The Dangers of an Unlocked Cell Phone

When it comes to cell phones, there is always something new going on. In this country, unlocked cell phones are the biggie this year. But as popular as they have become, most cell phone users don’t really understand what they are or what they can do.

What Is A Locked Phone

First you need to know what a locked phone is. They have been around since the beginning of cell phones, and are, by far, the preference of all the carriers. Very simply, a locked phone is any phone that you purchase directly from the carrier. It becomes “locked” to that provider and cannot be used if you change carriers.

The carriers are not eager to change. The way they see things, in exchange for locking your service in for a set period of time, you are able to buy a phone from them with big discounts and a service rebate. You might pay $49 for a $299 phone. Sometimes you can even get one for free. You saved a lot of money by locking yourself in to one carrier. On the other hand, with the contract you have to sign, the provider can charge you more money for fewer minutes and less service.

Unlocked Phone

When a phone is unlocked, it can be used with any carrier. There is nothing to tie you specifically to them. This allows you to keep a phone that you really are comfortable using, and still frees you to choose your own wireless provider.

You will find a much larger selection of unlocked phones than locked handsets. That is because each provider chooses the ones he is willing to offer at discount prices to go with your cell phone plan. The unlocked models have many high end features and unique designs, such as music players and cameras. This may sound really good to you, but it is good to remember that all unlocked phones are not equal. Therefore you need to learn before you leap.

A SIM card, or Subscriber Identification Module card is a microchip that stores subscriber data in your cell phone. It is issued by your carrier, and activates any phone that it is inserted in. A locked phone will only accept a SIM card from one carrier…the one you contracted your service from. If the cell phone is unlocked, it can now accept any SIM card from any provider. So technically, the lock is merely a software setting that maintains loyalty between your cell phone and your carrier.

What reasons would you have to want to unlock your cell phone?

  • One carrier might not charge roaming fees or have special discounts for foreign travel. But your carrier is better for use at home and in your business. With an unlocked phone you could change SIM cards when you were out of the country.
  • It would be possible to sell your old cell phone if someone could simply place his SIM card in your phone.
  • Price-wise it is to your advantage to be able to shop for a more suitable plan for yourself.

Ideally, it would be perfect if you could get your good price on a cell phone when you signed your contract for 1-3 years or whatever, be locked in for that period of time, and then, when the contract expires, have the provider unlock the phone, freeing you to make changes.

What are the dangers of unlocking a cell phone?

  • Sometimes you can buy an unlocked phone from another vendor. If it was never locked, you are probably going to pay close to retail price for it.
  • There are times when an unlocked cell phone will not work. Apple put out a software update that renders all unlocked iPhones unusable.
  • If you buy your phone in a foreign country and bring it home to use, there may be compatibility issues.
  • Some features, such as web browsing, might require new configuration when you switch your unlocked cell to a new provider.
  • There are third party services that will unlock your cell phone for a charge. The proprietary settings may not change and there is no guarantee that the phone will work properly.
  • Hacking instructions can be found online that will unlock many models. But beware! If a cell phone is unlocked improperly, it may never work again.

Unlocked cell phones may become non-functional, though it does occur at times. The iPhone is really the best example of that. Remember, the phone was designed to work with a specific SIM card from a certain provider. When you alter that, things can go wrong. Some of them can successfully be unlocked because of specific software that was on the phone when you bought it. In many cases, a higher priced phone allows you to simply enter a code, sold to you by a carrier that will enable this software to be unlocked. No one will guarantee success when unlocking a previously locked phone.