There are so many cell phone networks and mobile carriers competing for customers nowadays. That’s why sales promotions abound where you can get cell phones for large discounts, or even for free. This is a great savings opportunity for many of us consumers, but there may be a slight downside to this. Here’s why:
Most cell phones need to be activated by a SIM (Subscriber Identification Module) card, which is a microchip that contains data such as the number where you can be reached, and your address book information (unless you program your phone so that this information be stored in the phone itself).
If you take advantage of the sales promotion of a particular cell phone network, and you get their highly-discounted cell phone offer, you would find that you’d have to agree to their terms on how long you’d have to stay subscribed to them. To ensure that you’d be using the cell phone only for that particular network, that cell phone’s SIM card will have been locked by the company so that it could only work with their particular carrier.
In simplest terms, that’s basically what a locked cell phone is: it works only with a specific carrier. There’s no problem with this, especially if you’re satisfied with the network’s service and you do intend to stay subscribed to them for a long period of time.
In some cases, however, a locked cell phone can spell inconveniences for consumers. For example, a person who constantly travels abroad and need to use a new SIM card for local communication within that country would find his cell phone utterly useless. Another example is a person who do not wish to renew his contract with the mobile carrier because he is not satisfied with its service. In that case, he will find that he has a useless mobile phone that will just add clutter to his home.
If you find that you are in a situation when you want to use your locked cell phone but for a different mobile carrier, be encouraged by the fact that it’s easy enough to unlock your cell phone (plus it’s perfectly legal, at least in many countries, including the United States). Just bring your cell phone to an authorized cell phone specialist and have it unlocked. Once it’s unlocked, you could activate it by buying a new SIM card.
However, there are some carriers, such as Sprint Nextel and Verizon Wireless in the US, who use Code Division Multiple Access technology, and it’s going to be impossible to unlock your phone in this case. You’d have no choice but to buy a new phone altogether if you want to change carriers.
If you don’t want to stay committed to just one carrier for over a long period of time, the best thing for you to do is to buy cell phones from the actual brand stores, such as Sony Ericsson or Nokia. The downside here is that you should expect to pay higher rates this way. To illustrate, Cingular offers a specific Samsung phone for $99 to customers who would agree to a two-year contract with them. If you buy it unlocked and from the store, however, expect to pay around $328 for this same phone, and this is just the lowest price for it.
That’s why when making a decision to buy a new phone, you should really measure whether it’s worth paying high prices so that you won’t have to commit to a network that you’re not sure you could stay with for a long time. Good luck, and hope this article helped you out!