The Best Unlocked Cell Phone Deals

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The Best Unlocked Cell Phone Deals

It's a great time to be a wireless customer! Cell phone plans are more competitive than ever, and with contracts solidly in the history books, your phone can probably be unlocked for use on any carrier you choose.

What is an unlocked phone? It's a device that is no longer locked to a specific carrier. This allows you to take it to another carrier if you find a cheaper plan.

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There are some conditions though. In the following guide, you'll learn what an unlocked cell phone means, when you can and cannot take your device to another carrier, how to find the best unlocked cell phone deals and how to save 50% or more on your cell phone plan

It's a lot of information to cover so let's get started!

Buy Refurbished to Get the Best Unlocked Cell Phone Deal

When it comes to value the best unlocked smartphone deals are in the used and refurbished market.

Benefits of buying a refurbished smartphone:

  • Save money: You can get a popular device just a model or two old for about half the retail price.
  • Keep your freedom: Having an unlocked, paid-off phone means you can switch to a new carrier if you find a better deal.
  • Plenty of reliable sellers: The used cell phone industry is booming, resulting in a variety of reputable sellers to choose from, stocking everything from Samsung unlocked phones to unlocked iPhones and more.
  • Repairs are easy: With this market growth many affordable phone repair services are available.
  • More bang for your buck: You could spend up to $1000 on a shiny new smartphone only to get a couple of small upgrades from the previous model. It's seldom worth the price hike.

The Best Unlocked iPhone Deals

iPhone 7

Unlocked iPhone 7 Deals

  • Network: Unlocked
  • Storage: 32GB
  • Condition: Good
  • Warranty: None
  • Returns: None
  • Shipping: Free
Starting at:MSRP: $649$250Compare Prices
iPhone 8

Unlocked iPhone 8 Deals

  • Network: Unlocked
  • Storage: 64GB
  • Condition: Good
  • Warranty: 12 mths
  • Returns: 14 days
  • Shipping: Free
Starting at:MSRP: $699$414.99Compare Prices
iPhone X

Unlocked iPhone X Deals

  • Network: Unlocked
  • Storage: 64GB
  • Condition: Good
  • Warranty: None
  • Returns: None
  • Shipping: Free
Starting at:MSRP: $999$665Compare Prices

The Best Unlocked Samsung Galaxy Deals

Galaxy S7

Unlocked Galaxy S7 Deals

  • Network: Unlocked
  • Storage: 32GB
  • Condition: Good
  • Warranty: None
  • Returns: None
  • Shipping: Free
Starting at:MSRP: $670$170Compare Prices
Galaxy S8

Unlocked Galaxy S8 Deals

  • Network: Unlocked
  • Storage: 64GB
  • Condition: Good
  • Warranty: 12 mths
  • Returns: 14 days
  • Shipping: Free
Starting at:MSRP: $725$259.99Compare Prices
Galaxy S9

Unlocked Galaxy S9 Deals

  • Network: Unlocked
  • Storage: 64GB
  • Condition: Good
  • Warranty: 12 mths
  • Returns: 14 days
  • Shipping: Free
Starting at:MSRP: $719$369.99Compare Prices

Key Considerations When Buying a Refurbished Unlocked Phone

Now that you know why buying a used or refurbished phone online is a budget-wise decision here are some things to keep in mind while shopping:

  • Refurbished vs. used - used smartphones come as-is, while refurbs are devices which have been repaired and repackaged for sale.
  • Returns - choose a seller with a solid return policy in case the item doesn't meet your expectations.
  • Warranties - many sites offer a warranty on their products. These range from 30 days (from BuyBackWorld, for example) to a full year, like Decluttr offers.
  • Device compatibility: As we discussed above, you may experience problems taking a CDMA phone to a GSM network and vice versa. Your best bet is to compare unlocked cell phones made for the specific network you want. For example, if you have T-Mobile, look for the best T-Mobile cell phone deals.
  • Certification - some sellers offer certified iPhones and Android devices so you can be sure it's been put through rigorous testing.
  • Condition - some sellers use "grades" to indicate the phones condition. A is the best, B may have some minor wear, C has visible defects. Other sites use "Excellent", "Good", and "Fair" to convey the same information.
  • Payment plans - more and more sites are offering device payments. These typically come with high interest so think hard before taking advantage of the offer.

If you have the luxury of time, you'll find the cheapest unlocked phone prices when you buy right before a new model comes out. For example, when the Samsung Galaxy S9 came out, the price of used Samsung Galaxy S8 phones dropped considerably.

What Is an Unlocked Phone?

An unlocked phone is a device that has been released from its tie to the original carrier. When you buy a phone through, say, T-Mobile, until that phone is unlocked you can't, for example, take that phone to AT&T.

In order for a phone to be unlocked from the carrier:

  • The account must be in good standing.
  • The phone must not have been reported stolen.
  • The remaining balance on any device payments must be paid off.

The exception to the rule is Verizon Wireless - Verizon phones come unlocked. The carrier had announced plans to implement a locking period at the end of 2018 but at the time of this writing that hasn't happened yet.

Can You Really Use an Unlocked Phone on Any Network?

Yes, and no. The two types of signals used in wireless technology are GSM and CDMA. AT&T and T Mobile operate on GSM networks, Sprint and Verizon on CDMA.

While you may be able to take a GSM phone to a CDMA network and vice versa, only your 4G signal will work. If your signal drops down to 3G your phone will become a paperweight.

If your phone is a universal (sometimes called global) unlocked phone, it is designed for full functionality on both technologies. There are only a few models of global unlocked versions. These devices are more expensive, but come in handy if you're a frequent international traveler because you can just pop in a new SIM card at your destination.

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More Ways to Save Money

Once you have your new unlocked phone you can keep the savings rolling with these tips.

Sell Your Old Phone for Cash

Don't leave that old device lying around - turn it into extra cold, hard cash in your wallet!

When you sell your phone instead of trading it in you'll get cash instead of credit, plus you'll get a higher offer for it, especially if it's in great condition.

Switch to a Low-Cost Carrier

If you're buying an unlocked phone in order to switch carriers you'll be happy to know you can save up to 50% off your cell phone bill by going with an MVNO.

Mobile Virtual Network Operators - MVNOs - are smaller carriers that buy or lease extra space on the big four networks. Lower overhead allows them to sell service to you at a lower cost than you'd pay a major wireless carrier.

Benefits of MVNOs:

  • Cheap cell phone plans.
  • Service on the same reliable 4G LTE networks you're used to.
  • Freedom from contracts, credit checks, and overage fees - cancel any time.
  • Custom plans so you only pay for what you need.
  • Bring your own phone and number.

MVNOs offer all the same options as the big guys. Choose exactly what you need - from family plans to unlimited data plans and everything in between.

There are MVNOs for all four major networks - AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, and Sprint.

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Recap

Buying a used unlocked cell phone can save you more than 50% off retail. It's a great deal as long as you:

We make it fast and easy to compare unlocked phones. See the lowest prices from reputable sellers side-by-side in just seconds:

Finally, if you're keeping your current device but want to use it on another network, learn how to unlock your own phone!

COMPARE NOW: Unlocked Cell Phone Prices

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