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What is an unlocked phone?

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Unlocked phones defined

An unlocked phone is a smartphone without a carrier lock. Carrier locks are software codes placed inside smartphones by manufacturers which follow the requirements of the carriers. The lock is a preventative measure to ensure the phone isn't used on a different network. Typically, devices that don't feature carrier locks are considered to be unlocked. These phones include Google Android Nexus, Samsung, Motorola, Sony, LG phones, and a few developer edition devices. Unlocked iPhones are also available on the Apple store.

locked phone image

Reasons for carrier locks

The network carriers utilize carrier locks because they prefer to know which software their network users are running on their devices. The carriers need to be aware of all software running on their network for security issues. These issues can include custom software because it poses potential risks for the network. Carriers also need to include locks on their devices so they can better meet customer service needs and warranty concerns. The carrier locks standardize devices, which in turn streamline operations.

Benefits of unlocked phones

Although the rest of the world has had access to unlocked phones for quite some time, the United States is just now catching up. Unlocked phones bring freedom of choice in phone model, carrier, and plan. unlocked phone

An unlocked smartphone, by definition, is not tied to one specific carrier. Thus, unlocked phones allow you to shop for the latest smartphone and plan that meets your standards.

Unlocked phones also benefit those who travel frequently. Switching between carriers ensures constant service on the road. Because some areas of the U.S. are better covered by certain networks, locked phones might not be covered in some rural areas.

With an unlocked device, you have the ability to purchase a local SIM card on a local plan. When traveling internationally, you can avoid expensive data and roaming charges when you travel with an unlocked phone.

Things to consider in unlocked phones

Unlocked phones have become more common in the United States. It may be worth your time to weigh your options between a locked phone or unlocked phones. Here is a comprehensive list of a few things to consider when making the decision to buy an unlocked phone:

  • Is the unlocked phone compatible with your trusted network? Not all unlocked phones are compatible with major American networks. You won’t save money if the phone doesn't support your favorite 4G LGTE network.
  • The leading network carrier now offers plans featuring monthly payments, letting you upgrade to a new phone when you want. You may not need to pay extra for an unlocked phone if you have the option to upgrade on your own terms.
locked phone
  • Your budget might only allow for the more cost-efficient option of getting a carrier-backed device.
  • People tend to be wary of unlocked devices, so you might run into disadvantages if you're trying to sell your unlocked device.
  • An unlocked phone may not be in your best interests, if you're not tech-savvy. This is because you'll not be changing software and customizing the phone.
  • You might be left on your own if your unlocked phone runs into a technical issue. Many carrier insurance programs don't cover unlocked phones.

As you can see, there are advantages and disadvantages in purchasing an unlocked phone. You'll have to determine whether spending more money at purchase is worth having the freedom of choosing your network and plan. In an effort to compete with this option, some leading 4G LTE carriers are offering more phones and installment plans which allow you to upgrade your phone more quickly.

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