Up until a few years ago it was actually illegal to unlock a cell phone in the US. Back then unlocking a phone meant to make it so that the phone could be used on multiple carriers. Now you can buy an unlocked phone straight from the carrier, but should you? Well, that depends on your lifestyle.
One of the pros of an unlocked phone is that you can switch carriers almost at will depending on what kind of deals the carriers are offering, and since you own your own phone you don’t have to worry about contracts. They’re also great of you travel overseas because you can buy local coverage in almost whatever country you may be visiting. A big con of owning an unlocked phone is that they can be incredibly expensive. A top of the line phone, like an iPhone, or Samsung Galaxy, can run you close to $1,000 or more depending on what features you want. Unfortunately, not a lot of people have a cool grand just lying around to buy a high-end phone.
That’s not to say that there aren’t more affordable alternatives. A number of carriers have plans where there is no contract and the plans are all prepaid. The phones are more or less unlocked and are much less expensive than the top of the line phones and a lot of the phones work just as well. You may also be able to find a refurbished top of the line phone that’s being sold at a discount by one of these carriers.
So if you can afford an unlocked phone, definitely get one, but most people can get buy with just their carrier’s subsidized phone.