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All the freedom you need without the contract

What is the difference between an unlocked and locked Android phone?

Android phones used to be sold locked to the wireless carrier providing you with service on their network. Being “locked” meant the phone you had under that carrier would only work with one of their SIM cards. It was a software-based lock that kept the phone from working with other networks in Canada.

The term “factory locked” meant that the phone manufacturer applied the software lock prior to shipping and selling the device. “Network locked” basically meant the same thing, except that the carrier may have locked the phone on its own, away from the factory.

New terms under Canada’s wireless code of conduct went into effect on December 1, 2017 prohibiting carriers from selling locked phones. Unlocked Android phones are free of any restrictions from the factory or carrier when it comes to using whatever SIM card you like. Just swap out your current SIM card for another and you can get service from that provider.

Advantages of an unlocked Android phone

The biggest advantage to an unlocked Android phone is freedom of movement. Android phones that are not under terms of a contract with a carrier are not bound in any way. If you don’t like the service, or you get a better deal and want to switch, you can do so without paying the balance of the phone’s value.

Another great advantage of these unlocked phones is its convenience and versatility when travelling. If a local carrier in another country offers a good price for service, you can simply slide in their SIM card and use your phone on that network without any interruption. You would have a local phone number, and use however much data the service package comes with. This option may be cheaper than a roaming plan from your Canadian carrier.

If you are looking to purchase a new Android phone and want to gift your older one to a friend or family member, they can also just put in their own SIM card and continue service on that device.

Are unlocked Android phones compatible with all carriers?

The short answer is yes, however there are some differences to consider. Some countries continue to use CDMA networks, which are incompatible with GSM, the network protocol most of the world has adopted. Your GSM Android phone may not work if the device doesn’t have a modem inside that works on the CDMA network. It’s best to check for any incompatibilities in advance.

Some carriers may also use particular frequency bands that aren’t included in specific phones. It’s less of an issue with the latest Android phones, and unlikely to be a problem with Canadian carriers, including smaller regional providers. An unlocked Android phone will work with most carriers around the world without having to change to another device.