Unlike most smartphones, unlocked phones aren’t enslaved to a specific carrier such as AT&T or Verizon. They’ll work on any network within the CSM cellular family via a SIM card.
In the US, only H2O, T-Mobile, and AT&T employ GSM networks. Other carriers opt for CDMA signals.
In other words, if you want an unlocked phone, your only options are those previously tied to the three GSM networks in the US. However, that still gives savvy shoppers plenty of options.
It’s legal to purchase unlocked phones with no contract or carrier plan attached, and it can save you a lot of money. You also need to buy a separate SIM card from either a carrier or prepaid company of your choosing in order to activate it.
In many cases, reputable companies that sell unlocked phones also offer SIM cards at a great price. Opt for a month-to-month service to avoid contracts, and rest easy knowing you can pick up a new SIM card anywhere in the world.
Benefits of unlocked phones
There’s no other option for international travelers who want to keep out-of-country costs to a minimum. If you plan to make calls in the country you’re visiting, you need to sidestep those disturbing roaming fees.
With a local SIM card, you get a local number and can use your phone as if you lived in France, Greece, or wherever else you’re visiting. For multi-nation hoppers, an international SIM card offers much lower rates than roaming charges.
However, if you want to call “back home” while abroad, you can simply travel with your US number and make calls as if you were in the US. Calls and texts will cost a little more, but there’s no need to keep changing your number for those who want to call you.
Carrying multiple SIM cards is a boon if you frequent the same international territories. When you have a US and destination country SIM card connected to the same phone, you can take calls via your US number while also receiving calls locally for the best rates.
Better selection and rates
Usually, even after you add in the SIM card, unlocked phones are less expensive. The total phone price becomes subsidized via monthly fees when you’re in a contract.
The initial price might seem like more, but not if you factor in the monthly rate of committing to a contract. Plus, you can always opt for cheaper data or voice plans to save even more. Crunch those numbers and see just how much you could save.
Finally, you’re going to have a wider selection if you go the unlocked route. Carriers have to pick which phones they offer, but that’s not the case with unlocked phones. You can go Apple, Nokia, Samsung, or anything else.