Should you buy the Galaxy Note 9 unlocked or from a carrier?

There are a lot of important questions when it comes to choosing a Galaxy Note 9. You need to be sure you're ready to drop $1,000 (or $1250 if you decide to really go all out on the 512GB model) on a phone in the first place. You need to make sure you're choosing the right color to show off your new phone to your friends. You need to find a case you're comfortable using for a while. But it's also important to think about where you're going to be buying your phone, which is something that doesn't always get as much thought as it maybe should.

Carrier controlled or unlocked, that's the big question you should ask before dropping cash on a Note 9. And unfortunately, the answer isn't quite as clear as it should be.

Financing a Note 9

The obvious first reason to buy a locked phone from a carrier is not needing to pay for the whole phone up front. U.S. carriers have largely moved away from making the phone purchase a direct part of a long-term contract, but plenty of folks still pay month to month for their phones through these financing plans. If you can "buy" a Note 9 from carriers for $40 per month, you may not care quite as much about that phone being locked to that carrier until you've paid it off, which is what happens with most U.S. carriers.

While Samsung does offer financing option on its website, you'll find it is much easier to get a financing deal from your carrier. That means, for the most part, if you don't want to buy your phone outright you probably want to buy from a carrier. Additionally, you can buy from Best Buy and other retailers which offer their own financing systems, but overall none are quite as openly available as what is on offer from carriers.

Updates for your Note 9

Samsung makes the updates for its phones and sends those updates to carriers for approval before they're available on your phone. Truth be told, Samsung's updates have never been particularly fast. That should mean Samsung phones which are not locked to a specific carrier would be easier to update, but historically that has not been the case.

On multiple occasions, Samsung's unlocked Galaxy S9 has gone months without a software update while the carrier versions of the exact same phone enjoyed regular security patches and software tweaks from Samsung. There are a couple of legal reasons for this, the first of which being that Verizon and others pay Samsung for their time to get those updates ready in a timely manner, but what it means in plain English is Samsung's unlocked phones don't get updates as quickly or as frequently as the locked versions.

Where should you buy the Galaxy Note 9?

There's a certain amount of freedom you get with an unlocked phone. You don't have to worry about consequences for switching carriers, or deal with any restrictions carriers may put in place at a later date. Your phone, out of the box, 100% belongs to you. That concept has value and is worth keeping in mind.

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But if you are concerned about dropping that much money up front, or if you want to make sure you get updates on your phone the day a security patch is available, Samsung's unlocked phones are probably not for you. In those cases, it is probably best to buy directly from the carrier or from a retailer willing to sell you a carrier model on a financing agreement you are happy with.

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Where are you buying your Note 9? Sound off in the comments!

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Russell Holly

Russell is a Contributing Editor at Android Central. He's a former server admin who has been using Android since the HTC G1, and quite literally wrote the book on Android tablets. You can usually find him chasing the next tech trend, much to the pain of his wallet. Find him on Facebook and Twitter