Buying a cell phone usually consists of purchasing a plan or a contract with such and such network. Or so it was in the past. These days you can simply purchase an unlocked phone, which then gives you the power to choose whatever network you want. And the best part? You can also pick whatever type of plan that you desire. So begins the era of unlocked phones.
Describing Unlocked Phones
So what are unlocked phones really? Basically, unlocked phones do what was said in the above paragraph. They allow you to pick your own network. So if AT&T does something that ticks you off, then you can switch to someone else. The only other requirement for this is that the network you choose needs to be able to use sim card technology. And the sim card should also be unlocked. AT&T and T-Mobile are two examples of carriers that use sim cards; however, some companies like Verizon and Cricket use something else called CDMA (code division multiple access) technology.
Your unlocked phone may be more difficult or impossible to use on networks like Verizon or Cricket due to this CDMA technology. Though, you could potentially ask them to simply use your phone on their network. They might be able to oblige you by installing the necessary resources on your phone. But this could potentially lock you in with that company, which means you would probably have to buy a new phone if you wanted to leave them. But if you are using unlocked sim cards, you can simply swap them out of the cell phone when you want a new cell phone carrier. No hassles or anything. You can even use prepaid sim cards on unlocked phones.
So you can say goodbye to contracts, and those annoying late fees. And yes, this is legal. Though, some companies would probably love for it to be illegal. Even Apple, wanted it to be illegal to “jailbreak” the iPhone. And by jailbreak, I’m referring to the ability to transform a locked cell phone into an unlocked state. But to be fair, the iPhone was a bit of a different case simply because Apple did not care about unlocked phones in general; they just wanted to end the ability of people to jailbreak the iPhone. But this could have had a domino effect, and lead to more problems down the road for unlocked phones. More than likely though, unlocked phones are here to stay.
Cell Phone Frequency Bands
One other important aspect to owning an unlocked phone is to understand frequency bands. There are many different types of frequency bands like GSM, 3G, and now 4G (probably more in the future). It is possible that the phone you are thinking of buying may not work on the network carrier of your choice. For example, T-Mobile utilizes the 1700/2100mhz frequency for their 3G network.
However, your unlocked phone may not be able to read the 1700/2100mhz frequency. If this is the case, then you will be stuck with slower GSM speeds (assuming your phone can read those). Though, this is not very important when it comes to phone calls. GSM for phone calls is fine, but when it comes to Internet access the 3G is much faster. And yes, 4G is even faster than 3G when it comes to web browsing.
The main disadvantage to using an unlocked phone is that it costs money to purchase it. Especially a new state of the art touch screen phone. Compare the cost to contracts where you are locked in for one or two years, and receive a free phone for your trouble. But not all unlocked phones are that expensive. Don’t expect to find any of these unlocked phones for free, though. The prices you can expect to pay for unlocked phones range from thirty bucks to the thousands of dollars. Though, an average touchscreen will cost around three to five hundred bucks.
Where to Buy
Thanks to the Internet, buying unlocked cell phones is a breeze. Amazon, Best Buy, eBay, and Newegg are just a few of the websites that will sell you unlocked phones. Some of these phones come with warranties, while others do not. Also, some of these phones are international and some are national. So if you live in the States, then you will want to make sure that your international phone works where you are.
Unlocked phones can be an asset for you if you do not like contracts or late fees. But these phones are more expensive, and they will require you to educate yourself more about the technical jargon of your specific cell phone. However, if you want to completely control your cell phone then an unlocked phone is for you.