The Best Unlocked GSM Phone Deals

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Compare Unlocked GSM Phones

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The Best Unlocked GSM Phone Deals

Cell phone terminology can be a swirl of confusion. Do you want CDMA or GSM? Locked or unlocked?

I'm going to clear these up for you and tell you how to save hundreds per year on your smartphone and your wireless service.

What Exactly Is an Unlocked GSM Phone?

Let's start with GSM vs. CDMA:

GSM: This stands for Global System for Mobile communications. It refers to the specific technology used by AT&T and T-Mobile. When you buy a phone from either of those two carriers you're getting a GSM device.

CDMA: Code Division Multiple Access, or CDMA, is the type of phone technology Verizon Wireless and Sprint use on their wireless networks.

Locked vs. Unlocked

What we mean when we talk about buying an unlocked phone is making sure you have a device that gives you the freedom to choose your own carrier.

Locked cell phones: A locked smartphone can only be used on the network that sold it. For instance, if you bought a Sprint phone with your Sprint plan, that device is locked to Sprint service, at least until it's paid off.

Unlocked cell phones: With an unlocked device you can pick the best cell phone plan for your budget and needs without worrying about switching carriers.

Read our guide on how to unlock your phone.

Why Are Unlocked Phones in Demand?

The unlocked smartphone market enjoyed a 20% year-over-year growth rate in the fourth quarter of 2017 (Strategy Analytics). Why such robust growth in such a short time?

  • Refurbished unlocked phones often cost half the retail price of a new flagship smartphone.
  • You're free to choose any carrier.
  • You have the flexibility to buy from the retailer of your choice.
  • No roaming fees when you travel internationally - just pop in a local SIM card at your destination.

Why You Need an Unlocked GSM Phone For Your AT&T or T-Mobile Network

You may have read that modern smartphone can work on any network. This is true, as long as you've got a 4G LTE signal.

What if your signal drops to 3G (say while traveling through a rural area)? If you're using a CDMA phone on a GSM network you'll lose service.

If you prefer one of the many GSM carriers that operate on the AT&T or T-Mobile networks you'll want to buy an unlocked GSM phone to get the best service quality.

Where Can You Purchase Unlocked Phones?

Rather than wander the internet trying to figure out which sellers are reputable and which aren't so great, check out our review of the best sites to buy a used phone.

Get all the info you need to make a decision, including:

  • Pros and cons of each seller
  • How the site works
  • Return/warranty information

And much more to help you decide on the right cell phone seller.

We also make it super simple for you to compare prices on refurbished phones from these sellers, including late models like the Samsung Galaxy S8 and iPhone 8.

Want to Save Even More Money?

We already know you're into saving money. There's a simple way to save hundreds more each year, by switching your wireless service to an MVNO.

What Are MVNOs?

MVNO stands for Mobile Virtual Network Operator. It's a long name for a simple thing - a wireless carrier that rents space on the big guys' networks instead of owning its own infrastructure.

MVNOs can offer you much better rates on your wireless service because they don't have the high overhead associated with retail stores, nor do they have the major marketing costs.

There are several reasons that MVNOs are great for you, the consumer:

  • You get the same reliable 4G network as you do with the major carriers.
  • You save 50% or more off your cell phone bill.
  • No contracts or credit checks, and no overage or early termination fees.
  • You pick and choose a custom plan to fit your budget.
  • Alternative wireless carriers have high customer support ratings.
  • It's simple to switch - order a new SIM card online and pop it in.
  • Bring your own phone and keep your number.

You can find an MVNO to meet any need - unlimited data, international use, mobile hotspot, you name it. Check out our top picks of AT&T MVNOs and T-Mobile MVNOs.

When all is said and done, don't forget to sell your old phone for cash!


It's a breeze to save money on your smartphone and your wireless service:

Still skeptical that you can actually save hundreds? Calculate your potential savings over your current phone bill.

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