How to Buy a Cell Phone

These days, having a cell phone almost isn’t even a luxury anymore—it’s pretty much a necessity! With so many cell phone carriers and retailers, it can feel overwhelming to try to figure out the best way to buy one. To help cut through the clutter, we’ve answered some of the most common questions that people have about buying cell phones so you can make the best choice for you.

Can I buy a cell phone without a plan?

Yes, you can buy an unlocked phone without a plan.

If you don’t want to sign a contract and pay a monthly fee in order to purchase a phone, you don’t have to. A locked cell phone is one that includes a SIM card and only works in a specific cell phone carrier’s network. An unlocked phone isn’t tied to a specific network and you can use it with any carrier that you choose.

  • When you buy a locked phone, you also own it outright. You don’t have to pay any additional fees or sign a lengthy contract. It’s yours!
  • Choosing an unlocked phone also gives you more options since you’re not limited to the phones that a specific carrier provides.

Where can I buy a new unlocked phone?

You can buy new unlocked cell phones at most electronics retailers.

Big vendors like Best Buy and Walmart sell brand-new unlocked phones that you can purchase and use with whichever cell phone carrier you want. They also offer a wide selection, including the latest smartphones. Visit a local store to see what options they’re offering and choose one that suits your needs.

  • For instance, you can buy the latest iPhones, Moto G7 Power, and Samsung Galaxy at many of the big-box retailers.

Do I need a SIM card for an unlocked phone?

Yes, you’ll need a SIM card on the network you choose.

You can choose any carrier you like for your unlocked phone. But you’ll need to install a SIM provided by the carrier in order to use their network to make calls, send texts, and use your data. Choose a carrier and then contact them or visit a physical store to install a SIM card you can use.

  • For instance, if you choose to use a company such as Boost Mobile, you can contact them and they’ll send you a SIM card or you can visit one of their stores and have an employee install one for you.

Can I buy a cell phone online?

Yes, you can buy unlocked phones or phones from a carrier online.

If you’re looking to purchase a phone from one of the major cell phone carriers, you can visit their website, choose a phone, and have it shipped to you. Many carriers may even waive shipping fees and offer deals for customers switching from other carriers and buying new phones on monthly payments. If you’re looking to buy an unlocked phone, there are many online retailers who sell them including Best Buy, Amazon, Walmart, and eBay.

  • For instance, if you want to purchase a phone from a company like Sprint, Verizon, or AT&T, you can visit their website and order one.
  • If you buy a smartphone from a cell phone carrier, many come with a built-in setup wizard that will walk you step-by-step through the activation process.
  • When you buy an unlocked phone online, you’ll need to choose a carrier in order to start using it ot make calls.

What are the best phones on the market right now?

The Samsung Galaxy and the iPhone are the best phones in 2021.

With the most features, best battery life, stylish design, and high-quality camera, the Samsung Galaxy S21 is the best overall phone out there. The iPhone 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max are the most powerful iPhones to date and they have almost all of the same features as the Samsung Galaxy S21, but they’re more expensive. For the price of an iPhone 12 Pro, you can buy a Samsung phone with a bigger screen and more storage space. But, they’re still great phones.

  • There are also older models of Samsung Galaxies and iPhones that have all of the same features, they just won’t have as high-quality of a camera or operating system.

What is the best cheapest smartphone?

The Google Pixel 4A is the best overall affordable smartphone for 2021.

The 4A has all of the features of smartphones such as the iPhone or Samsung Galaxy, including all of the apps and accessibility options. It also has a high-quality camera that can take photos that are as quality as phones 3 times its price. At $350 USD brand new, it’s tough to beat the bang for your buck that the 4A delivers.

  • It also has a speedy operating system and the battery charge lasts a full day, so you won’t be constantly looking for a charger.

What cell phone carrier is the best?

T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T are the best major carriers.

When it comes to the best plans, prices, and customer service, T-Mobile is the best overall of all of the large phone companies. Verizon and AT&T offer high-quality network speeds and great plans, but their unlimited plans can be on the pricey side and their “5G” speeds may be limited to select areas. Ultimately, the best carrier for you will be the one that satisfies your cell phone needs.

  • For instance, if you don’t need an unlimited plan, you may be able to get a cheaper plan at Verizon than with T-Mobile.

Visible, Mint, and Metro by T-Mobile are the best discount carriers.

If you aren’t looking for a pricey plan with one of the major carriers, there are a variety of alternative companies you can use. Companies like Visible and Mint may not have all of the service options of the larger companies, but you can get unlimited talk and data for a much cheaper rate. If you’re looking for the best cell phone service for the cheapest rate, Metro by T-Mobile (formerly MetroPCS) offers plans as low as $15 USD a month.

  • With some of the alternative companies, your loading speed can slow down if the network is heavily congested.

What is the cheapest place to buy a phone?

Amazon is almost always the best place to find a cheap phone.

Visit the site, run a search for cell phones, and see what they have available. You can even sort by the cheapest price to look through the most affordable options. Select and pay for the phone that suits your needs and it’ll be shipped right to your home.

  • Amazon also offers both new and used or refurbished phones.
  • Purchasing from Amazon also means you’ll have customer support as well as the option of a refund or replacement if the phone you receive doesn’t work.

Do any cell phone companies offer free phones?

Yes, many carriers offer discounted or free phones with a plan.

Companies like Samsung, Verizon, and Sprint often offer older model phones at highly discounted rates and sometimes even for free. The phones may be older or they may have limited features, but if you’re looking for the most affordable way to get a phone, buying a plan from a carrier that offers free phones may be the way to go.

  • Companies like Google Fi, Cricket, and Pure Talk often offer free phones to entice you to switch to them.
  • The cost of cell phone plans varies from company to company. For instance, some may cost around $60 USD for an unlimited plan with data, while others may offer a talk-only plan for $45 USD.


  • Old cell phones need to be disposed of correctly. When you buy a new phone, consider recycling your old phone! Look up a recycling company or center in your area that accepts cell phones.


  • Be wary of buying used cell phones from sites like eBay. They could be damaged or malfunction.

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