When you have an unlocked phone, you get free reign on the model, carrier, and plan -- no strings attached! Here's everything you need to know about buying an unlocked phone as well as the best places to buy them in Canada.
What is an Unlocked Phone?
Most Canadian carriers sell phones that are locked to their networks, this makes it more likely that people will continue using their services, simply because it's easier. For example, if you have a phone that is locked to say, Bell, and you put a Rogers SIM card into it, the phone won't work. But replacing the SIM with one from Bell will have it working again no problem.
An unlocked phone, on the other hand, allows you to easily shop around for the best monthly plan, or upgrade your phone while keeping the same terms of your plan. Prices for new cell phone plans change frequently and can have you paying more, so when you find the right plan at the right price, it may be most cost effective to purchase an unlocked phone and transfer your sim.
Where Can You Buy Unlocked Phones in Canada?
You can find unlocked phones in a variety of places - both online and off. Our biggest tip is to ensure it is a reputable source. So if you are going online, ensure the person or company you are buying from has received good ratings.
Some of the most popular places to go to buy unlocked phones are:
- Amazon.ca - simply do a general search of "unlocked phones" or search specifically by type of device. Just be sure you check the rating of the individual sellers before making the purchase.
- Best Buy - when shopping online here you can browse by market place or Best Buy only. As with Amazon.ca, if you are shopping by marketplace check out the seller before making your purchase.
- ebay.ca - there are many, many top rated sellers of unlocked phones on ebay making it easy to find the exact phone you're looking for at a reasonable price.
- Newegg.ca - huge for all things electronics, this is a great place to go if you want a lot of options - especially if you're looking for a new unlocked phone. So don't be surprised by the higher prices.
- Staples - shop in store or online, there are plenty of unlocked options to choose from at Staples.
- Walmart - while they don't have a huge selection, it is still quite varied, and as with Best Buy and Staples, you have the option of going into the store for any questions or concerns.
Pros of Buying an Unlocked Phone
If you are looking for a new plan, many carriers offer discounts for bringing an unlocked phone to their network, but that's not the only benefit.
- Unlocked phones often come with less carrier-related software, commonly referred to as bloatware.
- Most unlocked phones work on all major Canadian carrier networks, no matter which country they originated from.
- Instead of roaming or buying an international plan, you can pick up a local SIM card to use wherever you're travelling.
- These phones are typically updated directly from the manufacturer - not the carrier. This means the updates come more frequently and quickly.
Cons of Buying an Unlocked Phone
While there are a lot of great reasons to buy an unlocked phone, there are a few drawbacks. These include:
- If buying a new unlocked phone (not refurbished) they can be more expensive because they don't come with a carrier subsidy.
- Set-up can be difficult for those that aren't tech-savvy, and your carrier may not offer the required technical support if you did not purchase the device from them. However, there are many online forums that are quite helpful!
- When buying a second-hand unlocked phone it is recommended that you take the extra step of verifying that the IMEI has not been blacklisted. This is easy to do here.
Unlocking a Locked Phone
If you have a phone you love and want to keep, but also want to switch carriers, it is possible to unlock an existing phone. You can do this by calling your carrier (if you purchased the phone from them) and paying a small fee. This may only be possible if the device is fully paid off though. Alternatively, there are websites that offer this service relatively inexpensively.
Overall, getting an unlocked phone is a no-brainer if you want the freedom to shop around for the best plan and the best carrier. You won't have to worry about pre-loaded apps or paying more than a phone's worth WITH a long-term payment plan. Not to mention: if you travel internationally, you can forget about roaming fees and pay what the locals pay by purchasing a local SIM card!
Do you have an unlocked phone? What has your experience been like? Comment below!