Subsidized or SIM-free? An Informal Poll

Phone Lock

One minor revelation from yesterday’s pow-wow that Howard and I had with Motorola Canada is still sticking with me: the 3rd iteration of the cheap and cheerful Moto G will only be available from carriers here.

As a champion of unlocked phones, that makes me sad.

I can only guess that selling phones to carriers in this country is a better business than offering them SIM-free through other channels like Staples or Ingram Micro. Either that, or nobody’s buying the SIM-free versions. And I suspect it’s the latter.

I get why people gravitate towards locked-to-carrier subsidized hardware. If you’re a Samsung user in North America you don’t really have any other choice (other than the grey market). And a $399 USD locked-to-Verizon iPhone stings the wallet a lot less than an $849 unlocked one does.

When I think about it I can see the appeal of a zero-dollar phone, too. If a carrier is offering you a free device in exchange for a contract, why not? You’re going to need service anyway, right?

Locked devices and subsidies clearly aren’t for me. I like to travel, and my vacation dollar goes much further on a local SIM than it would racking up roaming charges from my carrier. And honestly, the only subsidized phone I’ve bought in the last decade was a Galaxy Nexus from WIND Mobile. Within a year of that purchase I had switched to another provider, and was hit up for the remainder of my tab—an extra $300—on my way out the door.

It’s great to have options when considering a handset purchase; I just worry that the carrier/subsidy model actually hurts choice—at least for those who’d rather pay full price for an unlocked phone. On the other hand, while I personally don’t think that carriers should be in the business of selling phones, here in North America they clearly are.

So enlighten me… How did you buy your most recent device, and why?

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