Now that unlocking your smartphone is legal, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t unlock yours, right? In fact, that’s correct: unlocking your smartphone provides you, the owner, more power over your device. So if you can, here are three major reasons why you should take advantage of the option:

It Makes It Usable Internationally . . . Without Ridiculous Fees

To attract customers, carriers typically subsidize the purchase cost of a device when a user signs up for a new two-year contract and lock the subsidized phone to their service. For example, if you purchase an HTC One (M8) from AT&T without a contract, the device would cost $669. If you sign up for a two-year contract, AT&T will sell you the phone for $199, but the device will be locked by the carrier and will only work on its network.

That also means that if you travel internationally, you can’t just switch out the AT&T SIM card for a local one—it won’t work. Instead, you’ll have to pay AT&T to use the phone internationally through the carrier’s partners. This almost always costs much more than buying a cheap SIM card, partly because mobile service in most of the world is much cheaper than in the United States, and partly because carrier partnerships cost the end user a lot of money. Of course, if your smartphone is locked, then you don’t have a choice in the matter.

It Lets You Switch Carriers . . . Without Buying a New Phone

Tired of your carrier but like your phone? Before smartphones, this wasn’t a problem; just cancel the service, get the appropriate SIM card, and sign up for a new service plan with the new carrier. Today, thanks to contracts and locking, that’s not so easy. If you want to switch service providers for any reason, such as a poor cell coverage in your area, then you’ll need to buy a new device if your phone is locked. An unlocked phone, however, can be used on your new carrier’s network, as long as the device itself is supported. Almost all GSM phones work on AT&T and T-Mobile, and those work almost anywhere in the world. However, CDMA-based phones, like those used by Verizon Wireless and Sprint, may not provide all of the wireless bands needed to work on all carriers, so check with the device manufacturer before making the decision to switch.

It Makes the Phone More Valuable . . . When You Decide to Sell It

Eventually, we all sell or give away our old smartphones, but it inherently has less value if it’s stuck on a specific wireless provider. If you want to get the most value from selling that old device, or if you want to give it to someone who isn’t necessarily on the same carrier as you are, then unlocking your phone is the best way to get the full value out of the deal.

Curious about how to unlock your phone? If you’re on a two-year contract or bought your phone on contract, then just call up your service provider and ask them to unlock it. If you’ve had it for at least a year, most will do it for free. Otherwise, plenty of online services will do it for a fee.

Do you plan to unlock your phone? Have you already?

Image courtesy of Flickr

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