Phones forum

General discussion

Why no UNLOCKED cell phones sold in the US?

by IGDark / August 12, 2007 6:44 PM PDT


In Europe and Asia cell phones are sold primarily through independent vendors, not providers. As the result, people there can choose among 200 high-end wireless models in a single store. In the States, however, cell phones are sold by cheap mobile providers each of whom offers 10-20 old-fashioned models.

I will never believe that unlocked phones are not sold in the US because of the lack of demand. I know a lot of people here who are like me are ready to pay extra buck for getting a nice contract-free unlocked phone.

My best guess would be that there are some restrictions set by either the government or the cell phone manufacturers prohibiting anyone but providers selling cell phones on the US territory.

Does anyone know anything about it?


Post a reply
Discussion is locked
You are posting a reply to: Why no UNLOCKED cell phones sold in the US?
The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Please refer to our CNET Forums policies for details. All submitted content is subject to our Terms of Use.
Track this discussion and email me when there are updates

If you're asking for technical help, please be sure to include all your system info, including operating system, model number, and any other specifics related to the problem. Also please exercise your best judgment when posting in the forums--revealing personal information such as your e-mail address, telephone number, and address is not recommended.

You are reporting the following post: Why no UNLOCKED cell phones sold in the US?
This post has been flagged and will be reviewed by our staff. Thank you for helping us maintain CNET's great community.
Sorry, there was a problem flagging this post. Please try again now or at a later time.
If you believe this post is offensive or violates the CNET Forums' Usage policies, you can report it below (this will not automatically remove the post). Once reported, our moderators will be notified and the post will be reviewed.
Collapse -
by birdmantd Forum moderator / August 12, 2007 9:23 PM PDT

Currently anybody can buy unlocked GSM handsets in the US, just not directly from the carriers. I bought an unlocked Sony Ericsson P910a for use with Cingular/new At&T and it works very well. Unlocked phones are sold domestically through independent resellers and various online sources.

Collapse -
Get them on ebay/internet
by sting7k / August 13, 2007 1:23 AM PDT

People here don't know what they are missing with unlocked cell phones. A big part of it has to do with verizon being a major carrier and their phones don't use sim cards so a lot of people never even know that such phones exist. I normally get unlocked phones from ebay. You can sometimes find small electronics stores that sell unlocked gsm phones in large cities much like they do in europe. Although the only place I have seen them is in NYC the main market is on ebay or the internet for those of us in the US that want a high end unlocked phone that is not sold by a carrier.

I will agree that it is lame that we can't have highend unlocked phones sold at more locations in the US.

Collapse -
Unlocked Phones
by dinobut / August 13, 2007 4:16 AM PDT

there are places in USA that sell/have unlocked GSM.. for instance if you go to

Collapse -
they are out there
by wliang / August 13, 2007 5:52 AM PDT

in malls, there are carts that sell like 3 or more carriers. and those places sell unlocked motorola phones, for the most part. some sell unlocked nokias, some sell unlocked LG or samsungs. Where I live, a lot of those places sell strictly unlocked motorolas. folks go around to different countries and buy all the phones that arent available in the US yet and sell them at their stores or on ebay.

Collapse -
unlocked cells
by MyUsernameIsBetter / August 14, 2007 2:41 PM PDT

Back in the Philippines, even the carrier's stores sell unlocked phones. (If I'm correct)

U.S. needs more cell phone stores that aren't strictly carrier stores.

Collapse -
by birdmantd Forum moderator / August 14, 2007 8:57 PM PDT
In reply to: unlocked cells

The main reason that unlocked phones are not commonly sold at stores in the US is because more consumers want free/reduced cost phones and are not willing to spend a couple to several hundred $$ for a phone.

Collapse -
Price is not the reason
by IGDark / August 15, 2007 5:22 AM PDT
In reply to: unlocked

I don't think that's the main reason because carriers offer only a very limited number of phone models to choose from. I'm sure a lot of people in the United States would be willing to pay extra $100-$150 to have one of the latests models for the same reason a lot of people follow clothing fashion.

Collapse -
Huh? You can find unlocked phones anywhere
by wirelesswendy / August 16, 2007 6:34 AM PDT
Collapse -
Let me get this clear
by IGDark / August 16, 2007 7:04 AM PDT

Guys, let me get this clear. Of course in the internet you can find anything you want. However, most online stores do not guarantee that the phone you buy from them will have a manual on English, warranty, or a North American (2-pin) power plug. I have recently received my new Samsung U100 (slimmest cell phone ever), and it came with a French manual, and foreign warranty.

I was wondering why there are no, or very very few *non-online* retail stores srlling unlocked phones in this country. It really puzzles me...

Collapse -
U.S. carriers are clamping down. That's why.
by BeatleMegaFan / August 16, 2007 8:19 AM PDT
In reply to: Let me get this clear

In the U.S., you have four major (T-Mobile used to be big anyway) carriers: Sprint, Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile.

Many smaller networks are CDMA, like Metro PCS, Boost Mobile, Alltell, etc.

CDMA networks don't let you use unlocked phones. Sprint covers up the SIM cards in their phones with ID tags and stuff. You could remove them and get the SIM card, but then Sprint would have a fit with you. GSM phones and networks are cheaper and easier to maintain for the businesses, so they could care less about what phone you use. That's why Motorola offers Unlocked GSM phones, and not CDMA for those other users.

I don't know much about the other countries in Europe and Asia and their cell phone policies, but I do know that my friend can go to India and buy a better version of the U.S. SLVR for $90. In the U.S., the carriers sign agreements with manufacturers to sell their products. That's why there are fewer selection of unlocked phones. Our carriers clamp down on the market here, not like the rest of the world.

Still, who cares what phone it is? All people care about in a phone these days are the all the features that a phone has except for the PHONE! iPhone definition= every gadget in one except for a phone.
People buy it because it does everything else well. I like my phone for messaging and calling people.

Who cares?

Collapse -
People here should have larger choice of wireless devices
by IGDark / August 16, 2007 9:15 AM PDT

I just think that people here should have larger choice of wireless devices without being oblige to long-term contracts. As for the features, most of cell phones sold by the carriers are outdated cheap-to-produce models. By the way, if you think the carriers "subsidize" prices of phones they sell as an excuse to lock you into a contract, you are wrong.

The models they sell are very very cheap to manufacture (on average 4-6 times lower than MSRP), so they make some money from selling them too. Newer models offered by phone makers are far ahead ones that are sold in the US, yet we aren't gonna see them here any time soon...

Collapse -
by birdmantd Forum moderator / August 16, 2007 9:23 AM PDT

Consumers have choices with all carriers: you can get a cheaper, subsidized phone with a contract or pay full price without a contract.

Collapse -
CDMA phones are still limited.
by BeatleMegaFan / August 17, 2007 2:47 AM PDT
In reply to: unlocked

But still, if you use CDMA networks and products, you become limited because all the CDMA networks like their own stuff. They may not let you use other companies phones with them (so you'd think, anyway). Contract or no, phones bought from carriers have the carriers' signatures and software on it already.

Unlocked phones do not, unless they have been unlocked from a carrier. I agree though. We should have more choice, but it's up to the manufacturers on where to sell these phones. It's up to the consumer to go out of the country and use one too.

But Nokia has a store close to my area, and they sell many unlocked GSM phones for outrageous prices. They are nice, but not for the price. It just depends. The manufacturers here are in agreement through carriers, who sell their products for them.

In the future, we'll have one big network that can run CDMA and GSM and any phone instead of multiple different ones who "hate each other" or compete so heavily.

CDMA technology is slowly diminishing because GSM is cheaper, but is GSM more reliable? Who knows. It depends on where you are to determine how good coverage is, but I've found that my CDMA phone works well where ever there's not a lot of technology. I can use it in the comfort of my home and get max bars, or go to my doctor's office and get one bar for very little signal or roaming.

Surprisingly though, the bars have never affected the call quality at all. I can talk and hear very well with no bars (as long as I'm not roaming).

I think we know that CDMA phones don't necessarily go hand-in-hand with unlocked phones, but we can discuss this:

Are CDMA phones work as better phones than all of GSM/unlocked phones? I'm talking about the phone part, not Mp3's or cameras. Coverage, call quality, etc.

You decide.

Popular Forums
Computer Help 51,224 discussions
Computer Newbies 10,453 discussions
Laptops 20,090 discussions
Security 30,722 discussions
TVs & Home Theaters 20,937 discussions
Windows 10 1,295 discussions
Phones 16,252 discussions
Windows 7 7,684 discussions
Networking & Wireless 15,215 discussions


Roku Streaming Stick 2016

Roku has the most apps, the simplest interface and the best search, making it CNET's favorite way to stream Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, HBO and all the rest.