Before delving into the murky waters of where to buy an unlocked iPhone 5 without contract, wireless providers and cellphones standards, a few questions need to be cleared up first.
What is CDMA vs GSM?
There are two main types of cellular networks in the United States, CDMA and GSM. AT&T and T-Mobile use CDMA networks while the rest (most notably, Verizon and Sprint) use GSM. A locked phone simply means that the particular device is chained to a certain carrier and would not function if you inserted a SIM card from another company. Unlocking a phone allows you to use the phone with a different wireless provider. While previous versions of iPhones were still compatible only to their original, specific network (CDMA/GSM) even after unlocking (due to the physical design), an unlocked iPhone 5 is compatible to both standards. Therefore, an unlocked iPhone 5 purchased from Verizon and its GSM network is able to function on AT&T and its CDMA network, and vice versa.
However, there are a few drawbacks to using an iPhone on a network or company that it wasn’t originally intended for. It may not be able to use the faster data speeds offered by the newer standards (LTE over 3G) and some functionalities might not work at all. Not to mention, the unlocking process is still very much up in the air with regards to the rules and regulations and the willingness of the wireless providers to unlock the iPhone they sell to customers. The companies seem a bit capricious and mercurial when it comes to selling unlocked iPhones so many people have turned to third party sources to purchase these unlocked phones and thereby, bypass Verizon, AT&T, and others altogether. It is completely legal to unlock a phone.
With a bit of scrutiny and care, it is possible to buy an unlocked iPhone at a significantly cheaper price than buying one directly from the cell phone companies. Here is a list of some recommended places to start your search:
Amazon has a reputation that precedes itself and no doubt lends an air of confidence to any product that they sell on the internet. Unlocked iPhone can easily be found on their website as well as any third party resellers that offer used iPhones. The fact that you are buying from the largest online retailer in our local solar system should provide some mental relief from any anxiety that might arise from buying an iPhone outside the official channels. To see the price or read reviews on Amazon, click here.
Probably the widest selection of new and used iPhones anywhere on the internet, eBay has always been teeming with eager vendors ready to sell their wares online. A simple search for the iPhone 4, 4S, and 5 reveals thousands of unlocked iPhones ready for purchase and delivery. Be particularly scrupulous when reading the product descriptions and the condition of the product, especially if the Item Condition is anything other than Brand New. Not to mention, always keep an eye on the vendors username and the percentage number underneath it. It is the best indicator as to whether or not the person selling the unlocked iPhone is dependable, honest, and punctilious about their sales. Also, the aggregate number of people who have made a transaction with the vendor should be kept in mind. A vendor with five total lifetime sales and a 100% feedback rating is less impressive than one who has 5000 sales and a 99% rating.
A bit of a no-brainer but still worth mentioning nonetheless. Even though Apple is the company that famously, or perhaps infamously, created the iPhone 5 and all its predecessors, many people still purchase or upgrade their cell phones through their wireless provider. However, through Apple, you can purchase a subsidized iPhone 5 by signing a two-year contract with a wireless company or you can pay the full retail price for an unlocked iPhone straight from the source without having to sign up with a major wireless providers (Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, etc.). Yes, Apple sells unlocked iPhones directly on their website. While, you still have to pay the full price, a princely sum for any smartphone, you are guaranteed to receive a brand new iPhone with all its attendant glories and woes. If you dont want to go through the hassle of finding a cheaper unlocked phone from the other sellers, Apple.com is the way to go.
If you follow the tips outlined above, you’ll be able to buy an unlocked iPhone 5 without contract in no time.