What you need to know
- We asked our readers whether they purchase their smartphones locked or unlocked.
- Most of our readers prefer to buy unlocked, with few exceptions.
- Carriers in the U.S. generally sell smartphones locked until certain conditions are met.
While the rest of the world has pretty much settled on selling smartphones unlocked, U.S. carriers still prefer to lock you down until certain conditions are met. With that in mind, we asked our readers if they prefer to purchase locked or unlocked smartphones since either option has some benefits.
That said, our readers overwhelmingly voted for unlocked phones, which isn't too surprising. Unlocked smartphones offer the benefit of not being tied down to a specific carrier, although you are responsible for the full price of the phone at the time of sale, not taking promotions into account.
One reader, Melvin Narciso, complains that carrier-locked smartphones generally receive software updates later than unlocked phones:
"Unlock direct from the manufacturer, i hate buying the carrier one cuz updates are slow to release."
That said, some carriers manage to do a pretty good job at timely updates, such as Verizon, which started issuing the One UI 5 (Android 13) update on the same day it's gone live for users in Europe. Still, it's not always the case, and carriers like T-Mobile tend to take their sweet time.
While carriers are known to have their own promotions, such as BOGO deals on the best Android phones and discounts on accessories or wearables, one reader, iFLyS🅾️lOstill on Twitter, says they prefer unlocked, with very few exceptions:
"From the manufacturer directly unless there is a huge huge incentive to get from the carrier and be locked. And I mean a really HUGE incentive."
"Just spent the last 2 years financing an iPhone 11 through AT&T and regret is an understatement. Bought a S22 outright and don't think I'll ever lease a phone again 😅."
If you're looking for a great flagship Android phone that doesn't cost an arm and a leg, the Pixel 7 Pro is a fantastic option. It's cheaper than much of the competition while still offering the best of Google.
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Derrek is a long-time Nokia and LG fanboy who loves astronomy, videography, and sci-fi movies. When he's not working, he's most likely working out or smoldering at the camera.