Tag Archive | "unlocked"

Unlocked phones: The pains and pleasures

Unlocked phones are gaining ground in the United States, even if locked devices continue to be the norm. An NPD Collected Intelligence report from late 2018 showed there were 38 million unlocked phones in the USA, which accounts to about 15% of the market.

We don’t see growth slowing down, as there are many benefits to owning an unlocked phone. Reasons to stick with carrier-locked phones also exist. Today we are giving you a rundown of the pros and cons that come with buying an unlocked phone. Let’s help you find out what kind of phone you will get next!

What is an unlocked phone?

The best way to explain this is by telling you what a locked phone is. Locked phones have been blocked from working with other networks. Carriers do this to ensure you don’t go giving your business to competitors. Try putting a SIM card from another carrier in a locked phone and you will get a message telling you this action is a no-go.

Carriers lock phones to ensure you don’t go giving your business to competitors.

Edgar Cervantes

On the contrary, an unlocked phone has no network restrictions. You can pop any SIM card into an unlocked phone and get it working with the carrier of your choice (given it’s compatible).

It’s important to note carriers have their reasons for locking devices, which include ensuring customers stay with them through contracts, and avoiding theft/fraud. This is why they offer to unlock devices after your contract has ended, you have paid the smartphone off, or have spent some time using their network.

For more details on unlocked phones and how to tell if you have one (or how to unlock a locked phone), you’ll want to head here.

Unlocked phone advantages

Carrier freedom

Unlocked phone users have no restrictions, contracts, or ties to any company. They can shop around for the best deals and go to any carrier they want. Whether they want T-Mobile deals, Verizon quality, or the lowest prices the market can offer, they are free to come and go from carrier to carrier as they please. There is a catch, though! Your phone needs to be compatible with the network (more on that in the cons section).

How about two networks?!

Huawei Mate 20

Dual-SIM unlocked phones make it possible to use two networks at once. Say you want to use a carrier for calls/texts and another for data. Maybe you travel often and want to have a SIM card from another country. You can do it with a dual-SIM unlocked phone

Not all unlocked phones offer dual-SIM capabilities, but this is a feature you certainly won’t be seeing in locked devices.

No monthly payments

Carriers offer phones on monthly payments, which is very convenient, but makes your bills pricier. Device payments keep you in debt with the carrier and make it harder to leave the network if you ever chose to. It’s always nice to be debt-free and keep your monthly expenses as low as possible.

You can save money!

Make Money Online Wallet

Carriers are businesses and obviously want to earn as much money as possible. Their smartphone prices are not always fair, and they are only ever cheaper if they can hook you into staying with them for a longer period of time. Let’s take the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus as an example.

Carriers will get discount money back from you eventually, and then some.

Edgar Cervantes

As of the time of writing this article, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus costs $ 1,099.99 on Verizon. Meanwhile, you can get the same phone unlocked at Amazon for $ 1,049.99. It’s only $ 50, but that’s your $ 50, and the price difference can often be much more significant. You could save even more if you don’t mind buying a used unlocked phone!

Buying unlocked and outright commonly gets you better prices. Carriers often have deals that drive down their device prices, but they always want you to get these on device payments, or to take on a contract. This only means they will get the money back from you eventually, and then some.

Unlocked phones help avoid over-spending

Samsung Galaxy Fold home screen in hand

See the device above? It’s a Samsung Galaxy Fold and it costs a whopping $ 1980. Any sane (non-rich) person would think twice or three times before forking out nearly two grand for a phone. But $ 66 a month? Many of us can swallow that!

Buying unlocked will not only get you lower prices on devices, it will also help you avoid overspending when not considering the full cost of a phone. These carrier device payments make it easy for us to go buying expensive smartphones we wouldn’t necessarily buy at full price.

Device payment plans make people think it’s ok to spend over $ 1,000 on a super-phone to… check their emails and use social media.

Edgar Cervantes

Very few people take full advantage of what high-end phones have to offer, but you see people using them every day. Device payment plans make people think it’s ok to spend over $ 1,000 on a super-phone to… check their emails and use social media. Maybe if we had to pay our devices outright we would think twice about getting the latest and greatest smartphone the industry has to offer! After all, most people would do just fine without a high-end handset.

Not limited to carrier selection

ATT logo stock image 1

Carriers have a limited selection of devices. They all tend to have the most popular phones, but there are many options out there you might prefer. When buying unlocked you can choose from a plethora of manufacturers all across the world, and there are many amazing phones that have limited or no availability from US carriers. These include the Asus ROG Phone 2, the Huawei P30 Pro, the OnePlus 7T series, and many others.

When buying an unlocked phone you can chose from a plethora of manufacturers all across the world

Edgar Cervantes

No carrier bloatware

American carriers love throwing unnecessary apps on our phones. While some manufacturers are guilty of this too, we don’t need carriers pre-installing even more apps in our smartphones. Most of these are useless and sometimes they can’t be uninstalled.

Most carrier apps are useless and sometimes they can’t be uninstalled.

Edgar Cervantes

Unlocked phones get quicker updates

Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus Update

Carriers update their own phones. This means your software needs to go through an extra filter before reaching your device. The process goes something like this: Google releases its software updates, the manufacturer optimizes it for its phones and hands it to the carrier, the carrier optimizes it for its phones and network, and then it gets to your device. All these steps could take weeks or months, and that’s if it happens. Unlocked phones skip the last step and get software updates from the manufacturer.

Unlocked phone disadvantages

Unlocked phones get no support from carriers

A T-Mobile employee wearing a black t-shirt with the T-Mobile logo.

This is easily the biggest disadvantage of going with an unlocked phone. Carriers will let you use unlocked phones, but they won’t offer support if anything goes wrong. You will be on your own when your phone starts failing, the network has issues, or you have any technical difficulties. The manufacturer has its support team, but their knowledge is limited to their own products, not carrier network technology.

Does your unlocked phone even work with your carrier?

Sprint logo stock image 2

We have already established unlocked phone owners need to be more tech-savvy, but it’s for more reasons than support. You need to figure out if your unlocked phone will work with your desired network(s). This can be confusing, as it requires you knowing which radio bands are used by carriers. It’s also imperative that you understand the differences between CDMA and GSM network technologies.

Buying an unlocked phone requires a lot of research! On the other hand, carriers will only sell you phones that work perfectly in their networks.

Carrier warranties and insurances are better

Every new phone gets a warranty from the manufacturer, but we all know how painful the process of claiming it can be. You gotta call customer service, spend hours with them, ship the device, get it fixed or replaced, then they send it back. Dealing with your carrier is much simpler. Most times you can simply show up to your local retail location and get things taken care of. At the very least they can help you through the claim process.

Carriers also offer insurance through selected partners and these can be pretty good deals. You can cover your phone against malfunctions, drops, spills, theft, and even loss. This offers peace of mind many customers like. Unlocked phones can only be insured by third parties and those prices aren’t always as friendly.

Unlocked phones need to be paid in full

Unlocked phones need to be paid in full, unless you are using a credit card. The point is you need to cover the cost of the phone right away, and we all know these gadgets can be expensive. It doesn’t feel good to see your account suddenly drop by over $ 1,000 because of a high-end smartphone. Sometimes even affordable phone prices can hurt.

A monthly payment is easier to swallow than forking out a hundreds or thousands of dollars on a phone.

Edgar Cervantes

Carriers offer devices on monthly payments with 0% interest. Monthly payments are easier to swallow than forking out hundreds or thousands of dollars on a phone in one go.

Carriers have some sweet deals at times

Verizon Wireless logo stock image 8

In the unlocked phone advantages list we mentioned you tend to pay more for carrier devices. We have seen carriers also offer some very sweet deals, though. There is a catch, as the deal will lock you to the carrier and usually requires signing up for certain plans. If you already want to be on that carrier and like their higher-end plans, though, your commitment to them can help you save cash.

Carriers are known to reduce smartphone prices and offer those discounts in the form of monthly credit to your bill. Sometimes they also have BOGO (buy one get one) deals, which means you end up saving 50% if you get two phones.

Carriers have exclusive phones

Moto Razr foldable folded sitting in box speaker

Exclusivity deals are not as common as they used to, but they happen. For example, Verizon has locked a lifetime exclusivity deal for the new foldable Moto Razr. They also are the only American carrier to offer the Palm Phone. This means that you will have to be on Verizon to get these phones in the USA. Importing is an option, but that also brings more complications and hassles.

Other carriers have similar exclusivity deals, but most times they are only exclusive for a limited time. AT&T had the Razer Phone 2, Sprint had the Essential Phone, T-Mobile had the OnePlus 6T, and so on.

Where can I buy unlocked phones?

So you now know what an unlocked phone is and are considering going that route. Now what? The most popular way to buy unlocked phones is online. Popular websites for purchasing unlocked phones Amazon, eBay, and Swappa. Going to a manufacturer’s online store is usually an option too. You can also find them in certain retail stores like Best Buy, Walmart, etc., but their selection isn’t commonly as wide.

If you are interested, we have created a list of the best unlocked phones, which tells you where you can buy them. Hit the link below to see which unlocked phone is best for your needs and budget.

Now that you know all there is to know about unlocked phones, what will you do? Hit the comments and let us know if your next phone will be locked or unlocked.

Android Authority

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Deal: Unlocked LG Google Nexus 5X going for $280



Right now,  LG Nexus 5X 16GB (Factory GSM Unlocked) 4G LTE Android Smartphones are going for $ 279.99 from Yapper Wireless on eBay. This is $ 20 cheaper than what Best Buy and Amazon are currently offering and nearly $ 100 less than the device’s launch price.

The Nexus 5X is the affordable followup to the Nexus 5, which was possibly the most popular Nexus smartphone ever made. Its design is pretty similar to its predecessor, but some more luxurious elements have been stripped away to bring as much hardware as possible while still being easy on your wallet. With 2GB of RAM, 16 GB of internal storage, and Android 6.0 Marshmallow right out of the box, it’s hard to beat the bang-for-buck that you receive with this device.

The battery life can be a little lackluster, and the plastic casing and light weight means it doesn’t quite have that “premium” feel that we’ve come to expect from devices made from glass and metal, but still the 5X scored well in our initial review, netting a score of 8.6 overall. For a more comprehensive look at the Nexus 5X, be sure to check out our official reviews below.


If you’re in the market for a mid-to-high end device that won’t break your bank, click the button below to head on over to eBay. In the meantime, let us know what you think of this deal in the comments. If you’re a Nexus 5X owner, tell us what your experience with the device has been like so far so that others can make a more informed purchase!

Get it from eBay!
blu-life-one-x-vs-moto-g (1)Next: Best cheap Android phones (January 2016)328

Android Authority

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Deal: Unlocked 16GB Sony Xperia M4 Aqua only $200 from Amazon

Screen Shot 2015-11-04 at 10.53.33 AM

Announced back in March 2014, Sony’s Xperia M4 Aqua was thrown into the competitive mid-range smartphone market with a big price point at $ 350 unlocked. It’s not a particularly bad phone, it’s just never been worth the premium price point the company was asking for it. If you’ve been eyeing this device and have been waiting for the price to come down a bit, now’s your chance. Amazon is currently selling it for the lowest price we’ve ever seen.

Right now, you can purchase the 16GB unlocked Sony Xperia M4 Aqua in Black for just $ 199.99. This is $ 150 off the phone’s price at launch, and roughly $ 100 off what the device is normally sold for. The only real caveat here is that it’s only compatible with GSM networks, so you’ll need to be on AT&T or T-Mobile (or other GSM MVNOs) to use it.

maxresdefault m4 aquaSee also: Best Sony Xperia M4 Aqua Cases

As a refresher, the Xperia M4 Aqua comes with a 5.0-inch 720p IPS LCD display, an octa-core Snapdragon 615 processor, 2GB of RAM and microSD expansion up to 128GB. It also has a really nice 13MP rear camera and 5MP front camera. The 2400mAh battery isn’t the most long-lasting cell we’ve ever used, though we’d say it’s comparable to other devices at this price point. It’s also IP68 certified for dust and water resistance. If you’d like to learn more about the M4 Aqua, be sure to check out our full review.

The Xperia M4 Aqua isn’t worth the money at $ 350, but it certainly is at $ 200. No, it’s not the most powerful mid-range device on the market, but you certainly could do worse for the price. If you’re interested, be sure to head to the Amazon link below to grab one before they’re all gone.

Android Authority

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Deal: unlocked Samsung Galaxy S6 only $499.99 on eBay!

samsung galaxy s6 review aa (4 of 45)

The Samsung Galaxy S6 is definitely one of the best smartphones around, but it’s by no means cheap. In fact, it happens to be one of the most expensive phones in the market, making it seem like that super thin profile is a knife cutting right through your pocket. Thankfully, here at Android Authority we are always on the lookout for great deals to share with you. Today might be your lucky day, because eBay’s latest offer is hot!

The Samsung Galaxy S6 is currently being sold for only $ 499.99 on eBay. This is a pretty awesome deal considering the device is new to the market and usually goes for $ 600 at the lowest. Essentially, you get a $ 100 discount, but that is not the only treat buyers would get.

samsung galaxy s6 review aa (3 of 45)

This phone is unlocked and new. Not refurbished or used… completely new. To make matters even better, the eBay seller is allowing you to choose between a bevy of available colors, including black, white, gold and blue. Oh, and shipping is completely free in the USA.

I would seriously jump all over this deal if I was looking to get an off-contract, unlocked, high-end smartphone. My only gripe with the Samsung Galaxy S6 is its ridiculous battery life, but if you can get past that issue it’s one hell of a phone. It has top-notch specs, an insanely good camera and the build quality we have been begging Samsung for.

samsung galaxy s6 review aa (5 of 45)

You can go ahead and read our Samsung Galaxy S6 review to see what this phone is all about. You can’t really beat this price! Have a blast purchasing it and hit the comments to let us know if you are signing up for this deal. Is it what you were looking for?

Android Authority

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Amazon USA now carrying the unlocked Sony Xperia Z3+


The Sony Xperia Z3+ (or Z4, as it’s known in Japan) has been the subject of much attention for a few weeks now, as many felt the device to be anything but the handset they were expecting. While the global roll-out formally began last week, customers in the USA looking for the device are limited to the Verizon variant which, admittedly, has more than a few improvements. Those Americans looking for the standard Z3+ can now do so at Amazon, where a few individual sellers are now listing the unlocked device, both Single and Dual SIM variants, for around $ 670.

It should be noted that as orders for this item are not fulfilled by Amazon, the device may (or may not) ship from within the USA, and returns are handled by the seller as opposed to Amazon. Those interested should make sure to read about buying from marketplace sellers as well as ask any relevant questions before purchasing. The model number is listed as E6553, and works with GSM carriers only, so Verizon and Sprint customers will need to look elsewhere.

Sony Xperia Z4v 2

Those seeking to buy a carrier-subsidized Z3+ must seek out the Verizon Sony Xperia Z4v.

The Amazon product description lists the following specifications:

  • 5.2-inch 1080p FHD (1920×1080), IPS display sRGB 130% TRILUMINOS 700cd brightness X-Reality for Mobile
  • Quad-core 1.5 GHz & Quad-core 2 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 64-bit CPU; Adreno 430
  • 32 GB Internal Storage, 3 GB RAM, supports microSD up to 128GB
  • Camera (Main): 1/2.3″ 20.7 MP Exmor RS, ISO12800 Photo/ 3200 Video, 4K video capture and output Steadyshot with Intelligent active mode; Front: 5 MP, Exmor R, 22 mm wide angle, Steadyshot with Intelligent active mode
  • Nano-SIM, works with GSM carriers (AT&T, T-Mobile etc.), 4G works in US

The Japanese model has already seen notifications about heat problems with the device due to the inclusion of the Snapdragon 810. Sony itself made a public statement about the issue, and supposedly it has already begun to update the Z3+ to address the potential problem. Still, the Xperia Z3+ is a solid, premium phone with an absolutely fantastic camera and is well-worth considering if you’re in the market for a new device.


Android Authority

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