Buying an Unlocked cell phone. How does it work?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by mariahlullaby, Jun 3, 2006.

  1. mariahlullaby macrumors 6502a

    mariahlullaby

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2005
    Location:
    NYC
    #1
    I am in the market for a new cell phone. Right now, I have a Nokia 6830, and while it's great, it's showing a lot of wear and I'm getting sick of the washed out display. Moreover, my mother and I use Cingular while my father and brother have Verizon. My mom wants to put the whole family all on the same plan before I go to college in the fall; she'd like Verizon, but she's willing to look into switching to Cingular.

    I'm still trying to decide WHAT type of phone I want. I currently have a Dell Axim x50v that my mother desperately wants to buy from me (haha) and I'm considering moving to an all-in-one device such as a Blackberry, HP PDA/handheld, or a smart phone. That's what I originally wanted, actually, but since I was a high school student at the time, I couldn't whip out a cell phone in class to use the organizer witout getting into massive amounts of trouble. What's a typical monthly charge for something like that though? I'm on a budget.

    Basically, I'm looking for a phone that's:
    1) Sleek
    2) Has a good/great display (large and vibrant)
    3) Has Bluetooth
    4) Has a decent camera (I actually like this feature even though I have a dedicated digital camera)
    5) Internet or at least email access

    It would be nice if it had:
    1) A keyboard
    2) Played MP3s
    3) Was a world phone

    At the moment, I really like the Siemens SK65 http://www.benq-siemens.com/cds/fro...ilt%3Adeviceconnectivity4_view%3Ahome,00.html. Unfortunately, it's a European phone....but I can get it on eBay unlocked. However, while I at least know what unlocked phones ARE, I have no idea how to use them once I get one. Would it work with say, Verizon?

    And if anyone has any suggestions for a good phone/service, I'd love you forever!
     
  2. netdog macrumors 603

    netdog

    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2006
    Location:
    London
    #2
    If it is a European phone and you intend to use it in the USA, you will need a provider that uses GSM.
     
  3. Kardashian macrumors 68020

    Kardashian

    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2005
    Location:
    Britain.
    #3
    Basically, manufacturers leave phones unlocked. The term unlocked means you can insert any simcard into the phone (providing its of the right ''band'' - will explain later) and it will work.

    Here in the UK, companies such as Orange enforce 'locks' onto these phones, around 7 of them, so that when another simcard other than their own Orange one is inserted, it won't recognise it, and will not boot up.

    You can phones 'unlocked' - where a piece of software 'flashes' the phone, and unlockes these 7 locks installed by network providers. Sometimes, it only unlocks the simcard, but leaves the MMS and Internet settings still locked, so even with a new provider, you cannot use MMS or Internet as its still locked to the old one.

    Basically, when purchasing an ''unlocked'' phone you need to find out if:

    1. Its Factory Unlocked (ie: its never had any Network Provider software or locks installed, and hasn't just been 'flashed' with a computer.)
    2. (If NOT Factory Unlocked) - that it will accept your own MMS and Internet settings - for email, photo messaging etc.
    3.If it will work on your 'band' (Just because its unlocked, doesn't mean it will work on all US providers)

    Here in the EU, we use a 900/1800/1900Mhz (EU Tri-Band phone)phone 'band' - and all the networks use one or the other, or both. However in the US I believe you have 800/850/1800/1900Mhz (US Tri-Band phone) - meaning if a network runs on the 800Mhz network, a EU phone will NOT work, regardless of it being unlocked or not.

    You can check with your network which 'band' is used. I believe T-Mobile US work with EU phones.

    If you buy an unlocked 'Quad-Band' phone - it will work anywhere in the EU, US, and OZ, as it works on all the above bands (800/850/1800/1900Mhz)

    Sorry to go on, hope it helps :)
     
  4. lexus macrumors 68000

    lexus

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    Mar 26, 2006
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    #4
    Doesn't a blackberry full fill all your requests?
     
  5. Kardashian macrumors 68020

    Kardashian

    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2005
    Location:
    Britain.
    #5
    A BlackBerry would, provided its Quad-Band. (I really want one but have no use for one at all.. :( )

    The RAZR (I believe) is also Quad, but doesn't fulfill his SmartPhone dream.

    I think a lot of the Sony Ericssons are now Quad Band to.

    You could also look into the Motorola Q (a RAZR BlackBerry-type, running WinBloze though :( )

    What about Palm Trios, hear their meant to be good?
     
  6. mariahlullaby thread starter macrumors 6502a

    mariahlullaby

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2005
    Location:
    NYC
    #6
    I do like the BlackBerry a lot (especially the new T Mobile one), but I am concerned about data charges that come along with a Blackberry to make it useful.

    Thanks for all the great tips, guys!!!! I will keep researching :) :).
     
  7. yg17 macrumors G5

    yg17

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2004
    Location:
    St. Louis, MO
    #7
    Whatever phone you get, make sure it's quadband. Most tri-band phones are 900/1800/1900MHz. Cingular uses 850MHz, so you'd need a quad band phone, which has all of those 3 bands, plus 850. T-Mobile uses 1900, so you'd be fine with a tri-band, BUT, they have roaming agreements with some 850MHz band providers, so if you went outside T's coverage area, you'd be screwed with a tri-band.

    In the US, the only GSM providers are Cingular and T-Mobile, plus some local, regional carriers, so Verizon is out of the question since your new phone wouldn't work with them.

    Once you get the phone, all you need to do is pop in your SIM card and you're good to go. My unlocked Sony Ericsson w810i arrived yesterday, all I did was put in my Cingular SIM and it worked. When I switch to T-Mobile once my Cingular contract is up in December, I'll just put in my T-Mobile SIM and it will work. That's what I love about GSM. Switching phones is more of a pain in the arse with CDMA and TDMA (Verizon is one of those, can't remember which)
     
  8. mariahlullaby thread starter macrumors 6502a

    mariahlullaby

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2005
    Location:
    NYC
    #8
    The Siemens phone is
    Multi-band capability Tri-band GSM
    Network frequency GSM 900 MHz, GSM 1800 MHz, GSM 1900 MH

    So that means it would NOT work on a US carrier, right?

    Thanks!
     
  9. yg17 macrumors G5

    yg17

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2004
    Location:
    St. Louis, MO
    #9
    Hard to say. Cingular does have some 1900MHz towers in bigger cities, but there's really no guarantee. Only way to be really safe is to get a quad band
     
  10. lexus macrumors 68000

    lexus

    Joined:
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    #10
    1900mhz works all over the US.
     
  11. yg17 macrumors G5

    yg17

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2004
    Location:
    St. Louis, MO
    #11
    Yes, it does. But.......


    Cingular's native network is 850 MHz. So, if you are a Cingular provider, like the original poster is, then you want an 850 phone. Yes, Cingular has some 1900MHz towers, mainly in larger cities, most of them left over from when they bought out ATT. Who knows how much longer they'll maintain them if their native network is 850 and they're just unneeded leftovers. T-Mobile's native network is 1900MHz, and I'm sure a few smaller, regional GSM companies have 1900 towers

    If you buy a phone without 850, one of two things will happen:

    1. You will be using one of Cingular's (old ATT) 1900 towers. Who knows how much longer it will be up and running. Cingular probably isn't maintaining them, and if they break, they break, because the only towers they care about are the 850 ones.

    2. You will roam onto another provider's (probably TMo) 1900 network, provided Cingular and the other network have a roaming agreement set up in that area. Now, keep in mind, that it's written in Cingular's contract (same with all companies really) that if you spend more than 50% of your minutes roaming on someone else's network for consecutive months, they'll drop you, because it costs them a lot to allow you to roam, and you have free roaming.


    Not buying a phone that supports 850MHz is not a good idea for Cingular customers. TMo customers can get away with it more, but if you're using Cingular, then you want 850.
     
  12. celebrian23 macrumors 65816

    celebrian23

    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2006
    Location:
    Under the sun
    #12
    Just a consideration, but perhaps you should wait until you get to college or know what service is good out there, the reason being that not all cellphones are created equally.
     
  13. mariahlullaby thread starter macrumors 6502a

    mariahlullaby

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2005
    Location:
    NYC
    #13
    I'm going to college in New York City...I'm guessing pretty much everything will be OK over there.

    Thanks for all the tips guys...I see now I can't use the Siemens phone on Cingular without huge hassles. I'm taking a look at other phones now...any suggestions? I don't think I can afford a BlackBerry unfortunately :(.
     
  14. yg17 macrumors G5

    yg17

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2004
    Location:
    St. Louis, MO
    #14
    Ive been to NYC with Cingular. Coverage up there blows.
     

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