Ever seen an ad for a cell phone stating it is unlocked? Ever wonder what that means? This guide will explain to the buyer exactly what this means to you and to you service plan.
Unlocked or Unbranded?
These are industry terms most buyers are not familiar with, but can seriously effect the way your cell phone works for you. Simply put most of the time on eBay when you see the term unlocked, the seller means unbranded, which means it is straight from the manufacturer without any carrier logos (Alltel, Cingular, etc.) and without any carrier software. The lack of carrier software will effect your phone in the following ways.
The internet settings will not be configured, meaning you will have to manually set your phones browser up.
You MMS settings will not be configured.
You will not have your carriers shopping software (Cingular Mall, Get It Now, etc) loaded, meaning you cannot use their service to download ringtones and wallpapers.
If you are on the Cingular or AT&T network, your phone will only read the towers of the SIM card it has in it. Cingular phones are set up to read both Cingular and AT&T towers. Without the Cingular software in your phone, you will only read around 50% of the towers around you, thus decreasing reception.
I've been asked serveral times if any unlocked phone can be activated by a buyers carrier. The stock answer most sellers give is yes, however it is really dependant on your local store.
If you use a SIM card with your phone, it's really no big deal. You just swap the sim and go on. However, if you must take your phone into the local store to have it activated, they may or may not accept a phone that does not have their carriers logo on it (Alltel, Verizon, etc.) At the end of the day they make nothing from an activation, so it's in their best interest to sell you a phone. You need to be sure and call in first to make sure they will. And if one store wont, call another. You do not have to take your phone to the store where you signed your contract. It just needs to be the same carriers store (Alltel, Verizon, etc.)
These are the main issues people encounter when buying an unlocked cell phone and I hope this guide will clear up some of the confusion surrounding the topic.