What Does Factory Unlocked Mean On A Phone?

When buying a phone, you can often see them being sold under different ‘lock’ classifications, but what does it mean if it is ‘factory unlocked’? 

Depending on how you want to use your phone, having it locked or unlocked can open up a lot of different possibilities. However, there are some key characteristics that you need to be aware of when you consider unlocked phones. 

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What Does Factory Unlocked Mean On A Phone?

A factory unlocked phone means that the device is not tied to any carrier and it was purchased directly from the company that manufactured it. These phones can be used on any available network and are not bound to a contract.

If you are looking to buy a new phone, having one that has been unlocked can make a world of difference in how much versatility and freedom you have when you use it. When you buy a phone in the United States, you often do it through a wireless network provider. 

If you bought your phone this way, then chances are that it is probably locked and can only be used with that carrier. 

That is why a lot of people are preferring to buy their phones unlocked, but it is important to recognize that there are various classifications for unlocked phones. To help you understand this better, we are going to take a closer look at factory unlocked phones in more detail.

After extensively researching phones, I have been able to gather enough information to determine what factory unlocked means. My research has indicated that a factory unlocked phone has far fewer limitations than one that is locked to a carrier.

What is a Factory Unlocked Phone?

A factory unlocked phone means that the device was bought directly from the company that manufactured it. These companies design their phones and distribute them to retailers and network providers who then sell them to consumers.

If you bought a phone that is classified as ‘factory unlocked’, it means that it is not attached to any carrier and you can use it with any wireless provider.

Factory unlocked phones are not tied to any contracts and do not come with hidden fees – making them more reliable than locked phones.

Benefits of Factory Unlocked Phones

If you buy a factory unlocked phone, you are going to find that your device comes with a lot of added benefits. 

Aside from having the full functionality of your phone, you can also use it wherever you want without being tied down or bound to a carrier. 

Factory unlocked essentially equates to having the freedom to use your phone however you want. Let’s explore some of the benefits of having a factory unlocked phone.

No Contracts

This is the most important characteristic of a factory unlocked phone. Carriers, particularly those in the United States, like to sign their customers onto costly contracts that can last for years. 

A lot of people buy their phones from wireless providers and agree to stay with them for a 1 to 2-year period, which they are bound to do based on the contract that they signed. This contract keeps you and your phone locked to a single provider.

If down the line you decide that you want to switch to a different carrier, you will not be able to do so until your contract is up and fully paid.

Some contracts even require you to use a certain phone for an agreed period of time until you are eligible for an upgrade. This will not be an issue when you buy a factory unlocked phone, as there are no contracts involved.

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Freedom to Change Carriers

A lot of people want to change their wireless provider but they can’t because their phone is bound to the company

If you and your phone are still tied to a contract with a carrier, it means that you are not allowed to switch over to another wireless provider

This can be particularly frustrating when you hear of a better deal for a phone plan or if you are simply not happy with the service of your current carrier. By owning a factory unlocked phone, you can switch to any carrier whenever you want, so long as you do not sign any contracts.

This is also a huge selling point for anyone who wants to travel internationally and use their phone while they go abroad. 

Given the fact that a locked phone means that you are bound to a domestic carrier, it means that the device is pretty much useless for calls once you leave the country. A factory unlocked phone allows you to insert any SIM into your phone – no matter where you are.

Financial Incentives

The bottom line is that a factory unlocked phone is going to save you money in the long run. A phone that is not bound to a contract or a carrier means that you can easily switch to better providers whenever you want to save money. If you see a better deal, you can pop in a new SIM and use your phone freely. 

In addition, if you decide that at some point you want to sell your phone, your factory unlocked phone is going to fetch a higher price. 

A lot of people buying used phones want nothing to do with ones that are locked – given their limitations.

Are All Unlocked Phones the Same?

When you browse the phone options that are available on the market, you are likely going to see different classifications for unlocked phones. It is important to understand that these are not all the same and that each one has its own characteristics. 

With that being said, pretty much every unlocked phone comes with added benefits. Most importantly, the device is not bound to a specific carrier and can be used more freely than a locked phone.

Factory Unlocked vs Network Unlocked Phones

A common classification that you will find for unlocked phones are ones that have been ‘network unlocked’. Unlike a factory unlocked phone which has never been bound to any carrier, a network unlocked phone means that the device was at one point owned and then sold by a wireless provider. 

If a phone has been network unlocked, the customer that originally bought the phone signed a contract with a carrier. 

The contract was finalized by the customer and the individual then decided to unlock the phone themselves so that they can use it with other wireless providers. To do this, the person had to go through an unlocking procedure, which required them to contact their network provider to request the lock status of the phone to be lifted.

More often than not, this is a relatively simple procedure that takes 24 to 48 hours to be completed. The network provider unlocks the phone and this enables the device to be used with different carriers – much like a factory unlocked phone.

In addition, factory unlocked phones will not have any carrier logos physically on the phone. Network unlocked phones will have some sort of branding from the company, which can usually be found on the back cover.

Factory Unlocked vs Jailbroken Phones

If a phone has been jailbroken it essentially means that the device has been hacked so that the user has more control over the entire phone’s operating system. 

A jailbroken device enables you to manipulate and change features, layouts, and other characteristics of the device based on how you want it to operate and look. 

This is not a type of phone that you will see sold by carriers or third-party retailers. This is a customization that is done to a phone which enables advanced unlock features. There are some situations where jailbreaking a phone has been illegal in the past. 

This was due to breaching the original manufacturer’s copyright laws, but legal action for this is virtually non-existent.

A factory unlocked phone can be jailbroken to have these features and controls enabled. 

The main difference is that jailbreaking has nothing to do with network providers and is a customizable hack that can be implemented on mobile devices.