Pros and Cons of Buying Locked Versus Unlocked Phones

A few years ago, almost everybody got a locked phone from their phone company. These days, unlocked phones have grown increasingly popular. This article explains the difference between unlocked and locked phones.

What Are Locked Versus Unlocked Phones?

  • Locked phones: People generally enter into a contract to obtain a phone and phone service from the same company that provides service for their line. In turn, the providers lock the phones with software, so customers can't use the device with any other carrier.
  • Unlocked phones: With unlocked phones, customers can buy the device anywhere and use it with any phone company. The carrier will provide a SIM card that enables service on the line and won't lock the customer into a contract.
According to PC Magazine, unlocked phone sales have grown increasingly common in the last few years. However, the choice between locked vs. unlocked smartphones really depends upon individual preferences.

Are Locked or Unlocked Phones Better?

Here’s a look into the pros and cons of unlocked versus locked phones.

Locked Phones Pros and Cons

Traditionally, most people bought locked phones from their phone carriers, like AT&T and T-Mobile. Carriers often offer discounts and promotions to attract and retain business. Some customers also found it simpler to manage their phones, lines, and bills with the same company. Additionally, phone carriers usually offer payment plans that may make it easier for some people to afford more expensive devices or trade-in phones more often.

Unlocked Phones Pros and Cons

In contrast, unlocked phones let consumers enjoy more freedom to switch phone companies, compare prices, and choose phones that their phone company may not offer. Having to pay for the phone upfront might be the biggest disadvantage of an unlocked phone. Also, the phone company won't provide any helpful service for the phone.

Which Phone Users Generally Prefer Unlocked Phones More?

Younger adults tend to prefer unlocked phones more than older adults. As an example, Statistica reported that members of Gen Z were more likely to unlock phones than Millennials. Both of these younger generations were over twice as likely to purchase unlocked phones than Baby Boomers.
Additionally, those who travel internationally may find it important to swap SIM cards between countries. In other cases, phone owners may want to leave their options open in case they find a better deal on phone service or feel dissatisfied with their carrier's services.
Finally, lots of people buy high-quality phones and resell them when they want to upgrade. Obviously, they need an unlocked phone for resale. On the other hand, some carriers may agree to unlock the phone after the customer satisfies the contract.

Do Unlocked and Locked Phones Need Warranty Protection?

With an unlocked phone, customers can't rely upon their phone company for service. Instead, they will have a limited warranty included with the purchase. However, these limited warranties mostly guarantee the phone will arrive free of defects and typically only last for one year. For problems that show up later, wear, and accidental damage, the customer must pay to repair or replace their unlocked phone.
A locked phone generally also includes a warranty to ensure a defect-free phone. This might include replacing or repairing a defective phone and offering debugging help by phone or online. Of course, phone carriers may try to upsell an extended warranty plan. When they need to use this plan to make a claim, many customers are surprised to find that the protection plan comes from a third-party warranty company.

What's the Best Extended Warranty for Phones?

Even mid-priced phones cost a few hundred dollars, and lots of popular models cost over $1,000. Common sources of phone issues that need professional repairs include water damage, cracked or malfunctioning screens, and connectivity issues.
Meanwhile, Upsie subscription phone warranties will help to repair damage from accidents, defects and early wear. Even more, Upsie has customer claims reps on the line 24-7 to help process your claim and get your phone repaired as quickly as possible. Most of all, Upsie costs just $9.99 per month.

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* This article is over 6 months old and may or may not be updated.