Why buy an unlocked mobile phone?

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Here's a quick and easy guide to buying an unlocked mobile phone, explaining what an unlocked phone actually is.

An unlocked mobile phone is one that is unlocked from it's original network. for example, if the phone was originally on the Vodafone network, it will only work with a Vodafone sim card. An unlocked phone will generally work with any sim card on any network.

However most 2G phones will not work on the 3 network in the UK and some other countries. For this you will need a 3G phone, more popularly known as videophones.

If buying for use outside the UK you also need to consider that only a quadband phone, using 850/900/1800 and 1900 GSM wavebands will truly work worldwide. Triband phones issued in the U.K. will not work in some parts of the U.S.A. unless the U.S.A. network is using the 1900 GSM waveband. Most phones are now triband and these will work in most countries around the world. Even the cheaper-end Dualband handsets will work in Europe and New Zealand and Australia.

The advantages of an unlocked phone are many. As we have established, you can use an unlocked phone with virtually any sim card. this means that you can choose the phone YOU want, and are not limited to the choice offered by your network. But of course this also means that you can change networks at any time you wish to do so, and do not have to buy a new phone. As a result you can benefit from sim-only deals, and unlocked phones are suitable for use with your current Pay As You Go or contract sim card.

But you can also benefit when overseas, taking advantage of local or international calling sim cards for cheaper international calls instead of being restricted to your own network's (usually) high tariffs.

Your phone is also far more valuable for all the above reasons - if you want to sell it when you fancy a new one, instead of being restricted to selling to customers who are on the same network as you are, you can sell to anybody anywhere in the world - so not only will you see a huge increase in the number of bidders, you will get a higher price when you come to sell it on.

A reputable seller should also offer you a full warranty on your new unlocked phone, but beware those claiming to sell sim-free phones. Sim free phones are similar to unlocked phones but have never been locked to a network and carry no network software or logos, whereas unlocked phones in many cases may do, but a professionally unlocked phone will still be fully functional in every way - virtually all phones in the UK are originally network locked, and sim-free phones are usually very expensive (often double the price or more of original network locked phones) and are almost certainly not sourced in the U.K.

Beware also of buying a locked phone and getting it unlocked at your local market or small independent phoneshop - this is very important because doing so will almost certainly invalidate the original warranty and you may be left with a useless piece of plastic and metal as soon as you leave the shop. With mobile phones having an average failure rate of around 20% in the first 12 months U.K. you might be making a very expensive mistake!
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