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Nokia Lumia 1020 unlocked edition now available via Microsoft

The unlocked version sells for $549 and can be used on either AT&T or T-Mobile.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET

Those of you looking for an unlocked version of Nokia's Lumia 1020 phone can now buy one through Microsoft.

Popping up on Microsoft's website on Monday, the unlocked Lumia 1020 sells for $549 and can be activated with a purchased SIM card to operate with the carrier of your choice -- though your choices are limited.

With the SIM card, the unlocked 1020 can be used with either AT&T or T-Mobile. However, the phone is a GSM model so it does not support the CDMA networks of Verizon or Sprint. The phone does support 4G LTE.

So, why buy an unlocked phone? Such a phone allows you to switch from one carrier to another, in this case from AT&T to T-Mobile. So you're not locked into the usual two-year contract with one specific carrier. AT&T also has an exclusive agreement to sell the Lumia 1020, so if you're a T-Mobile customer who craves the phone, the unlocked edition is one way to get it.

The downside is that you have to pay the full retail price for the phone rather than the subsidized price. And you're restricted to GSM networks.

CNET's Maggie Reardon did a good job of explaining the ins and outs of locked vs. unlocked phones in an Ask Maggie column from August 2013.

The unlocked version of the Lumia 1020 comes with the same technical specs as the locked version. Equipped with a 4.5-inch screen, the phone offers a 1,280x768-pixel resolution. Powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor, the 1020 includes 32GB of onboard storage. But it's the 41-megapixel PureView camera with a Carl Zeiss lens that created buzz about the phone to lure in mobile photographers.

Those of you who'd be perfectly happy with a locked, carrier-specific Lumia 1020 can now grab the phone for free through AT&T with the usual two-year contract in tow.

(Via Windows Phone Central)