I may move away from carrier-branded devices

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from  Arizona
| December 27, 2013

I have a confession to make. While I've been straightforward about switching phones a lot, I've been keeping a secret. It's a big one, too. Because when most people switch devices often enough, they learn to stick to a certain type of device, just to make life as easy as possible: unlocked devices. It's the easiest way to skip things like pre-installed software from carriers, too. Which seems to be generally disliked by just about everyone who comes into contact with it.

I use unlocked phones often enough, but when it comes to my personal handset, I tend to lean towards a carrier-branded version. Why? I honestly couldn't tell you. I know that I like visiting my local wireless retail shop because I enjoy talking to the sales reps there (they've always got fun stories), but I have no idea why that means I have to get my phones there, too. Though, it may be weird if I never bought anything, but still visited.


I've dealing with carrier software for so long, on both sides of the table, that I've just become used to it. I just ignore it. When I pick up a Windows Phone-based device, I delete it, but when I get around to an Android handset, I just hide them in folders. (Kind of like some stock software on Apple's platform. Folders are the best.) Getting a carrier device is easy, there's network support without me having to double-check fine print, and if I want to get rid of the phone I can easily return it without having to worry about shipping.

So, that's how I see the "pros" in this pros and cons list. But, truthfully, I've just been leaning away from these types of devices recently. When I picked up the iPhone 5s it was an upgrade, so I didn't have the right mindset to pick it up unlocked from Apple. But that may change with any device that I buy next year.

I'm leaning away from carrier-branded handsets, and more towards the unlocked devices that are getting a lot of attention. Way more than they ever used to, that's for sure. Handsets like the Oppo N1, or the BLU Life Pure. And then there's the Motorola Moto G, which doesn't have the shackles you'd expect for that starting $179 price tag. And, obviously, Google's Nexus 5.

Going the unlocked route means you have to check to make sure that the device supports your network, and that it supports it in all the ways you want it to. Many devices will work on the GSM-based networks in the United States, like AT&T and T-Mobile, but they may not have the fastest data connections, due to the radios inside the handset.

Thankfully, as we move into 2014, I think LTE support for carriers here in our neck of the woods is going to become pretty standard, even if some devices may offer it with a slight uptick in the price. If the Nexus 5 is any indicator, support is going to become standard across the board, and that's a very good thing.

Especially if devices like Oppo's upcoming Find 7, which sounds amazing, supports the network that I need it to. I don't think I'm ready to give up LTE to get my hands on any particular device, even for a cheap handset like the Moto G or a high-end handset like the Find 7. However, these devices, and their specs, and their lack of carrier interference, are looking far more appealing than they ever have to me.

That's why I think in 2014 I may find myself buying more unlocked, carrier-unbranded devices. Do you think you'll do the same thing, or is this a tactic that you've been utilizing for quite some time already? On the flip side, do you plan on sticking with your carrier-branded handsets? Let me know!