Buy an Unlocked Phone & Save Over a $1,000

Buy an Unlocked Phone & Save Over a $1,000

Yes, we know the title is a bit bold, but after doing some research along with a little math we came to this conclusion. Scroll down for our top 3 reasons why you should not buy a locked cell phone. Love locked handsets and disagree? Let us know in the comments!

While the United States may be the "land of the free and the home of the brave," in some areas, the motto seems to have skipped the mobile phone market. When it comes to how we buy cell phones we lag behind other developed nations in a huge way. Take for example, the iPhone. In Apple Stores across the world, UK, Australia, and Canada, to name a few, the phones are sold unlocked. This means you can go in and throw down full price and walk out with an iPhone. You don't need to sign the next two years of your life away to AT&T, but can choose the type of commitment you want to make with a carrier.

Do you get the handset at a reduced cost should you commit to certain carriers? Sure, but you at least have the choice to buy without committing. While you can find a few handsets straight from manufacturer's that don't require a carrier contract to buy, most phones, especially most wanted models, are tied to one and only one carrier that you can't own without signing on the dotted line. Here are our top 3 reasons why you might want to pick up your new iPhone 4 the next time you travel to Canada or Europe:

  • Price Today vs Long Term Cost:After doing some currency conversions while at the UK Apple Store, we were at first blown away by how expensive it was. We have been so used to seeing the subsidized price from AT&T that we had forgotten just how much the phone actually costs. However, once we compared monthly savings if we switched to another GSM carrier, we discovered we would pocket over $1000 over the course of the 24 month AT&T contract, which more than makes up for the difference in cost in the handsets. The savings became even more significant when we compared the larger unlimited minute and family plan offerings.
  • Coverage: In our apartment one carrier has much stronger service than the other and because we have no landline, choosing the right carrier is crucial. When you have an unlocked phone, you can choose the carrier that best fits your needs, and should they change you can take your handset with you to your new carrier. The investment you have made is with the handset and not with your carrier, so if their service is not up to snuff, switch!
  • Traveling: We travel frequently and we have to say there is nothing easier than switching out sim cards. Long distance and roaming fees are no fun, which is why we love being able to remove our American sim and plug in a local card to kiss those fees goodbye.

If you are in the market for a new mobile handset, here are a few things to keep in mind while shopping:

  • Legitimate Unlocks Matter: Since unlocked phones are such a great idea, why not just unlock the phone yourself? In the case of the iPhone, doing so pretty much nixes your warranty. While the iPhone does have an international warranty, you can have your iPhone that you purchased in Canada serviced in the UK (exceptions being Chinese and Egyptian iPhones) this warranty does not cover jailbreaking or unlocking the phone yourself. Can the Apple Store tell if your phone was unlocked by Apple/carrier or a jailbreak? Yes, once the phone is plugged in at the Genius Bar, the technician can tell if the unlock was legitimate. If the issue you have with your iPhone could be considered caused as a result of your jailbreaking, good luck getting Apple to repair that.

  • Just Say No to eBay: Avoid buying your unlocked phone on eBay or from anyone but the manufacturer or the carrier due to differences in international handsets and the importance of a legitimate unlock. Sure, the seller might say that the phone is a British or Canadian handset, but there is no guarantee that it is not from Egypt or China. For example, Egyptian iPhones do not have GPS and Chinese iPhones lack wifi. Is saving a few hundred dollars worth purchasing a phone that does not have all the features it purports to or a warranty in the country you live in? That is a call only you can make, but for this writer, the risk is nowhere near worth it.

    Is this the right choice for you? Ultimately that is a decision that you will need to make, for us it was a no brainer. Will we miss visual voicemail? Yes, but we are very money conscious and cannot justify the additional cost we are paying each month for sub-par service, even though it includes voicemail that we know and love. We hope that the United States will soon join the mobile freedom ranks, but until then we will continue our practice of buying phones while out of the country.

    For more posts on saving money on tech and home office bargains, check these out:

    (Image: Flickr user Ninja M. under license from Creative Commons.)

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