Which one should you buy?

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Besides all the software and hardware features that one should consider when buying a smartphone, another consideration is whether to buy a locked or unlocked phone. This is something you should think carefully about before you splurge.

This article will explain in detail how the two differ and the pros and cons of each to help you make an informed choice.

Locked vs. Unlocked Phones: What’s the Difference?

Locked smartphones are those that include software code that prevents you from using SIM cards from other wireless service providers. For example, if you buy a locked Galaxy S21 Ultra from T-Mobile, you can only use the device on T-Mobile’s network. Your Galaxy S21 Ultra will not work on Verizon or other wireless careers. Carriers often sell locked phones to their network, but you can still find locked phones through third-party channels like Amazon and eBay.

In contrast, unlocked phones are those that have no network restrictions. You can practically use any service provider and switch whenever you want. You are in control. Simply swap one carrier’s SIM card for another and you’re good to go. Unlocked phones can either be those sold without network restrictions or those that are locked first and then unlocked later.

Related: Is My Phone Unlocked? Here’s how to find out

The benefits of buying a locked phone



Phone with purple screen and white lock

One of the main advantages of buying a locked device is that it usually costs less. Wireless carriers can subsidize the retail price by locking you out on their network. Alternatively, they spread the cost of the device over a certain period through payment plans, so that you don’t have to pay the full price up front. In addition, it consolidates your bills in one place: you have your device payment and your carrier’s plan in one place. Carriers also commonly offer promotions and freebies to make their offers attractive.

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Another advantage is the support. If you buy a device from an operator, you can go to one of their stores for customer support. Carriers also offer repair services in case your device has any defects. On top of that, carrier insurance plans are also attractive and more competitive than what you can get from device manufacturers.

The cons of buying a locked phone

The main disadvantage of purchasing locked devices is the inability to change operator as desired. And that is in fact the purpose of cell phones; to make sure you stay with them for an extended period. While you can ask your carrier to unlock your device after you finish paying, there are usually some obstacles you will need to overcome.

There is often a waiting period before your unlock request is processed.

It can be a pain in the neck for you if your job involves traveling a lot. Although you can still use your carrier abroad, roaming services are expensive. It is much cheaper to use a local wireless operator in the country you are visiting. A locked phone can also be restrictive if you travel to a location where your carrier has poor or spotty coverage.



Verizon Purchase Page

Another downside is that locked phones can prevent you from taking advantage of the best deals offered by another carrier. And as you might have noticed by now, carriers don’t sell a lot of smartphone models, which narrows down the choice. When you want to sell your locked device, the price is usually lower than unlocked devices of similar model and storage configuration.

Finally, phones locked by an operator can be expensive despite the promotions and tempting discounts offered. While flexible plans are convenient, it’s cheaper to buy a phone somewhere else by paying full price. It is not uncommon to find a device on an online store that is cheaper than the retail price at a local operator store.

Related: How to Unlock a Phone Locked by an Operator

The benefits of buying an unlocked phone



Sim card tray for iPhone

Freedom is one of the main reasons why you should get an unlocked phone. This is why unlocked phones have gained popularity in recent times. Unlocked phones allow you to change operator at any time. You also don’t need to buy a new phone to do this. The process is simple; remove an operator’s SIM card and replace it with another.


While there is always the problem of CDMA and GSM technology, most devices support both networks, which means you can connect to virtually any wireless carrier in the US and across. the world.

Plus, if you are still looking for the best mobile operator, unlocked phones give you the chance to try different carriers and make up your own mind. If you travel often, you can use a local operator rather than relying on expensive roaming services.

Unlocked phones also have a relatively higher resale value than locked phones due to the freedom. It is also easier to sell an unlocked device than a locked device. If you’re unlocked, you’ll also have more models to choose from, as you won’t be limited to anything sold by your wireless carrier.

The cons of buying an unlocked phone



A close-up of the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G which just won the award for best smartphone at MWC.
Image Credit: Samsung

The main downside to buying an unlocked phone is that you will need to perform background checks to make sure the device supports the radio bands used by local carriers. This is especially a problem if you are shipping a device outside of the United States. Apart from the usual culprits (CDMA and GSM), you should consider network bands. The good news is that modern smartphones have become more compatible than in the past. But still, you should do your research first.

Another downside is that unlocked phones aren’t always available on payment plans. As a result, you’re likely to pay the full price up front, and with the ever-increasing cost of smartphones, unlocked devices can be out of reach for many.

Should you buy a locked or unlocked phone?

Overall, unlocked phones have more advantages which outweigh their disadvantages and even the advantages of locked phones. But if you are faced with the difficult decision to choose between the two, it boils down to a few factors. Buy unlocked if you’re tech-savvy, have the cash to buy the phone you want ahead of time, travel internationally often, and want the freedom to switch carriers as and when you want.

One of the main reasons to buy a locked device is if you don’t have the money to pay for a device up front or are reluctant to splurge. It could also be due to the customer support and comprehensive insurance provided by the mobile operators. On top of that, buying a locked device can be worthwhile if you don’t travel internationally often and are okay with your wireless carrier and the content of the limited smartphone models they store. .


In short, there is no clear winner when it comes to choosing between a locked phone or an unlocked smartphone, but you will find the option that works best for you.


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