| | Industry

Are unlocked phones expensive? Are they reliable? Will I get arrested if I try to buy one?

So, you’re thinking about buying an unlocked smartphone. And you have no idea where to start. We can sympathize. We’ve been there, too.

You probably have a lot of questions about unlocked phones. That’s perfect! We love answering questions, especially questions from friendly, good-looking people like you. So ask away!

unlocked smartphones questions

What’d you like to know about unlocked phones, old chap?

classy dude by Jón Sigurðsson
licensed under CC BY 2.0

Um, OK…what does “unlocked” mean, exactly?

“Unlocked” means that your phone can be used on many different carriers.

Here’s how it works:

  1. You buy an unlocked phone. Wow! The phone is shiny and beautiful. You love your new phone!
  2. Later that day, you sign up for a plan with Carrier A.
  3. Oops! It turns out that Carrier A has terrible coverage. Their customer service is bad, too. You hate Carrier A.
  4. Your cousin tells you great things about Carrier B. Your boss mentions an employee discount if you sign up with Carrier C. You watch a funny commercial about Carrier D.
  5. You switch to Carrier B,C, or D. You don’t pay an early termination fee (ETF) to Carrier A.
  6. You save money-symbolmoney-symbolmoney-symbol.
  7. Cool! So unlocked phones can be used with any carrier?

    Nope. Just GSM carriers.

    Huh? Who are GSM carriers?

    In the US, the biggest GSM carriers are AT&T and T-Mobile. There are lots of smaller ones. Most international carriers are GSM, too.

    And the opposite of GSM is ____?

    Don’t worry about it for now. We’ll get to that later.

    GSM vs CDMA

    Fine. How do I switch between GSM carriers?

    Just remove the back cover of your phone, and pull out the old SIM card. Then insert a new one. It’s easy! Anyone with thumbs can do it!

    Hold on — I like my current carrier. Why would I ever need to switch SIMs?

    Imagine that you’re on vacation in London.

    You’re walking around the city, you get lost, you check Google Maps. Then you call an Uber to take you back to your hotel. All that exploring made you hungry, so you ask the concierge to recommend a good restaurant. He tells you that there’s a famous one nearby, but you’ll need a reservation. So you give them a ring. The meal is amazing — maybe the best one you’ve ever had. You totally Instagram it.

    Then you return to the US and find out you have a $2,500 phone bill.

    Which could’ve been avoided if you’d just swapped out your SIM for a local one.

    cost for an unlocked smartphone

    Hey there, high roller!

    Money Roll – $100 Dollar Bills by 401(K) 2012
    licensed under CC BY 2.0

    And you can do that with an unlocked phone?

    Of course! That’s the point of an unlocked phone — it saves you fistfuls of money!

    Aren’t unlocked phones illegal, though?

    According to the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act passed by Congress in 2015, they’re legal as applehood and mother pies. God bless America!

    Legal and inexpensive is nice, but are they reliable?

    Very reliable. Especially factory unlocked smartphones, which go directly from the assembly line into your pocket. Since these phones are never tied to carriers, they’re free of bloatware — unwanted apps that waste memory, drain battery life, and harvest personal data.

    Wow! Unlocked smartphones sound great! Where can I buy one?

    Unlocked smartphones are easy to find. Many big box retailers like Best Buy, Target, and Walmart offer extensive selections. So do regional retailers like Meijer Stores, BrandsMart USA, and Curacao. Smaller, independent phone stores often carry them, too.

    And of course there’s always the Internet.

    Hey! You’re on the Internet right now!

    I am! While I’m here, any recommendations for which brand to choose?

    We’re glad you asked! Nuu Mobile is great if you’re looking for a factory unlocked Android smartphone. NUU Mobile phones have nifty cameras, lots of memory, and 2-year warranties. They’re perfect for young folks with their skateboards and rap music, or people who haven’t swallowed the Apple/Samsung Kool-Aid, or anyone looking for a solid phone at a ridiculously low price.

    Are we biased because we work for NUU Mobile? Probably, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re wrong.

    NUU Mobile’s sexy, sexy unlocked Android smartphones start at $99. Perfect for every budget and lifestyle — check them out at www.us.nuumobile.com