For many Australians, mobile phones aren't sold to us, so much as given away. The telcos have been very clever in selling the idea of the free phone to us over the past decade, so that most Aussies happily sign a two-year service contract when the lure of a shiny new smartphone dangles at the end of the line.
These phones are not free, of course, and if you're looking for a commitment-free way to buy the latest phones, then shopping around for unlocked models is the way to go. New online stores are popping up all the time, and older tech stores, like Harvey Norman and Dick Smith, are now getting in on the act, too.
Below is the best unlocked phone bargains we've spotted lately, shopping from some of the online stores we're familiar with, plus a few bricks-and-mortar stores, too. Keep in mind that the prices of these phones will change frequently, and while we'll try to keep this article up to date, the information is only intended as a guide. Also, if you spot an awesome phone bargain, be sure to let us know in the comments below.
If you want more information about unlocked phones and the things you need to consider before buying one, check out our guide here.
The most sought-after phone next to Apple's upcoming iPhone 5, the GS3 is still holding its price in most of the stores we've checked, sitting at around the AU$760 mark. Kogan has it for far cheaper, though, and offers a 12-month warranty.
Cheapest: Kogan — AU$569
Also at: Expansys — AU$629
HTC One X
Another popular Android phone, and another Kogan special. The HTC One X offers most of what you get in the Galaxy S III, but you can have it for at least AU$50 cheaper.
Cheapest: Kogan — AU$509
Also at: Expansys — AU$539; MobiCity — AU$579
Sony Ericsson Xperia Play
Older phones are obviously a good idea for bargain hunters. We spotted that Dick Smith is currently selling last year's Xperia Play gaming phone at a heavy discount, and it can be had for even cheaper through online stores.
Cheapest: Expansys — AU$289
Also at: Dick Smith — AU$299
Samsung Galaxy Note
Samsung's surprise hit of 2011, the 5.3-inch Galaxy Note, is far cheaper to buy through online stores than it is to buy from a retail outlet.
Cheapest: Kogan — AU$519
Also at: Expansys — AU$518
The Razr was the world's thinnest phone for a short period of time, and will soon be updated to Android Ice Cream Sandwich.
Cheapest: Kogan — AU$319
Also at: Expansys — AU$350
Online stores also offer the US-only Droid Razr Maxx version, with its extended battery life. This sells for about AU$500.
Samsung Galaxy Ace
Probably the most popular prepaid phone, according to site traffic on CNET Australia, the Galaxy Ace is a decent Android phone for those on a budget.
Cheapest: Allphones and Harvey Norman — AU$238
Also at: Dick Smith — AU$259
Nokia Lumia 900
We gave the Lumia 900 only an average review score, based on the fact that it can't be updated to Windows Phone 8. If you can look past this fact, you'll get a good smartphone, and at a decent price, too.
Cheapest: MobiCity — AU$509
Also at: Expansys — AU$519
Samsung Galaxy S II
Last year's runaway Android success, the GS2, is still a great phone, despite being superseded by newer models.
Cheapest: Kogan — AU$419
Also at: MobiCity — AU$459; Allphones — AU$508
MobiCity also sells a range of international GS2 variants, including the Galaxy S II HD, which has a larger, higher-resolution screen for AU$479.