We got an interesting question from Melissa via the website:
My husband recently lost his smartphone (or someone stole it). Either way, we’re out a phone. If we were to get a new smartphone from a family member who uses a different provider, can we “unlock” it and use it?
The answer: it depends, mostly on the carriers involved. Not all carriers use the same communications technology (GSM vs CDMA), and not all phones have both kinds of chips. So it becomes a case of what kind of phone and which carriers. The latest iPhone, for example, I believe has both chipsets in it so it’s carrier agnostic (for the most part).
If you’re looking to use a second-hand phone, your best bet is to get the model of the phone and then check with your carrier to see if it’s supported. If it is, you can probably activate it, usually for some fee (of course).
If you want to shop for an unlocked phone and then simply choose your carrier, Amazon offers a wide variety of unlocked phones that can be purchased and then activated with a carrier. I’ve not gone that route in the past, but know a few who have and it seems to work well for them. The advantage here is that you can choose your plan and not be locked into a contract for a ridiculously long time.
Thanks for the question, Melissa – hope this helps. And to the rest of our readers – we like questions, so feel free to post yours on the site!