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Unlocked Device Users Less Loyal to Carriers, Phone Makers Compared to Owners of Locked Handsets

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According to the latest Unlocked Phone Demand Report 2.0 recently released by the NPD Group, the market for unlocked devices seems to be growing. But the report also shows that owners of unlocked handsets appear to be less loyal to wireless carriers and phone maker brands as compared to those who use locked phones.

The Unlocked Phone Demand Report 2.0 was based on information collected through the Unlocked Smartphone Survey and the Broadband Adoption Survey. The former was completed in April earlier this year, with respondents made up of more than a thousand users of unlocked devices living the US. As for the Broadband Adoption Survey, it polled 4,150 American consumers with ages 18 years old and above, across different demographics and locations throughout the country.

The NPD Group’s findings indicate that the unlocked phone market in the United States has already reached an estimated 30 million users, which makes up 12.5 percent of all phone sales. However, users of unlocked devices are more prone to switching to a different network when buying a new handset, with 30 percent of them doing so compared to 24 percent among locked phone owners. Consumers also cite that the main motivation for getting an unlocked device was the ability to freely decide which carrier to pick for their phone.

The NPD Group’s report also shows that owners of unlocked devices were more likely to identify “lowering cost” as another main factor for changing carriers (with 45 percent of them indicating so), as compared to locked phone users (34 percent). As explained by Brad Akyuz, an analyst and also director of NPD’s Connected Intelligence, the phone market basically consists of two segments -- the budget-conscious consumers hunting for affordable phones versus the high-end, tech-savvy buyers who want to go for devices different from the usual fare. But with the waning popularity of phone subsidies, more and more consumers are seeing the unlocked phone market as a cost-effective choice.

Aside from being more likely to change carriers, owners of unlocked devices also more likely to choose a different brand when they upgrade to a new handset. The NPD Group found that 48 percent of unlocked phone owners picked a different brand when upgrading, while only 37 percent of owners of locked devices would do the same thing.


Source: FierceWireless

23 comments:

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  1. It makes sense. People with locked devices can't use with any other networks so they have to stay with who they are with

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    1. No, handsets have to be unlocked after 1yr, max. Some do 6mo. Tmo/Metro only 3mo.
      What's really going on is selection bias... only people who are thinking about switching are buying (more expensive) unlocked phones in the first place. Also, the relatively small number of unlocked devices available in the US kinda forces people to consider other brands of devices each time they upgrade.

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  2. One of those wasteful study where a blind man can see the results.

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    1. Actually the divergence is not as large as I had expected. Just 6% on 24% v 30% so 25% more likely too switch w unlkd phone.

      "However, users of unlocked devices are more prone to switching to a different network when buying a new handset, with 30 percent of them doing so compared to 24 percent among locked phone owners."

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    2. LOL! Spot on mate

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  3. Not really surprising, but unfortunately there are drawbacks to buying unlocked--from missing bands to missing features (WiFi calling, voLTE, 256QAM, etc.) So if you don't want to have to stress about a phone's particular model being the most compatible on your network, the MNO is still the place to buy.

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    1. Well, some devices have those features because they update to the particular carrier profile settings. Examples of those devices are the iPhone, Nexus/Pixel, and surprisingly even the Moto G5. You just have to do a little bit of research when buying a new device

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    2. Some devices, sure. But not across the board.

      So my point stands: if you don't want to have to stress about a phone's particular model being the most compatible on your network, the MNO is still the place to buy.

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  4. I now have an unlocked phone. But I find myself more loyal to a carrier that I have ever been,.

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  5. Switching freely between carriers is the exact purpose of unlocked devices, I believe that's a no brain. Such a waist of time of studying and reading this.

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  6. The tragedy is that time and money was spent to confirm what's been obvious from the start.

    But in this postmodern era, apparently common sense and basic reasoning have no sway unless they're backed by a study.

    Next thing you know, the military will be conducting studies on whether or not people die when they're killed.

    When will the idiocracy end?

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  7. Unlocked phones force carriers to actually compete on quality knowing that if they suck, the customer can always fire them and go to another one.

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  8. I love my carrier unlocked Moto G4 (booter unlocked and rooted, too) but it doesn't come without a price. Verizon tells me the phone is not "certified" on their network (i.e. they don't sell it themselves). Thus, it is almost impossible to get it activated and if you do you won't get VolTE. The phone is perfectly capable but the carrier will not accommodate.

    I finally took the phone (originally purchased for wife) and bought her a locked down Verizon Moto Z because she has to have Verizon on her job. The unlocked G4 does work great elsewhere I've gone, including AT&T Gophone and currently MintSim.

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    1. Can you tether the unlocked and rooted G4 on MintSim?

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    2. Yes, I can tether on any carrier because my phone is rooted. The only way they could shut it down is cancel my service, which is a possibility I guess but it's never happened. I've tethered on several MVNOs and never had issue or been called out. MintSim tethers fine but the data speed isn't reiliable. I'm not sure if it is because T-Mobile towers are overloaded in my area (Houston) or they are deprioritized but sometimes it is unusable on LTE. I just force the phone to HSPA+ and leave it, much faster all around and more reliable for me.

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  9. The charm of smartphone is losing its ground. Corporate America has already milked the smartphone cow far too long. With the Chinese brands bulldozing in, the GSM,CDMA firewall breaking and carrier-integration seeding in to public mindset, the market and technology has evolved. Very interesting!

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  10. Only sort of. Some carriers only offer WIFI calling and VolTE on their branded phones. Soemtimes those features are very important.

    "MattJune 16, 2017 at 3:59 AM

    Unlocked phones force carriers to actually compete on quality knowing that if they suck, the customer can always fire them and go to another one."

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  11. Free men and women are less loyal to their governments too :)

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  12. IMHO, unlocked smartphones are one of the best things to ever happen to the wireless industry. No surprise that Canada is preparing to ban locked phones. My unlocked Moto G4 & G4 Play are good devices for budget-friendly folks who want access to all major networks. My Honor 5x and unlocked LG G2(unlocked to VZ & GSM) and G4 work well for those happy with GSM providers. Multiple devices on multiple networks (VZ & AT&T in my case) add cellular flexibility at reasonable $ using MVNO's. Incidentally, unlocked Moto G4 and Play offer tethering right out of the box on boom!

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  13. loyal vs shackled doh!

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  14. No worry for unlocked Galaxy S and iPhone haha

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  15. Actually I would narrow that list down to just iPhones. They work out of the box from day 1, and get updates just as quickly as branded phones.

    IDK if this has changed with the S8 line of phones now, but the S7s were missing some network technology for T-Mobile that the T-Mobile branded S7s had. Plus, up until recently, OS updates (non-security) have come to branded S7s before they came to unbranded S7s.

    Plus there's also the issue of unbranded phones not being recognized immediately due to lack of provisioning (despite being approved.) I have seen this happen on AT&T and Verizon.

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    Replies
    1. All the better with OS 11 coming out soon, and iPhones will soon have features that Android had at least since "Froyo" years ago.

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