What are Unlocked Cell Phones

By: Richard Russell

Some cell phones are designed to use a Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) card, or Memory Chip that stores subscriber data. The SIM card is issued by a carrier and provides cell service by activating any phone into which it is placed into. A locked phone, however, will only recognize a SIM card from a particular carrier. If the cell phone is unlocked, it will recognize a SIM card from any carrier. The "lock" is a software setting that keeps the cell phone "locked" to one carrier.

In areas like the U.S.A. where carriers offer free or discounted phones with cell plans, the phones are commonly locked so that they will not work with other carriers. Carriers claim this is necessary to cover the cost of the phones but I do not believe this is the case since you have to sign a contact in order to receive a free or discounted cell phone from carriers in the first place.

From the viewpoint of the customer, carriers locking phones and using proprietary settings defeats many of the benefits of handsets that use SIM cards. Ideally phones should be left unlocked or at least unlocked after the initial contract expires.

One way to get an unlocked phone without proprietary settings is to buy it new from a vendor in its original, unlocked state. The upside is that the price is commonly close to 60% of retail. Some consumers might find it easy to do this because they can upgrade whenever they like. The other advantage is that the third party unlocked phones work equally well with any carrier that uses SIM cards for their service.

Unlocked cell phones are in such high demand that third party companies will unlock your cell phone for a price. This does not mean the phone will always work normally, as proprietary you carriers settings might remain. There are also instructions on hacking to unlock many brands of phones, but a phone that is hacked or improperly unlocked can be rendered unusable.

Carriers that use SIM cards and are on GSM networks include: Cingular Wireless, AT&T Wireless, and T-Mobile.

I personally believe that a carrier makes enough profit off of service, and they should give you your choice of a free phone when signing a new contract. Unfortunately this is not the case. Most Cell Phone service providers offer you a Low level free phone and small discounts on the Premium Phones. I have found that buying unlocked phones is money saving idea. I myself own a third party unlocked phone that works flawless with Cingular. I paid $75 less than they were asking for it with a new 2 year contract.

Cell Phones
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 

» More on Cell Phones
 



Share this article :
Click to see more related articles