What does GSM Unlocked mean?

Wondering what GSM Unlocked means? This short article will make it clear for you so read on.

What does GSM unlocked mean?

GSM stands for Global System for Mobile communications. It is one of the two most used mobile technologies in the world today. The other one is CDMA, which we will discuss later. GSM uses Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) to keep user’s subscription information and phone book. GSM works by using data in SIM card to send and receive texts, make and receive calls, or access cellular data.

In general, you must have a GSM device in order to access the data stored in the SIM card.

Carriers don’t want their subscribers to switch to other networks as much as possible. In order to do this, they use a software code to lock their devices. This means that if you buy your phone from your carrier, it’s most likely locked and you won’t be unable to use it with another network. If you put a SIM card from another network, a locked device will not be able to access the information in the SIM card, or may not be able to register to that particular network.

Some carriers sell factory unlocked devices so as long as you are in a compatible network, you can insert a SIM card to it and it should work.

If your own carrier uses GSM technology and you are unable to your device in another GSM network, that’s probably because it is GSM locked.

GSM vs CDMA

The rival of GSM technology is CDMA. Both technologies have a significant gap between them and it’s borderline impossible for an end user to bridge them. Code Division Multiple Access comprises a relatively smaller market in today’s mobile market. GSM is the more popular and comprises about 90% of the global market share today.

While GSM uses the information stored in a SIM card in order to work, CDMA, on the other hand, keeps the same type of information within the device itself. When it comes to convenience in switching networks, GSM devices has the edge since a user only needs to get a new activated SIM and insert it on the device. CDMA devices is not so easily modified since subscriber’s information are coded deep within the system. It is for this reason as well that it’s impossible to use a CDMA phone on different CDMA network.

Also, even if a CDMA phone has been unlocked, there’s a chance that it may not work properly or at all in another network. This is the reason why many Verizon devices may have a non-working MMS or voice calling functionality if used in non-Verizon network.

CDMA phones have a SIM slot

Yes, a CDMA phone does have a SIM card slot but it’s not used like the way GSM phone does. The SIM card slot is there in order for a CDMA device to use LTE (Long Term Evolution), which is a standard based GSM technology. As such, CDMA devices make use of SIM card in order to harness the improved and better performance of LTE over the older 3G technology. LTE towers can only talk to a CDMA device via a SIM card. If you have a CDMA phone and you take out the SIM card from it, it may still be able to send and receive texts or make and receive calls but at a much inferior quality. Your CDMA phone will still work normally though but obviously, it can’t take advantage of LTE’s superior offerings.

On a GSM device, removal of the SIM means total blackout of all network services.

Where to get a GSM unlocked phone

If you want to use a GSM unlocked phone with the intention of possibly switching to a different GSM network in the future, you should consider buying one straight from the phone manufacturer. For instance, you can go directly to your local Samsung retail store so that you can get a network unlocked device. If you buy the same phone model from your carrier instead, you’ll most likely get a network locked device, although some carriers may also offer a network unlocked phone.

Alternatively, you can also buy GSM unlocked phones from third party retailers. Just be sure to inquire if the device is unlocked or not.