When people want to buy a mobile phone in the United States they usually turn to their provider’s store and choose from the options available. But these telephones are usually locked. Locked phones are tied to a certain services provider, and they only work with this specific carrier. This means that if you want to change your wireless provider, you have to change your telephone too, and take whatever this other carrier is offering.
When you buy a smartphone with one of the major wireless providers in the United States, they often tie you up with an average 2-year contract. And not only this, they usually make you sign up for one of their most expensive plans. On return, they offer smartphones at relatively affordable prices compared to what they cost unlocked. But this is so only because they subsidize the phones so that you pay the amount over the 2 years of your contract.
What’s the alternative? Unlocked phones. At first sight, they may seem more expensive, but just do the math: add to the price of a phone offered by a wireless company the monthly fee you have to pay during the 2-year contract. Then do the same with the price of an unlocked phone and the equivalent of two years of the monthly fee of the plan you would choose if you were not tied to a given company. Also, they have other benefits if you travel abroad. With an unlocked phone, you can simply buy a SIM card and use a local carrier, which will avoid you the usually high roaming fees charged by most mobile services providers in the US. It is usually worth it.
Where to buy unlocked phones in the USA?
If you want an unlocked phone, there are two options: either buy one, or unlock a locked device. Some smartphones can be unlocked, but they require a code and a series of steps. However, only subscribers of GSM carriers (AT&T, T-Mobile) can unlock their phones, because they carry subscriber and network information on SIM cards. Devices subscribing to ther technologies, such as CDMA, keep that information in memory, making it impossible to unlock the device without an alteration to their hardware (Verizon Wireless, Sprint).
Another option is to buy the device already unlocked. This can be a good choice too, since there are many smartphone models that are not on sale with any mobile operator, or difficult to find in the US. Take for instance some of the Nokia‘s high-end N-series or Walkman phones, or LG‘s Prada. Nokia, for instance, has opened stores in Chicago and New York to sell their own unlocked phones, attached to no carrier. Another option are online stores, from general retailers such as Amazon or Buy.com to specialty merchants, like PureMobile or CellHut.