Is An Unlocked Galaxy S4 or HTC One Worth The Hefty Price Tag?

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Is an unlocked Galaxy S4 or HTC One worth the hefty price tag?

In this edition of Ask Maggie, CNET’s Marguerite Reardon offers advice to a reader looking for an unlocked smartphone. And will the next version of Android software, Key Lime Pie, have any new killer features?

For most consumers in the U.S., price is not a factor when buying a new smartphone, since most devices with a two-year commitment cost roughly the same. But when you are in the market for an unlocked smartphone, the dynamic drastically changes.

High-end devices, such as the Samsung Galaxy S4 or the HTC One, are still attractive to just about any consumer. The features are top-of-the-line, and the devices are sleek. But what many consumers don’t realize is that a cutting-edge smartphone does not actually cost $200 or $250. In fact, if consumers were to pay the full retail price for such devices, they’d likely cost four times more.

In this edition of Ask Maggie, I explain why buying a Google Nexus 4 smartphone, which retails for less than half the price of a brand new, unlocked Galaxy S4 or HTC One, may be a better choice for a reader looking for an unlocked device to use in the U.S. as well as abroad. I also offer some predictions about the upcoming version of Android 5.0 codenamed Key Lime Pie.

Price vs. features when buying unlocked smartphone

Dear Maggie,
I am an avid tech reader and everyday I am always keeping up to date with the latest phone news and gossip. That said, I myself don’t own a smartphone yet. But I have decided that over the summer I am going to invest in a smartphone.

My problem is I move around the world, so I will need to buy an unlocked phone instead of a device on a contract. I am also scared that when I get the phone it will disappoint me in some way. Right now, I want either an HTC One or the Samsung Galaxy S4. I’m also considering an updated Nexus 4, if Google releases one at it’s Google I/O conference.

My question is which phones do you believe would be better for me, since I have to get it unlocked? I understand that I will have to pay quite a bit more to get an unlocked device. So if you have any advice on how to save money, that would be helpful, too.

Thank you,

Dear Galen,
These are three very strong choices for smartphones. And even though you say you are a tech enthusiast, since you’ve never owned a smartphone before, I am sure you would be happy with any of these devices.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 and the HTC One are two of the hottest phones coming to market this spring. The HTC One went on sale this month, and the Galaxy S4 will be available for some carriers starting this week.

My CNET Reviews colleagues Brian Bennett and Jessica Dolcourt do a fantastic job comparing the two devices in a story published earlier this month. And the full review of the new Samsung Galaxy S4 was just published Tuesday.

In a nutshell, the Galaxy S4 has a slightly bigger screen, expandable memory, removable battery, and the latest version of Android software Jelly Bean 4.2.2. It also comes with tons of features that the average consumer will likely never even touch.

Story by Marguerite Reardon