Best Values in Unlocked GSM Cellphones - A Comparative Review

Unlocked cellphones are the standard in many parts of the world. In the US, the major service providers use a subscription revenue model that relies on heavily discounting the upfront cost of a cellphone and making it up by tying customers to a long-term contract (2 years or more) that assures a steady stream of monthly revenue. To prevent customers from using the phone with a competitor’s service, they lock such phones. For consumers, there are several disadvantages to this approach including the fact that one has to jump through hoops to use it outside the country. For this reason, unlocked cellphones are a popular choice among a small segment of the population.

Service providers have prepaid options that allow these phones to be used with AT&T, Verizon, and other service provider networks. Unlocked GSM cellphones are a popular choice because they can be used outside the US more easily – use a SIM card from the local provider. These work with GSM providers in the US such as AT&T and T-Mobile. It will not work on CDMA providers such as Verizon, Alltel, and Sprint.

For a best-value comparison, we used the spreadsheet below sorted in ascending order by price:



ModelThumbnailPriceFeaturesComments
Motorola Motofone F3


22.99Dual-band GSM – will work in USA but not in Europe and Asia. Ink Display – easy to read even on direct sunlight, GPRS, 250 contacts, clock, alarm, 4.5 hour battery. 3.8 x 2 x 0.8 inches ; 4.3 ounces Excellent Value. Consider quad-band GSM cellphones, if you plan to travel outside the US frequently. The same model sold in Europe and Asia also has dual-band but covers the other two frequencies used there (900/1800) instead of the two (850/1900) used here.
Motorola V195


$50Quad-band GSM – will work globally. Classic clam-shell design in the legendary v300 style, GPRS, dual-LCD, polyphonic ringtones, Bluetooth – hands-free calling, SMS/MMS, 10MB memory (not expandable), 8-hour battery, 1.8 x 0.9 x 3.6 inches, 4.4 ounces Excellent Value for global use. Close-out pricing may be available on the V191, the older model.
Motorola SLVR l6i


$139.99Quad-band GSM – will work globally. GPRS/Edge Data, FM Radio, Camera, Bluetooth – hands-free calling, Speakerphone, Polyphonic ringtones, mp3 ringers, SMS/MMS, 10MB memory (not expandable), 5.8-hour battery, 4.33 x 1.93 x 0.41 inches, 2.82 ounces Rip-off.
Nokia 5030 XpressRadio


$79.75Quad-band GSM (850/1800/1900) – will work globally – one of the most popular models in the Asian market – Nokia OS, 4.3 x 1.8 x 0.6 inches; 2.9 ounces Excellent Value.
Nokia 5300 XpressMusic


$89.75Tri-band GSM (850/1800/1900) – will not work globally – older networks in many parts of the world use the 900-band were it won't work. MicroSD Slot (2GB Max), MP3 player, Camera, Bluetooth, Java Games and Apps – Nokia OS, 6 x 9 x 12 inches; 3.6 ounces Good Value, if you need a single-device to handle phone, music, and camera needs.
Samsung Blackjack i607


$119.99Windows Mobile Smartphone with QWERTY keyboard, 3G – UMTS/HSPDA, Quad-Band GSM – works globally, Camera, MicroSD Card Slot, 5-hour battery, 4.45 x 2.32 x .46 inches. Weight: 3.5 ounces. Excellent Value for a 3G phone. Lacks Wi-Fi, but users on a 3G data plan won’t need it. No touch screen but the below $100 pricing is outstanding for a smart phone with the full feature set.
Motorola SLVR l9


$289.99Features of Motorola SLVR l6i PLUS better camera, FM Radio, Expandable Memory, digital/video player, noise cancellation, 6.7-hour battery, 4 4.4 x 1.9 x 0.4 inches; 3.4 ounces Rip-off.




























LG KP500


$99.99

Features of Motorola SLVR l9 PLUS 3-inch touchscreen, better camera and camcorder, Bluetooth Stereo Music, 8GB MicrosSD exapansion slot, 3.5 hour battery, 0.5 x 2.2 x 4.2 inches ; 3.2 ounces Excellent Value. The pricing is outstanding. So, go for it!
Nokia X3 Slider


$139.99

Features of LG KP500 PLUS 24 hours of music playtime, direct access with camera key, over the air software updates, up to 7.5 hours talk time, 3.78" x 1.94" x 0.56", 3.63 oz Good Value.
Nokia E63-2


$169.99

Features of Motorola SLVR l9 PLUS Wi-Fi, 3G (UMTS), Access to corporate/personal email; QWERTY keyboard, Bluetooth Stereo Music, Better Camera and Camcorder, Media Player, MicroSD Slot (upto 16GB), Text to speech, IEEE 802.11g wireless, Symbian OS 9.2 – Java Apps, Email – POP3, SMTP, IMAP4, GPRS/EDGE – Class 32, WAP 2.0, 10.5 hour battery, 2.3 x 0.5 x 4.4 inches; 4.4 ounces Excellent Value for global business use.
Nokia 5530 XpressMusic Tourchscreen


$189Features of Nokia E63-2 PLUS Touchscreen Display, one-year unlimited music download, Better Camera, newer development platform, TV output, lighter MINUS 3G capability, slightly lesser talktime (battery). Good entertainment oriented phone.
Nokia 5800 XpressMusic Tourchscreen


$219.99

Features of Nokia 5530 PLUS 3.5G, Integrated GPS, Geo-tagging, Accelerometer Sensor, Better Battery. Excellent value for entertainment oriented phone with touchscreen Wi-Fi and integrated GPS. Also, the one-year unlimited music access is unique to Nokia's "Comes With Music" Edition phones.
Nokia E71


$227.54

Features of Nokia E63-2 PLUS GPS, Metal Casing, Better Camera, and 3.5G Network (HSDPA). Good alternative to E63-2, if you need GPS.
Blackberry Curve 8900


$319.99Features of Motorola SLVR l9 PLUS Wi-Fi, GPS using Blackberry Maps, Trackball Navigation, Access to corporate/personal email; QWERTY keyboard, Bluetooth Stereo Music, Better Camera and Camcorder, Media Player, MicroSD Slot (upto 16GB), Text to speech, IEEE 802.11g wireless, Blackberry OS–Apps, SMS/MMS/Email/IM, GPRS/EDGE – Class 10, WAP, 5.5 hour battery, 4.3 x 2.4 x 0.5 inches; 3.9 ounces Expensive but is a standard among business users.
Nokia N97 Mini



$369.99

Features of Nokia E71 PLUS Wi-Fi, Resistive Touch Screen, 3G (HSDPA), Storage – 8GB Internal , expandable to 16GB through external MicroSD slot, 5MP Camera, Geo-tagging, Symbian OS v9.4 – Java Apps, A-GPS with Nokia Maps, FM Visual Radio, N-gage, 4.2 x 2.2 x 0.6 inches, 5.29 ounces. Good alternative to iPhone with no contract!
Nokia N900 Mobile Computer Smartphone



$399.99

Features of Nokia N97 Mini PLUS Maemo 5 Linux Based OS, 32GB storage, 1GB Memory,Fast Multitasking, Full QWERTY keyboard, 4.4 x 2.3 x 0.7 inches, 6.38 ounces. Excellent alternative to iPhone with no contract!




Summary:

There are plenty of choices in the unlocked GSM phone market. A basic phone that can be used globally can be had for around $50. On the other end of the spectrum is smartphones like the Nokia N900 that pack a large number of features along with touch-screen, apps, and GPS functionality for a premium price. We chose Nokia E63-2 during this holiday season – our requirements were for a smartphone that could be used globally for a reasonable price and this Nokia fit the bill nicely. For consumers who want an unlocked Apple iPhone, buy.com has those but the pricing is steep at about one grand. HTC Nexus One by Google is the newest entrant in the market – it has a nice feature set that should give the high-end products a run for their money in the coming months.


Last Updated: 08/2010.

2 comments :

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Anonymous said...

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