Poll: Do you buy smartphones locked or unlocked?

Galaxy S20+ 5G network with SIM cards
(Image credit: Samuel Contreras / Android Central)

When you purchase a new smartphone, there are a couple of ways to go about it, at least here in the States. You can purchase your device through a carrier, where it's usually locked to that network, at least temporary, or you can purchase a smartphone from a retailer, where it's usually unlocked. There are pros and cons to both, and we want to know how you prefer to purchase new smartphones.

When purchasing a smartphone through a carrier in the United States, carriers give subscribers the option to pay for the device over time, usually between 18 months and two years. It's a great way to break up the ever-increasing price of a flagship smartphone like the Galaxy Z Fold 4, which retails for an eye-watering $1800. The downside is that your software updates are generally at the mercy of the carrier, which means you may receive them later than those that purchased their phones unlocked. Not to mention, they often come with tons of carrier bloatware that you might not be able to get rid of.

Of course, you can always pay the phone off and free yourself of the carrier. Verizon is a bit special, as the carrier automatically unlocks phones after 60 days, according to its policy.

Buying your phone unlocked through an OEM, brick-and-mortar store, or online retailer often means you're paying the full price right then and there. That may not be feasible for many consumers, especially for phones like the Sony Xperia 1 V, which also costs a whopping $1600 and is unavailable through carriers in the United States. There are sometimes deals you can take advantage of, particularly with trade-ins. Still, carriers tend to be a better option if you're looking to bundle products together, as they can often score you with "free" lines, discounted phones, or add-ons like smartwatches and the like.

Either way, there are plenty of affordable options if you're looking for a good but cheap Android phone.

So let us know how you prefer to pay for a smartphone. Drop a comment on our socials or in the poll, and also let us know what part of the world you're in.

Derrek Lee
Managing Editor

Derrek is the managing editor of Android Central, helping to guide the site's editorial content and direction to reach and resonate with readers, old and new, who are just as passionate about tech as we are. He's been obsessed with mobile technology since he was 12, when he discovered the Nokia N90, and his love of flip phones and new form factors continues to this day. As a fitness enthusiast, he has always been curious about the intersection of tech and fitness. When he's not working, he's probably working out.