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While unlocked phones dominate the market in developing countries, many people in the US and UK are used to buying carrier-locked devices. But this results in them missing out on the benefits of unlocked phones.
So what exactly are unlocked phones and what benefits do they provide? Here’s all you need to know about the devices, including five reasons why you should choose an unlocked phone for your next smartphone purchase.
What Is an Unlocked Phone?
Simply put, an unlocked phone doesn’t carry software limiting it to a single mobile carrier. This means that users are able to switch carriers or SIM cards on their smartphone without the device blocking access.
A locked phone, on the other hand, only works with the network of the carrier that you bought the device from. For example, a locked AT&T phone only works on the AT&T network. Meanwhile, a locked Verizon phone will only work with the Verizon network. The phone will block access to other carrier plans, even if you insert a different SIM card.
If you want to use your locked phone with another carrier, you need to remove this software. It’s not as simple as a factory reset of the device. Even rooting your phone isn’t necessarily enough.
Unlocked phones either never had this software installed in the first place or the software has been removed.
When it comes to compatibility, unlocked phones are not only CDMA or GSM-specific—you can get unlocked phones that are compatible with either (or both) of these standards. The central defining feature of unlocked phones is their ability to be used across different networks without carrier-imposed limitations.
Unlocked Vs Locked Phones: Reasons to Buy Unlocked
The restrictions imposed by locked phones mean that many people prefer unlocked devices instead. There are a variety of benefits to choosing an unlocked device, from increasing consumer choice to providing travel convenience.
1. Freedom of Choice
Buying an unlocked phone opens up a world of choice for consumers. Firstly, you aren’t limited to the phones that your carrier is stocking or selling. You can choose to import a phone, buy discounted phones from resellers, or get a phone that your carrier simply doesn’t provide for some reason. Just make sure the phone supports the right frequency bands and you’re good to go.
Secondly, you also have more choice regarding who you buy your phone from. This means that you can compare prices to find the lowest or choose a vendor that’s the most convenient for you.
Unlocked devices also mean that you don’t have to base your carrier choice on your phone preference either. You can choose whichever carrier you want. This means you aren’t forced to stick with a carrier simply because they have the device you want. Most manufacturers provide unlocked versions of their smartphones on their online stores or Amazon.
Furthermore, an unlocked phone doesn’t mean a lack of manufacturer warranty or customer support. You can still enjoy the same perks of a locked phone—as long as you buy it from a vendor that provides a warranty.
2. Use Dual-Sim Functionality
One of the biggest benefits of having an unlocked phone is the ability to use dual-SIM functionality on devices that support the feature. With dual SIM phones, you can connect to two different carriers at the same time. This allows you to shop for different voice and data plans for the best price, as well as providing a few other benefits.
However, if you have a locked phone, the only real benefit you can get from dual-SIM functionality is having two numbers from the same carrier on a single device. You miss out on the cost-saving benefits and outage avoidance that unlocked dual SIM phones can provide.
3. The Ability to Easily Sell Old Devices
Since 2019, many premium smartphones have been priced over the $1,000 threshold on release. As a result, more people are showing interest in buying and selling used devices. However, if you have a carrier-locked phone, this poses a major barrier to finding a buyer.
With unlocked phones, you don’t have to worry about whether a potential buyer is with the same carrier as you. You could technically request your carrier unlock your phone for you. But this is an extra step of inconvenience and delays that unlocked phones avoid.
4. Switch Providers Without Changing Your Phone
With unlocked phones, you aren’t tethered to your mobile carrier when your contract expires or if you’re unhappy with their service. Switching carriers doesn’t require you to buy a new phone or ask your old carrier to unlock your device.
Rather, you have more freedom to change plans or switch providers when a contract expires while also keeping your old device. You can choose the best mobile carrier for you without worrying about needing to get a new device too.
Unlocked phones also make switching to a cost-effective prepaid plan or SIM-only plan much simpler. You can shop around for cheap plans or the best prepaid rates without worrying about carrier compatibility with your device.
5. Switching SIM Cards When Travelling
Locked phones prevent you from using a local SIM card when traveling internationally, since they are incompatible with other carriers. This forces you to either enable roaming with your carrier (which is costly) or buy a temporary device when abroad.
With an unlocked phone, you can just switch to a prepaid SIM card from a local carrier. This saves you from having to port messages and apps to a temporary phone or relying solely on free Wi-Fi networks.
Even when traveling within your own country, you may find a destination has poor signal for your particular carrier. If you have an unlocked phone, you can switch out your SIM temporarily to use a carrier that has better signal in the area.
Unlock Your Carrier-Locked Phone
If you already have a carrier-locked phone, don’t fret. You can turn it into an unlocked device to reap these benefits.
From contacting your carrier to unlocking your phone yourself, check out our guide on how to unlock a carrier-locked phone.