Bernice McMillan is a Content & Marketing Associate for Wireless Emporium, the #1 trusted source of cell phone accessories online. She also writes for the Wireless Emporium blog.