What is an unlocked phone?
In short, an unlocked phone is one that is not tied to a particular service provider or rate plan. You know how the Droid series is exclusive to Verizon? This is basically the opposite of that. You get to pair your unlocked phone with any number of carriers. It’s not unlike buying a personal computer and deciding which internet provider you’d like. Simply place the SIM card into the phone and you’re just about set.
What’s the benefit of an unlocked phone?
If there’s one thing that an unlocked phone gives you, it’s flexibility. Want to cancel your service? Want to switch to another company because of a promotional rate plan? Owning an unlocked phone lets you do just that, and without breaking any agreements or getting sacked with fees.
If there’s a second thing that an unlocked phone gives you, it’s freedom. Heading overseas or out of the country for a bit? Take out your SIM card and put in a local carrier’s SIM for local data. Many of today’s unlocked phones even offer dual-SIM slots so you can hop between one carrier or another. This is perfect for those of us who might want two separate phone numbers, too.
Lastly, going the unlocked route opens the door up to a much wider selection of phones. Most people don’t realize that there are literally dozens of models to choose from which might work with their network provider. You are not confined to what’s offered in their retail store or on their website. Indeed, you can find plenty of devices which will work with your carrier.
What else should I know?
Some of the most common network bands for unlocked phones include 800, 850, and 1900 MHz. Before you purchase your unlocked phone, though, check to ensure it supports your carrier(s) of choice. Indeed, there are other bands used by different carriers. It only take a few minutes to determine if your potential handset is going to work in your region or where you might travel.
Some retailers will help spell out whether a phone is compatible with certain carriers; press releases for select phones also tend to do the same.
Google’s Nexus line
Google has, since 2010, offered its own branded take on the smartphone. Each of these “Nexus” phones is built by a hardware maker and typically sold through Google’s store. In the past you might have seen a Google Nexus S or Nexus 4 offered through a carrier but that has died down with time. Today’s crop of phones, the Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P, are also sold via online retailers such as Amazon, B&H Photo Video, and Best Buy.
There’s so much to love about the new flagship smartphone experience from Google. Launched in October, it’s the first handset to feature Google’s new Assistant technology. In other words, it’s super smart and just like having a virtual assistant with you at all times.
In terms of hardware, the Pixel can hang with pretty much anything else on the market. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor blows through apps and games at blazing speeds; the 4GB RAM ensures you can multi-task like nobody’s business.
Looking for a good camera for your mobile needs? There is, quite simply, nothing better on the market. According to DxOMark, the Pixel’s rear 12.3-megapixel camera is the best smartphone shooter to date. Around front you’ll find an 8-megapixel unit that takes gorgeous selfies.
The 2,770mAh battery is strong enough to get most people through more than a typical day’s usage. But, for those who tax their devices a little more, its Quick Charge 3.0 support means you’ll be up and running again in no time. Simply plug it in for 15 minutes and you’ll end up with seven more hours of mixed usage.
Storage comes in two capacities: 32GB and 128GB. While you might worry that the former is not enough, do note that both let users backup photos and video (even 4K!) to Google Photos for free — at the original resolution.
All of this hardware is great, but let’s not forget the software that runs the show. The Android 7.1 Nougat is the absolute latest from Google and it’s smarter, intuitive, and more cohesive than ever before.
Read our initial impressions of the Google Pixel