I may be in the market for a relatively cheap quad-band GSM phone that can be used in various foreign countries. Nothing fancy. I just need something I can drop a SIM card into and make calls and maybe send a few text messages.

The trouble is that I have no idea where to buy one and what to look out for. I've seen some available on Amazon.com and, as expected, they seem to be all over eBay. Plus there are various on-line stores that seem to specialize in selling unlocked GSM phones to people in the United States. But I don't know which are trustworthy.

So if you wanted a handy little Motorola or Nokia GSM phone, where would you buy it on-line? And, if you happen to have a preference, which phone(s) would you look at or try to avoid?

In case you're wondering, I've been a Verizon (CDMA) user for a few years now and have no plans to change that. I'm just looking for something that'd be handy when I and others travel.

Posted by jzawodn at May 28, 2007 11:41 PM

Reader Comments
# jjames said:

definitely some research will pay off. there are many locked quad-band phones that you can buy for really cheap and unlock for <$20.

old moto razrs are probably a good choice. plentiful, cheap, small, quad-band, and usb-chargeable.

on May 28, 2007 11:52 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

Oh, this *is* my research. ;-)

Well, it is if I get good answers...

on May 28, 2007 11:55 PM
# Amit Agarwal said:

I would buy them from ebay.in - all the GSM mobile phones listed here are unlocked - they just require a SIM and you can use them anywhere.

Am sure most of the vendors are shipping to the US as well.

on May 29, 2007 12:17 AM
# Dan Hon said:

Expansys USA should be good for unlocked GSM phones:


I've used their UK operation, not their US one, and can highly recommend them.

on May 29, 2007 12:25 AM
# Sunil Garg said:

If you're looking for functionality and not necessarily the fanciest of phones, I'd second the Moto Razr comment.

Keep in mind that no matter where you are, you will always be able to find a Nokia charger. I think the Razr is popular enough at this point that the same would apply for that.

on May 29, 2007 12:43 AM
# Vlaamerman said:

Belgium, next time you're flying through here or find an online store e.g.


All phones in Belgium are unlocked.

on May 29, 2007 02:10 AM
# Olivier Travers said:

Tigersdirect.com has a bunch of unlocked GSM phones. Can't vouch for them as an online retailer though, I never shopped there.

on May 29, 2007 02:17 AM
# Mike Macgirvin said:

We just moved to Australia and brought with us a PDA phone which we used for the last year or so with T-Mobile. T-Mobile happily sent us the unlock code since we had service with them for more than a year. This was the only requirement. So check with your current providor - as the lock may be a non-issue.

on May 29, 2007 02:49 AM
# Rocky Agrawal said:

If you have friends that have been with T-Mobile for a while and have old handsets, ask if you can have/buy one. Tmo is great about giving unlock codes for their handsets to customers.

on May 29, 2007 04:17 AM
# Robert Cole said:

I got my last phone directly from Sony-Ericsson's website. Of course, it was probably more than you're looking to spend since it was a newer model at the time, but I'm pretty sure you can get some of their older models for cheaper.

All of the phones they sell direct are unlocked.

on May 29, 2007 06:09 AM
# DC Dan said:

I've used http://www.mobileplanet.com/ for several different phones and I have had great service from them.

on May 29, 2007 06:32 AM
# a geek said:

Ditto on Expansys- had great experience with them.

You might want to consider Sprint + the BlackBerry 8830 (even though you said verizon only). Verizon carries the same phone but locks the GSM usage to Verizon partners only (at verizon international rates) whereas Sprint leaves the GSM portion unlocked. Go prepaid/etc. while overseas and still have your normal voice and data.

on May 29, 2007 07:25 AM
# Roland Tanglao said:

i second the expansys suggestion

i haven't used them but friends i trust bought an N70 and E61i from them

on May 29, 2007 07:38 AM
# Rafe said:

You can buy unlocked Moto phones directly from Motorola at http://www.store.motorola.com

on May 29, 2007 08:07 AM
# Scott Johnson said:

I have successfully bought from http://myworldphone.com/ before, and I was very happy with the product. I haven't shopped around much online for unlocked phones, but this place seemed to have a great selection.

on May 29, 2007 08:13 AM
# Alejandro said:

You can go directly to Nokia.com and buy online unlocked phones for the US.

on May 29, 2007 09:59 AM
# Samhain said:

You can unlock most phones using weird codes.
I did that to my Nokia, and it worked like a charm.

Just Google (or Yahoo! in your case :)) a bit...

on May 29, 2007 12:51 PM
# Bryce said:

Mobilebee.com usually has the about the best prices on new unlocked phones. With eBay you have to pay close attention to the shipping charges, many sellers are charging $35-$60.

on May 29, 2007 01:56 PM
# Aseem Bajaj said:

I think the best deal might be in the local non-branded cellphone stores near your home. By branded stores I mean the exclusive stores for selling phones from one carrier. You won't get unlocked phones in those stores. Just search for "cell phone" on yahoo maps close to your home and you would find tonnes of options for non-branded stores. The other place to find them is on craigslist.

on May 29, 2007 03:04 PM
# harper said:

I use welectronics.com - they have treated me well. They have a huge selection and a super ghetto website.

Tell them harper (the dude with crazy hair) sent you and you may get some sort of deal. nobody knows for sure though.

on May 29, 2007 04:21 PM
# Brian Benz said:

I did this a while ago for Australia, and chose a Motorola F3. Very basic phone. Annoying screen, but the rest is great. Paid $69 AUD. After I use $80 AUD of prepaid minutes, they will unlock it for me.....That may be an option for you wherever you're going too.

There are other issues to consider too...Wrote up the whole experience here:


on May 29, 2007 07:20 PM
# Ray said:

I usually by my unlocked phones from either www.mobileplanet.com or www.mobilebee.com... usually pretty decent prices on current stuff. You can also find last years models on Overstock.com sometimes too for dirt cheap. If you're just using it for periodic trips abroad, you can probably live with last year's model...

on May 30, 2007 02:19 AM
# Dan Isaacs said:

I believe you need only call your current service provider and ask them to unlock it (or provide you the code). As I understand it, they are required, by law, to do it for you. If you ask, of course.

on May 30, 2007 04:16 AM
# Peeping Tom said:

Ditto to what Dan Isaacs said. i have had T-Mobile unlock to phones, and my gf had Cingular unlock one of hers.

on May 30, 2007 07:46 AM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

Dan & Peeping Tom:

How does that help me? I've already said that my current phone (which I don't plan to change) is a non-GSM unit from Verizon. This is about getting a second phone for international travel.

on May 30, 2007 08:06 AM
# Ryan said:

I'm a Verizon customer too, and am currently in Asia. If you look online at http://b2b.vzw.com/international/outside_us.html , you'll fine that your phone acutally works in places like Seoul (where I am now) and Beijing, Shanghai, and many other big cities. It's not a great rate at 1.29 per minute, but not too bad for some short phone calls.

on May 30, 2007 04:18 PM
# aj said:

Computer Geeks is a reliable place, here is the razr for $134


on May 31, 2007 04:22 AM
# Aditya Kuber said:

Maybe you should talk to Robert Scoble: http://scobleizer.com/2007/06/03/the-better-iphone-nokia-n95/

on June 4, 2007 04:28 AM
# Sidney said:

When I was looking for the same thing I felt that TigerDirect had the best offerings for new unlocked phones. Since I was able to change providers (old contract expired) I ended up first trying T-mobile then Cingular/ATT. T-Mobile worked great in Europe but my home in San jose is in a dead zone so went to Cingular 2yr contract with free phone from local store- haven't tried them overseas. Ended up with the Sony/Ericson walkman phone.
Doing it over I would have used TigerDirect they sell phones alone and broader selection of free phones with Cingular etc plans.


on June 5, 2007 12:48 PM
# Beijingese said:

I would just wait & buy one the next time you're in Beijing (where I'm living now) or Seoul. Phone stores are plentiful here, phones are cheap, and all are "unlocked." Local SIM cards are practically free, too. Good luck.

on June 9, 2007 03:09 PM
# Paul said:

BE CAREFUL BUYING AN "UNLOCKED" CELL PHONE ON EBAY. Bought a so-called brand new "unlocked" Cingular-branded Motorola V551 for my daughter six months ago because I knew she was going to Europe this week and could use the phone here in the states with her Cingular account as well. Purchased a European SIM card from Telestial.com. Put the card in the phone to set up last night . . . and guess what? The phone is LOCKED. Now I'm scrambling to get an unlocked phone (she leaves tomorrow night). Put an order in to Telestial and hopefully they can process the order and get it to me by tomorrow morning.

on June 11, 2007 07:49 AM
# Harry said:

In London there are hundreds of dodgy little shops where you can get your phone unlocked - often internet cafe / international calling places. I'm surprised they dont exist everywhere.

on June 13, 2007 01:32 AM
# Arjun Prabhu said:

Try cell hut (cellhut.com) ... the prices are pretty decent too.

on June 15, 2007 09:02 AM
# Brian said:

Dell now sells unlocked Nokia GSM phones on their website.

on June 26, 2007 08:07 AM
# cuvtixo said:

trustworthy? Amazon. Individual stores on ebay maybe, but many fail trustworthiness. Nokia will indeed unlock with a simple code, but they are the exception rather than the rule. Most modern cells require professional unlocking ($30 around Boston) BTW SIM cards were standard in Europe long before becoming available in US (and S.Korea!) I shocked a European friend of mine a year ago when I showed my Verizon phone had no SIM card. You might be better off buying a phone at a foreign destination, and unlocking it a local phone shop if necessary, rather than trying to buy one in the US where Subscription-subsidized phones are the norm.

on June 26, 2007 12:48 PM
# MIke said:

www.gsmiPhones.com sells unlocked phones cheaper than any other source I've found online. I bought one and currently use it with T-Mobile. EDGE and all features (except visual voicemail) work great! Just wanted to pass the word along.

on October 11, 2007 10:06 AM
# User said:

Definitely save those old SIM cards you get (even when they are expired) from being in foreign countries. You can use them to test phones you buy for being "unlocked".

on January 11, 2008 09:43 PM
# jr said:

I'm trying to export unlocked phones to South america including Iphones. Does anybody know where to get good deals?

on June 19, 2008 10:05 AM
# Charles said:

I recently bought an Apple iPhone 3G from VolumeWireless.com for a friends birthday. I had no complaints. The shipment arrived to my home the next day. I would recommend these guys to keep in mind. They have quite a bit of stock as well and were helpful and friendly over the phone, especially compared to my other online experiences when buying cell phones.

I tried another large GSM distributor in the past and wasn't happy with their order processing times. I had to wait 2 weeks once for a car charger for a Motorola V3 and could never get through to anyone on the phone and emails went unanswered.

Hope this helps.

on December 15, 2008 01:54 PM
# Cell Phone Unlocked GSM said:

Thank you for the information, I am going to add it to my site

on March 3, 2009 06:24 AM
# unlock mobiles said:

Although not often, but sometimes the key note is required.

on March 19, 2009 11:35 AM
# buy phones said:

Verizon (CDMA) is partly not a good signal but very cheap in price. My experience using gsm cell phone is more convenient better than Verizon (CDMA).

on March 26, 2009 10:57 PM
# prepaid phones said:

thank you for your direction to use an advantage cell phone

on May 19, 2009 09:15 AM
# Motorola Unlocking said:

Well through the serial code it is satisfaction that this phone is register and can be reliable and now we can use it without any problem.

on June 18, 2009 04:37 AM
# Trustworthy Website said:

A good cell phone store to look at for your next purchase should be http://portable-fun.com because the prices are very competitive and they have hundreds of phones listed. There is even a live chat and phone number on every page. You can't ask for more than that.

on July 31, 2009 03:51 PM
# ja said:

Check out http://www.cellularclones.com. I bought a phone like theirs off ebay, and it sucked, the people were from china, they didn't help, and I couldn't get it to work, I couldnt return it cause of their policy. I called them up they helped me out, but I had a freind buy one from them and it was really nice, and they explained all the differences

on August 7, 2009 04:13 PM
# lf said:

Hey, you can buy from gsmallover.com they have good phones at pretty cheap prices. I bought from them once and the phone was perfect, located in the US tho I think not sure if you want that or not. It's mostly BB's and Iphones I don't think they have moto's

on September 30, 2009 07:20 AM
# MODAVE said:

That was a great information, for the unlock mobiles phones.
Where can i purchase this type of phone here localy?
And how to surch for a best price supplier in beigium operation.

on November 21, 2009 07:15 AM
# Adamz Gonzalez said:

This iphone is Original Unlocked Version and can be used with any SIM card arround the world.

3+ Megapixel Camera, Bluetooth, Calendar, Camera, Candy Bar Form, Edge, Email Client, GPS / Location, High-Speed Data GPRS, Megapixel Camera, MP3, Speaker Phone, Touch Screen, Video Capture, Video Clip, Voice Dialing, Wi-Fi.

Package Content:
Apple iPhone 3G S 32GB White Unlocked
Apple Earphones with Remote and Mic
Dock Connector to USB Cable
USB Power Adapter
SIM eject tool

Usually ships in 24-48 hours after Sales and payments Terms agreed.

Interested buyers should email me for quickest response at: court10tradings(AT)hotmail(DOT) com

Thanks and Happy Veiwing.

on November 28, 2009 11:39 AM
# Abhi said:

Finding a brand new unlocked phone will be a challenge in US. What you will get from the online stores who sell 'unlocked phones' are actually refurbished & unlocked. Recently I bought one unlocked Motorola Razor from Tiger Direct which was listed as new. However the packaging didn't look like original. Further, a big surprise came when I powered it on. There were few contact names already stored in the phone address book; supposed to be from the previous owner.

If you need an unlocked phone, have to compromise for a refurbished. My advice is not to go for an expensive set.

on December 21, 2009 10:56 AM
# said:

Don't buy from trimobilephone.com. I paid for an unlocked GSM phone, but they sent me a locked T-Mobile brand phone. I called and emailed and never got any response from them.

on March 19, 2010 06:42 AM
# Twa Itpl said:

You can buy your Unlocked GSM phone from GSM All Over, A U.S. Based store. They really have good options of different models at very reasonable prices.

on May 10, 2010 12:57 AM
# frank scott said:

We import and export different types of mobile phones, All brand new, well packed and sealed in original company box, unlocked with 1 year warranty..
NOTE: These phones are 100% unlocked and can be used with any SIM card. No activation required (see carrier frequency requirements) Insert the SIM card and start using the phone.
* Apple I phone 3GS 32GB ----$250
* Apple I phone 3GS 16GB ----$200
HTC Google Nexus One Unlocked ....$240
HTC HD2 T8585 Unlocked with 5 MP Camera,...$230

* APPLE iPAD 64GB 64 GB WI-FI WIFI 3G NEW : $350
Email Address..



UK office :
Tel: 00447035956664

Incorporation Year : 1978
Registered No.01393990

Frank Scott


on May 13, 2010 05:19 AM
# Anil Soni said:

Bought an unlocked quad band Motorola Razor V3 from Tigerdirect on line. Phone was promptly delivered and in good condition. However after purchasing a SIM card and airtime found out the phone was still locked. Tigerdirect Customer Service has asked me to contact PDA Giant who are unable to help as I am in Canada. Its been a frustrating experience and not worth the price.

on May 14, 2010 04:16 PM
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