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August 3, 2017

Carrier or unlocked: Which Galaxy S8 should you buy?

by John_A

There are advantages and disadvantages to buying an unlocked phone. Which do you prefer?

The battle rages on for one of the most important debates in recent memory (jk): Should you buy the carrier version or unlocked?

When the Galaxy S8 debuted earlier this year, it was available on every major U.S. carrier, including Verizon, Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile. Specials, deals, and discounts were frequent: BOGO, trade-in, you name it. The carriers wanted in on one of the most important phones of the year, Android or otherwise.


But a couple months later, the exclusivity period was over: Samsung began selling an unlocked model of the GS8 on its website, remarking that unlike last year’s unlocked Galaxy S7, updates would be timely and in step with the carrier versions.

Now that the dust has settled, we want to know: should you buy a carrier or unlocked version?

On the one hand, carrier models have bloatware — we all know this — but they also contain code that optimizes the phones for their network. Things like Voice Over LTE or Voice Over Wi-Fi (VoLTE and VoWiFI, k?) aren’t always available on unlocked variants, whose software is optimized for all carriers and no carriers alike. There are also some impressive deals to be had when purchasing a carrier variant, since competition is so fierce. Many of the carrier models can be, or arrive, unlocked so they can be used on rival networks or overseas, but the unlocked models provide a more seamless experience as they’re designed to be SIM-and-play.

In the forums, JoshDunc wanted to know the same thing:

07-23-2017 02:09 PM

I am curious who opted for the unlocked version or a carrier version and why? My S8+ was bought through AT&T mainly because I have had NIGHTMARES dealing with the phone manufacturers themselves.


He brings up a good point: when you buy a carrier phone, you’re also signing up to deal with the carrier itself, which can be a terrible experience depending on which one you go with. At the same time, being able to bring your phone to a physical store for warranty-based repairs almost anywhere in the country is a nice bonus that buying unlocked doesn’t provide.

bhatech brings up a good reason to go with the unlocked model: its lack of carrier branding. Carriers should act as “dumb pipes” without imposing their products and logos on buyers.

07-23-2017 03:07 PM

I got the unlocked model, because I believe carriers are dumb pipes and I like my relation with them to pay for bandwidth and not for messing up with phone firmware, stick logos etc. I do know Samsung and LG US unlocked models get updates way slower than carrier models but still I bought the unlocked version because I don’t like carriers and their customized phones. That’s why I always buy non…


Another member, gernerttl, brings up some good points about buying directly from the carrier: convenience, earlier access to the phones, along with better update regularity.

07-24-2017 05:47 PM

I went with carrier. First, I got my phone quicker. Second, the Verizon bloatware isn’t that bad and I can uninstall or deactivate most of it, and with 64GB internal memory, I still have plenty of space for apps. Third, I get all of the bells and whistles, like WiFi calling, video calling Advanced Calling (VoLTE), and relatively quick and RELIABLE updates. If my phone breaks, It’s easier to…


What’s your take? Do you go with the carrier model or stick to unlocked?

Join the conversation in the forums!

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+

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