BUYING AN UNLOCKED CELL PHONE

Unlocked phones are becoming a popular choice here in the U.S. Why? Because nothing beats the freedom of an unlocked phone when it comes to choice of models, carriers or plans.

What is an unlocked smartphone? An unlocked smartphone is a phone that isn't tied to a specific carrier or contract. Therefore, you have the freedom to shop for the latest phones and plans as often — or as infrequently — as you like. And when it comes to international travel, unlocked phones can't be beat.

Nexus Samsung Motorola BLU Sony Huawei LG

Cell phones
Cell phones

PHONES THAT FIT YOUR BUDGET

Since unlocked phones are not tied to a specific carrier you have a greater selection of phones and features to choose from. Whether you are looking for a phone with basic calling and texting options, a smartphone with all the latest features like the Samsung Galaxy S6, or anything in between, you'll be able to find the right unlocked phone to meet your needs and budget.

Some unlocked phones may cost more up front compared to phones financed by the carriers, but, spread over two years, and combined with a less-expensive voice or data plan, it may actually be cheaper than your total monthly payments on a two-year or monthly installment billing contract.

Less than $100 $100–$199.99 $200–$249.99 $250–$499.99 $500 and up

Cell phones

GREAT FOR
INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL

Unlocked phones offer great flexibility to international students, tourists and business travelers. Since international roaming rates with your current phone and U.S. network can be high, buying an unlocked phone for overseas travel can save you money. With an unlocked phone, you'll pay the same lower rate as the locals do for calls in that country. It can be as easy as purchasing an unlocked phone in the U.S., traveling to your destination country and purchasing a local SIM card.

Dual-SIM unlocked phones such as the BLU Studio G can house up to two SIM cards in the same phone. This means you could have your U.S. SIM card and a local SIM card from the country you are traveling to together in the same phone. You could also use a dual-SIM phone at home to maintain separate work and personal lines on the same phone.

SETTING UP AN UNLOCKED PHONE

To use an unlocked phone in the U.S. or abroad, you will need a SIM card for the carrier of your choice. SIM cards are small cards that house carrier and user data within your smartphone. If you purchase a replacement phone or upgrade to a new unlocked phone, you can take out the SIM card in your old phone and pop it in the new one. If your old SIM is not compatible (size difference) or you are changing carriers, you will need to purchase a new SIM card.

Best Buy sells SIM kits that allow you to activate your unlocked phone with a prepaid wireless carrier such as AT&T GoPhone, T-Mobile or Verizon Wireless Prepaid. If you need a SIM card to activate a traditional plan, you will need to visit a local Best Buy store to purchase and activate your SIM card.

SIM card

UNLOCKED PHONE NETWORK COMPATIBILITY

It's important to pay attention to network compatibility when choosing an unlocked phone. There are two network standards used in the U.S. and abroad: GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) and CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access).

GSM Carriers for Unlocked Phones

All unlocked phones work on carriers that use GSM networks, which include AT&T, T-Mobile and most overseas carriers. Some popular prepaid carriers that also use GSM include GoPhone, NET10, TracFone and Simple Mobile. You will need to use SIM cards from a GSM provider in your unlocked phone to get service.

CDMA Carriers for Unlocked Phones

U.S. carriers such as Verizon Wireless and Sprint operate on a CDMA network. A number of newer phones such as the Motorola X Pure cover both GSM and CDMA networks so they can work with almost any U.S. carrier and carriers overseas. So you can use a SIM card from either network to get service.

SIM card

6- OR 12-MONTH FINANCING ON STOREWIDE PURCHASES

Purchase your unlocked cell phone with your Best Buy credit card and accrue no interest if paid in full within 6 months on storewide purchases $199 and up or if paid in full within 12 months on storewide purchases $399 and up.