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Unlocked Smartphone Prices Drop 15% to 35% in the 3 Months After Debut

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Finding the hottest smartphone deals isn't difficult. Understanding today's contracts and billing schemes — that's a different story. Fortunately, with an unlocked phone you can break free of your mobile carrier's shackles and switch between select cellular operators, which will save you money in the long run. And while you may think buying an unlocked smartphone means paying an absurd amount of money upfront, truth is, there are plenty of unlocked smartphone deals around.

To find out how quickly unlocked phones drop in price, we analyzed deals on a few of last year's hottest smartphones. We even tracked deals on the ever-popular Samsung Galaxy S4. So before you sign another two years of your mobile life away, check out our tips below to see how you can take back control of your mobile plan.

Unlocked Smartphone Prices Drop 15% to 35% in 3 Months

Samsung's Galaxy S3 has been one of the most successful Android smartphones to date. But when the unlocked version debuted for $800, even some of the biggest Android fans were scared back into their 2-year contracts. Fortunately, the S3's steep unlocked price tag didn't have much staying power; it doesn't take long for retailers to start chipping away at the initial high prices of unlocked Android smartphones.

A month after the Galaxy S3's debut, we listed the 16GB version for $650, $150 less than — or 18% off — its debut price. The following month its price dropped another 8%. And while it took a total of 10 months before we listed the S3 for 50% off ($400) its price decreased every month by about 5% to 10%. So even at the height of its popularity, finding a deal on an unlocked Galaxy S3 was fairly simple.

And we've noticed similar patterns for other unlocked Android smartphones. The Sony Xperia Z, for instance, debuted on dealnews for $670 and dropped 15% the following month, and 18% within the span of three months. Likewise, the just-released unlocked Samsung Galaxy S4 debuted on our site at $599 and dropped 8% after one month; it was then bundled with a $165 Rakuten credit the month after, effectively dropping the price of a new S4 by 35%.

And the discounts aren't just for Android phones. Within a span of three months we also saw the unlocked Nokia Lumia 520 Windows 8 smartphone drop from $229 to $179, a 22% discount. And though we didn't have enough data to track other Windows 8 smartphones, since June we've listed deals on the unlocked Nokia Lumia 900, Nokia Lumia 820, and the Nokia Lumia 720, to name a few.

eBay and Expansys Offer Cheap Unlocked Smartphones

If you're in the market for a new unlocked smartphone and don't want to pay full price (and you shouldn't!), it's wise to wait three months after a smartphone's debut before buying. You'll maximize your savings and still get the latest device if you look for deals from stores like Expansys and eBay, both of which accounted for the majority of dealnews' unlocked phone deals.

Keep in mind, though, that unlocked smartphone deals will not be as aggressive as deals for smartphones with 2-year contracts, which can sometimes make new smartphones cost a penny. Nevertheless, there are a healthy number of unlocked smartphone deals available, with the patient consumer getting the best price just three months after a phone's release.


Related dealnews Features:
Senior Features Writer

With over a decade of experience covering technology, Louis Ramirez has written for CNET, Laptop, Gizmodo, and various other publications. Follow him on Twitter at @louisramirez.
Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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