In the US and many of the European countries, the majority of the cell phones that are sold are locked; they are being sold with a contract that guarantees that the phone will only work with a specific provider; unlocked cell phone, which can be purchased from third party retailers or online stores works with any service provider, as long as it supports the technology used by that provider.
Owning unlocked cell phone has many advantages, but quite a few disadvantages as well – there is a significant price difference between the locked and unlocked phones and in the most cases the latter are a few hundred dollars more expensive. If you travel frequently oversees, then you would most certainly want to purchase unlocked cell phone – instead of making phone calls via roaming, which can be pricey, you can simply purchase a prepaid SIM card from the country that you are visiting and pay less for your local calls.
If you want to be able to switch easily from one provider to another, you can purchase your unlocked cell phone from numerous web sites as well; online you can find most models and makes unlocked and in many cases at a very reasonable price. Another way to get yourself an unlocked cell phone is to ask your provider for the code that unlocks it; in the US some providers will give you the code only after the end of your contract with them, while others will send it to you as long as you have been with them for more than 90 days and you don’t have any outstanding bills. However, the carriers aren’t required by law to send you the code. Unlocking a phone can also be done with the help of software that is either sold or can be downloaded for free, but this might be illegal or disable many of your cell phone’s features.
You cannot find every make or model as an unlocked cell phone though: certain cell phone and smartphone manufacturers have signed exclusive deals with some of the big carriers, allowing their products to be sold only locked.
In conclusion, we would like to point out that buying unlocked cell phone will definitely cost you more since you will have to pay the full retail price; in addition the unlocked cell phone might not support all the features, offered by your service provider, in most cases GPS services, 3G networking, sending picture or video messages, etc.; convincing your services provider to install their software on your phone might not be an easy task. However, owning an unlocked cell phone will give you the freedom to switch easily from one provider to another and possibly reduce your monthly bills since you can always go to the provider that charges less. Unlocked cell phone can also come with dual SIM card adaptor, which will let you switch between providers with the touch of a button, without having to physically replace the SIM cards inside the handset.