A network locked phone is a phone that can only connect to a specific carrier’s network. It is a common practice for carriers to sell phones with a SIM lock or network lock, which prevents users from switching to another carrier without unlocking the phone first. This can be advantageous for some users who want to get a new phone at a lower price, but it also has some drawbacks that should be considered before buying a network locked phone.
In this article, we will explore the pros and cons of buying a network locked phone, and help you decide whether it is worth it or not.
Pros of Buying a Network Locked Phone
Some of the benefits of buying a network locked phone are:
1. Lower Price
You can get a new phone at a subsidized price or even for free, depending on the contract you sign with the carrier. This can save you money upfront and allow you to enjoy the latest features and technologies of a new phone[^1^]. For example, you can get an iPhone 12 for $0 down and $33.33 per month for 30 months with AT&T, while an unlocked iPhone 12 costs $799.
2. Exclusive Deals and Services
You can benefit from the carrier’s exclusive deals, discounts, promotions, and services that are only available to their customers. For example, some carriers may offer free streaming, cloud storage, insurance, or loyalty rewards to their subscribers. For instance, Verizon offers Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ for free to its unlimited plan customers.
3. Compatibility and Roaming
You can avoid compatibility issues and roaming charges when traveling within the carrier’s network coverage area. You don’t have to worry about finding a compatible SIM card or paying extra fees for using your phone abroad. For example, T-Mobile offers unlimited data and texting in over 210 countries and destinations at no extra cost to its customers.
4. Faster Updates
One of the advantages of buying a network locked phone is that you may receive faster updates for your device. This is because carriers often test and approve updates before they are rolled out to their customers. This can ensure that the updates are compatible and stable with your phone and network. For example, Verizon claims that it delivers updates faster than unlocked phones.
5. Better Security
Another benefit of buying a network locked phone is that you may enjoy better security for your device. This is because carriers often add their own security features and enhancements to their phones, such as anti-theft, anti-virus, or parental controls. These features can help protect your phone from malware, hackers, or unauthorized access. For example, AT&T offers its customers a free app called AT&T Mobile Security that provides security alerts, safe browsing, and identity monitoring.
6. Easier Activation
One of the advantages of buying a network locked phone is that you may have an easier activation process. This is because your phone is already configured to work with your carrier’s network and settings. You don’t have to worry about finding the right APN or other network parameters to get your phone up and running. You may also get some assistance from your carrier’s staff or online guides to activate your phone.
7. Better Network Optimization
Another benefit of buying a network locked phone is that you may enjoy better network optimization for your device. This is because your carrier may optimize your phone’s software and hardware to work best with their network. For example, your carrier may enable certain features or bands that are specific to their network, such as 4G LTE, 5G, Wi-Fi calling, or VoLTE. This can improve your phone’s performance, speed, and quality.
8. Easier Returns or Exchanges
One of the advantages of buying a network locked phone is that you may have an easier time returning or exchanging your device if you are not satisfied with it. This is because your carrier may have a more lenient or generous return policy than other retailers or manufacturers. For example, Verizon offers a 14-day return period with no restocking fee for its devices.
9. More Trade-In Options
Another benefit of buying a network locked phone is that you may have more trade-in options when you want to upgrade your device. This is because your carrier may offer you a higher value for your old phone or a special deal for trading it in. For example, AT&T offers up to $700 off a new iPhone 12 when you trade in an eligible device.
Cons of Buying a Network Locked Phone
Some of the drawbacks of buying a network locked phone are:
1. Limited Choice and Flexibility
You are limited to the carrier’s network and plans. You cannot switch to another carrier that may offer better coverage, cheaper rates, more flexible options, or more features. You are also stuck with the carrier’s policies, terms, and conditions, which may change over time.
For example, if you want to switch from AT&T to Verizon, you will have to pay off your remaining balance on your phone and request an unlock code from AT&T before you can use your phone with Verizon.
2. Unlocking Fee or Requirements
You may have to pay a fee or meet certain requirements to unlock your phone. If you want to use your phone with another carrier or sell it to someone else, you will need to request an unlock code from your original carrier. This may involve paying a fee, completing your contract, providing proof of purchase, or waiting for a certain period of time. For example, Sprint charges $50 for unlocking a phone that is not eligible for domestic SIM unlock.
3. Warranty or Performance Issues
You may void your warranty or damage your phone by unlocking it. Some carriers may consider unlocking your phone as a breach of contract or a violation of their terms of service. This may result in losing your warranty, technical support, or other benefits from the carrier. Moreover, unlocking your phone may not always work properly and may cause some issues with your phone’s functionality or performance.
For example, some unlocked phones may not support certain network features such as Wi-Fi calling or VoLTE.
4. Low Resale Value
One of the disadvantages of buying a network locked phone is that you may have a lower resale value for your device. This is because locked phones have a smaller market and demand than unlocked phones. Locked phones can only be used by customers of the same carrier or those who are willing to unlock them. Unlocked phones can be used by anyone who has a compatible SIM card. Therefore, unlocked phones tend to sell faster and for higher prices than locked phones. For example, according to SellCell.com, an unlocked iPhone 12 Pro Max 128GB can sell for $1,005, while a locked one can sell for $900.
5. Poor Customer Service
Another drawback of buying a network locked phone is that you may experience poor customer service from your carrier. This is because carriers often prioritize their own interests over their customers’ needs. Carriers may charge you hidden fees, change your plan without notice, or make it difficult for you to cancel your service or unlock your phone. Carriers may also have long wait times, rude representatives, or unhelpful solutions when you contact them for support. For example, according to Consumer Reports, Sprint has the lowest customer satisfaction rating among the major carriers in the US.
6. More Bloatware
One of the disadvantages of buying a network locked phone is that you may have more bloatware on your device. Bloatware refers to the pre-installed apps and services that come with your phone, usually from your carrier or the manufacturer. Some of these apps may be useful or relevant to you, but others may be unwanted, unnecessary, or redundant. Bloatware can take up valuable storage space, drain battery life, slow down your phone, or interfere with your user experience.
7. Less Customization
Another drawback of buying a network locked phone is that you may have less customization options for your device. This is because your carrier may limit or restrict some of the settings or features that you can change on your phone. For example, your carrier may prevent you from changing the default launcher, wallpaper, ringtone, or icons. Your carrier may also block some of the updates or features that are available for unlocked phones.
8. Less Variety
One of the disadvantages of buying a network locked phone is that you may have less variety to choose from. This is because your carrier may not offer all the models, colors, or storage options that are available for unlocked phones. Your carrier may also not carry some of the brands or devices that you are interested in. For example, you may not find OnePlus, Xiaomi, or Google Pixel phones at your carrier’s store.
9. Slower Updates
One of the disadvantages of buying a network locked phone is that you may receive slower updates for your device. This is because your carrier may delay or block some of the updates that are released by the manufacturer. Your carrier may do this to test the updates for compatibility or stability, or to add their own customizations or bloatware. For example, some Samsung phones on Verizon did not receive the Android 11 update until months after it was available for unlocked phones.
10. More Spam
Another drawback of buying a network locked phone is that you may receive more spam from your carrier. This is because your carrier may send you unwanted messages, calls, or emails to promote their products, services, or plans. Your carrier may also share your information with third parties for marketing purposes. For example, you may get ads for DirecTV if you are an AT&T customer.
How to Unlock a Network Locked Phone
If you decide to buy a network locked phone or you already have one, you may wonder how to unlock it and use it with another carrier. There are different ways to unlock a network locked phone, depending on your situation and preferences.
Contact Your Carrier
The easiest and most reliable way to unlock a network locked phone is to contact your carrier and have them do it. Most carriers will unlock your phone for free or for a small fee, as long as you meet their eligibility criteria. These criteria may include:
- Completing your contract or paying off your device balance
- Having an account in good standing
- Having the phone for a certain period of time
- Providing proof of purchase and identity
- Having a compatible device
To contact your carrier, you can call their customer service number, visit their website, or go to their store. You will need to provide some information such as your IMEI number, which you can find by dialing *#06# on your phone. You will also need to provide your account details and the reason for unlocking your phone.
Your carrier will then process your request and send you an unlock code and instructions on how to enter it. This may take from a few hours to a few days, depending on the carrier and the device. Once you receive the code, you can insert a new SIM card from another carrier and enter the code when prompted. Your phone should then be unlocked and ready to use.
Buy an Unlock Code Online
Another way to unlock a network locked phone is to buy an unlock code online from a third-party service. There are many websites that offer this service for a fee, but you need to be careful and choose a reputable and trustworthy one. Some websites may scam you, send you the wrong code, or damage your phone.
To buy an unlock code online, you need to have some details ready such as your IMEI number, which you can find by dialing *#06# on your phone, and the network provider you are locked to. Once you have entered your details and your payment has been received, your unlock code will be retrieved through the official database. It may take from a few minutes to a few hours for the confirmation email with your code to come through.
Once you receive the code, you can insert a new SIM card from another carrier and enter the code when prompted. Your phone should then be unlocked and ready to use.
Use a Software Tool
A third way to unlock a network locked phone is to use a software tool that can bypass the SIM lock without requiring a code. There are some software tools that claim to do this, but they are not recommended for several reasons. First of all, they may not work properly or at all, depending on the device model and firmware version. Second of all, they may void your warranty or damage your phone by altering its system files or settings. Third of all, they may be illegal or unethical, as they may violate the terms of service of your carrier or the manufacturer.
Therefore, it is advisable to avoid using software tools to unlock a network locked phone unless you are absolutely sure of what you are doing and willing to take the risks involved. If you decide to use a software tool, make sure you backup your data first and follow the instructions carefully.
Buying a network locked phone has its pros and cons that depend on your personal preferences, needs, and budget. You should weigh the benefits and drawbacks carefully before making a decision. If you value convenience, affordability, and loyalty over freedom, flexibility, and choice, then a network locked phone may be suitable for you. However, if you prefer to have more options, control, and independence over your phone usage, then you may want to opt for an unlocked phone instead.
If you decide to buy or have a network locked phone, you can unlock it by contacting your carrier, buying an unlock code online, or using a software tool. However, each method has its own advantages and disadvantages that you should consider before choosing one. Unlocking your phone can give you more freedom and flexibility in choosing your carrier and plan, but it may also come with some costs and risks that you should be aware of.
We hope this article has helped you understand the pros and cons of buying a network locked phone and how to unlock it if needed. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below.