Locked smartphones versus unlocked smartphones is a battle that has raged on since we have been using the devices. Many techie users will not even think about purchasing a smartphone that is not already unlocked or one that can easily be unlocked. One of the big advantages of an unlocked device is you are free to take your device to another network, although there could be some problems with CDMA networks (Verizon/Sprint) or GSM networks (AT&T/T-Mobile). In February 2015, the Wireless Association's CTIA (formerly known as Cellular Telephone Industries Association), the international industry trade group that oversees all wireless communication sectors, and with some FCC strong-arming, it is now easier to free your smartphone from its current network.
This unlocking rule goes across all US carriers and for once, Verizon is actually one of the easier devices to unlock. In fact, all Verizon 4G LTE devices are unlocked out of the box, so if you are currently using one on their network and you wish to leave, you only need to meet a few requirements. If you are on a two-year contract, you must fulfill your 24-month agreement. If you are financed via their Edge program, then you must have the device completely paid off. The device must not be reported lost or stolen and it cannot be associated with any fraudulent activity.
There are always a few exceptions, but that is basically how easy it is to have an unlocked Verizon 4G LTE phone. Verizon is using CDMA technology, which is different from AT&T and T-Mobile, however, you can used an unlocked Verizon 4G LTE device on AT&T and T-Mobile networks as long as their LTE bands are the same, so check before you leap. Even though Sprint is also a CDMA network, you cannot take your Verizon device to Sprint because they use different LTE bands than Verizon. So you can see that there are many things to take into consideration when switching networks besides simply unlocking your device.
If all of this sounds great and you are ready to unlock your phone and jump carriers, before you do you may want to look at the study done by GadgetValuer – a company designed to find you the best price for your device when decide you want to sell. They give us a little insight into the affect unlocking will have on its resell value, and some of their findings may surprise you. Below, we will look at a few charts and point out some of the highlights.
The above chart shows some of last year's flagship devices to determine the selling price if the device is locked or unlocked. It indicates for the most part you will receive less money for your device on both Sprint and T-Mobile, if it is locked. You can also see that on AT&T and Verizon networks' there are several cases where you could receive more money by keeping your smartphone locked. For instance, an LG G3 will fetch you and average of $165 unlocked, however, you would receive the same amount at Verizon for a locked version and $181 at AT&T.
The above graph looks at Samsung only devices and few observations can be made – If you are on the Sprint network, it is better to unlock your device before you sell it or you could be cheating yourself by as much as $39 in the case of a Galaxy S4 with 16GB. Once again, when you sell an AT&T device, you generally make more money by keeping it locked. T-Mobile and Verizon each have two out of the six devices that will yield you either the same amount of slightly higher amounts if they are kept locked.
The graph above looks at a couple of top LG and HTC devices. Once again, Sprint devices command a much higher resale value if they are unlocked. For example, a locked HTC One M9 will fetch you an average price of only $220, whereas an unlocked version will give you $140 more! Both the HTC One M8 and One M9 are worth more unlocked across all four carriers. The LG G2 is definitely worth more unlocked across all networks, but the LG G3, once again, is worth the most locked on AT&T networks, while Verizon will match the unlocked price.
The last spreadsheet lists all of the devices and the potential savings with each device over all carriers. If a consumer compares locked and unlocked prices before they trade-in or sell, it is very possible they can make more money. GadgetValuer will show you the top resale prices of your device and generally, you have a 30-day period where the price quoted is 'frozen,' giving you time to get you smartphone unlocked if you need to.