But today, pre-orders have opened up for unlocked versions of Samsung’s latest flagship devices in the US, marking the first time that consumers can buy them Stateside and have them work with a majority of mobile carriers without restrictions. The unlocked Galaxy S8 and S8+ are now available from online stores at Samsung and Best Buy, with prices starting at $729.99 for the unlocked 64GB Galaxy S8 in Midnight Black and going up to $824.99 for the unlocked 64GB Galaxy S8+ in Midnight Black.
Source: Best Buy
Interestingly, the unlocked versions can be lower or higher priced than their carrier locked counterparts. For example, Sprint’s models are anywhere from $70 to $75 higher than the US unlocked units. For Verizon customers, however, the unlocked models are now $10 to $15 cheaper than Big Red’s own models. For AT&T customers, the unlocked models are now $20 to $25 cheaper than its own models.
Carrier models available in three colors, US unlocked model gets one
On the other hand, Best Buy, Target and Samsung all include $100 of in-store credit with the purchase of any carrier locked model, so there is still an incentive to buy a locked unit. The other main incentive is that carrier-locked units are available in Midnight Black, Arctic Silver and Orchid Grey, while the US unlocked model is only available in Midnight Grey. Alternatively, the dual-SIM international unlocked models range anywhere from $789 to $914 and are available in the three aforementioned colors along with Maple Gold.
Unlocked phones might get software updates later
While there are certainly benefits to owning an unlocked device, Jason Cipriani from ZDNet has noted that Samsung doesn’t necessarily have the best track record on releasing software updates for these devices. For instance, last year’s Galaxy S7 Edge was updated to Android 7.0 Nougat last week, while the T-Mobile version of the device was updated back in February. A three-month delay between software releases can be a problem when it comes to monthly security patches, especially when Google chooses to patch over 100 security vulnerabilities in a single monthly rollup as we saw last week.
It remains to be seen whether Google will issue monthly security updates for locked and unlocked Android devices at the same time. For now, other than color choices, this remains one of the deciding factors when choosing to buy many of the latest flagship mobile devices.