Unlocked phones in Europe (Or, a Guide to What Americans are Missing)

As we kick off a series of features on unlocked smartphones, mainly focused on mid-priced devices in the U.S. market, it’s worth remembering that Europe does ‘unlocked’ very differently.

For most smartphone buyers in the U.S., picking up a new device usually involves a trip to the carrier store and the signing of a new multi-year contract. Even if you were upgrading mid-cycle — and paying full price for the privilege — you’d need to pick up your operator’s version of your chosen device to guarantee compatibility. But doing so is a double-edged sword: devices are often SIM locked to prevent them being used on other carriers, and loaded with unwanted bloatware. And in the Android world, updates for operator-branded phones have an extra certification hoop to jump through before roll-out.

Hence the draw of unlocked phones — handsets supplied directly by the manufacturer without any operator meddling. In the U.S., unlocked phones typically fall into two categories: super-cheap burners from your local mall, and pricier mid-to-high-end models sold online, like the the ASUS ZenFone 2, Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3, Moto X, Nexus 6 and HTC One M9 unlocked/dev editions. A broad selection, sure, but major players like Samsung and LG are unrepresented, and unlocked versions aren’t available anywhere near as widely as the carrier-branded models.

Over in Europe, things work a little differently. The carrier model still dominates, but it’s just as easy to pick up unlocked, unbranded versions of Android phones big and small that work on just about any local operator (and often many not-so-local ones.)

Source: iMore

About Bhavesh Rabari

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