Whether your buying or selling a used/refurbished phone it's best that you make sure the phone is unlocked first. Unlocked phones can work on any network as long as you have the carrier's specified SIM card.
What exactly does it mean to be unlocked?
Well, smartphones run on one of two networks:
If your phone is "locked" it means it's locked to a carrier. So if you have a GSM phone it will only work with an AT&T or T-Mobile plan and if you have a CDMA phone it will only work on with Sprint or Verizon plans.
Buying a used/refurbished phone
We recommend buying unlocked so you can easily switch plans to whichever carrier you want and consequently, whichever one offers the best deal.
What does that mean for you? If you buy a used/refurbished phone (even an unlocked one) it's best to purchase one that previously ran on your network (or the network you're planning to switch to).
Why? Let me break it down for you.
A GSM unlocked phone can work on a CDMA network and vice versa. However, this is only because of the development of 4G.
If you have a GSM phone on a CDMA network (or vice versa) and your 4G drops down to 3G, your phone will basically become a paperweight until 4G is restored. That means no calls, texts, or data until 4G is fully running again.
For this reason, it's still best to get an unlocked phone that operates on the carrier you're currently with or the one you're planning on switching to.
Selling Your Phone
If you're looking to sell your old phone it's important to keep in mind that buyback sites will often pay you more for your used phone if it's unlocked. But how do you know if your phone is unlocked or not?
If you bought your phone outright through any of the four big companies (T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint) then your phone is already unlocked.
However, if you're on a payment plan, meaning you pay a small amount towards the overall total of the phone each month, the phone will remain locked until it is paid off. Keep in mind you cannot sell your phone until it you deactivate it from your carrier.
Once you've paid for your phone in full, unlocking it is a fairly simple process. Check out our guide on how to unlock your phone to get a few extra bucks for your phone.
Save even more money by switching to an MVNO
Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) are smaller carriers that lease service and tower storage from the "big four" - AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint- in bulk and sell it to consumers at a lower monthly cost.
How are they doing this? They have lower overheads and spend much less on marketing which allows them to profit just as much as the big four while still making money. They also don't' have a lot of brick and mortars to fund which saves them loads of money. In fact, you can sign up for MVNOs completely online without ever setting foot in a store.
Check out our reviews on the best MVNOs for each network:
Whether you're buying or selling, make sure your phone is unlocked. This affords you more opportunities when it comes to choosing a carrier and will ultimately save you money in the long run.