When Canadians need a new smartphone, they typically go to their carrier and get the phone of their choice. I’ve done that and I am sure that you’ve done that as well.
The problem is that it’s costing Canadians more money to do that. Here’s why.
When you go to your carrier to get a smartphone, you pay a lower up front cost. But you then pay a “subsidy” over the next two years to cover the rest of the phone’s cost. Note the quotes because it actually isn’t a “subsidy.” It’s more like a loan that you’re paying back with interest. So, by the time it’s all over you would have paid more than what the phone is worth. Another point worth considering is that if you ever wanted to change carriers within that two year term, you’ll have to pay off that”subsidy” in full. Finally if you wanted a better price plan, that may be difficult to get from the carrier you’re with. If you can get a better price plan, you can bet that there will be strings attached. Such as renewing the two year agreement. Now, some of you will point out that paying for a phone up front is expensive. I get that as I just paid almost $1200 for a new iPhone 7 Plus which is not a small amount of money. But in the long run I am saving money as I am not paying for the costs associated with a “subsidy.” Thus it’s worth it to me.
Another factor in why you should get an unlocked phone is that Canadian carriers often have a bring your own device plan that can save you 10% or more. That 10% savings can add up quickly given how expensive carrier plans are in this country. It also gives you the option of going month to month with a carrier. That way, if you don’t like the coverage that carrier has, or they do something that annoys you for example, you have the option to move to another carrier. To illustrate this, I will use my experience since I started using an unlocked phone 6 years ago. Until last November, I have used Bell as I had a very good deal with them in terms of voice and data. But then switched to Rogers in November when they offered a better deal than what Bell was offering me. In both cases, I was month to month. I truly have no allegiance towards a carrier as it is all about which carrier will offer me the best coverage and speed for the lowest price.
Travelling is another factor. And when I say travelling, I mean to places other than the USA. Every Canadian carrier has reasonable rates to roam with your smartphone to the US of roughly $5 to $7 a day which I can live with and I am sure you can as well. But you can typically do much better if you have an unlocked phone as you can usually buy a local SIM card and get much cheaper rates in your destination. Let me give you two examples:
- When I traveled to Australia on business a couple of years ago, I got an Optus SIM card that gave me unlimited voice, data, voice mail, 4G coverage and 500 MB of data a day for $2 AUD a day, which is basically $2 CAD. I was there for 5 days so that was a total of $10.
- On a trip to India last year, I got a Vodafone SIM that gave me unlimited everything except for data which was capped at 1.4 GB for 675 INR which is $13 Canadian for the week that I was there.
When you consider that Bell, Rogers, and Telus offer you international roaming for $10 a day, it’s easy to see that the clear choice is to have an unlocked phone. The only potential downside is that you lose access to your Canadian number while you’re travellng. If that’s not a factor for you, then this is a no brainer.
Finally, buying an unlocked phone means that you avoid having to pay your carrier or a third party to unlock your phone. Canadian carriers are legally obliged to unlock your phone if you’ve been with them for more than 90 days. But that can cost you $50 or more. You could go to a third party shop and have them do it for you. But that’s going to cost money as well and I have never really felt comfortable recommending third party services as I am not confident that they will unlock the phone and not do something to it. Maybe I am being paranoid on that front. I am not sure. But it makes more sense to me that I avoid all of that by getting an unlocked phone up front.
Canadians pay way too much for their telco services as illustrated by this example. Thus it only makes sense that you as a consumer do everything possible to get the best deal for yourself on that front. By buying an unlocked phone, you can take some of that money that would normally go into the bonus plans of telco execs, and put it towards your next vacation, car or night out with your spouse. After all, it’s your money. Shouldn’t you get to hold onto it?