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Mobile Phones
Wireless Communication

What is an unlocked phone?


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Wiki User
January 17, 2009 10:42AM

A phone which can be 'unlocked' to go on another network for example if you're on 02 and want to go on Virgin you will have to get your phone unlocked to be able to move to Virgin.

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July 12, 2010 3:53PM

The concept behind an unlocked cell phone is quite simple, but still, it is not uncommon for people to be confused. If you understand what a locked cell phone is, it will be easier to understand the concept of an un-locked cell phone. When you sign up for a plan with a cell phone provider, they usually offer a free or low cost phone along with it. This phone is said to be locked into the carrier’s plan. This means that the phone will only work with a specific type of Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) card. As a result, you will have to activate a locked phone within a specific network. If you want to change cell phone providers, you will need to get a new phone.

If your phone is unlocked, it can work with any provider’s SIM card. When you change cell phone providers, all you have to do is change the SIM card. It is a very smooth transition.

It is obvious to see why cell phone providers choose to lock their phones. This way, their customers are less likely to go to a competitor because they would also have to get a new phone. In contrast, an unlocked phone can be used for as long as the customer wants – even if they change carriers as often as three times in a year. Unfortunately, you will not be able to get an unlocked phone for free with a plan: the cell phone provider simply has too much to lose. Because of this, an unlocked phone will be more of an upfront expense. However, keep in mind that it can save you money over time. If you are the type of person who is happy with a basic, functional phone, you will save money by keeping the same unlocked phone for years.

At this point, locked phones are much more popular in the US than unlocked phones. However, this is not the case in other parts of the world. In much of the world, cell phone users enjoy the freedom of using an unlocked phone without any carrier restrictions. Fortunately, the US is catching up. Unlocked phones are becoming more popular, and as they do, the prices will begin to drop.