Ever wanted to buy a phone that wasn’t tied to a particular carrier so you could just drop in the SIM card of your choice and go? There’s a market for unlocked smartphones and one company that has a surprisingly robust lineup is San Diego-based Infosonics / verykool.
To learn more, I tried out the s505 “Spark”, a phone with almost exactly the same specs and dimensions as the Samsung Galaxy S5…
First off, let’s talk dimensions. The s505 143.5mm x 71.6mm x 8.25mm. How big is that? Well, the Samsung Galaxy S5 is almost identical, as I said, sizing at 142mm x 72.5mm x 8.1mm. The screen’s darn nice too, measuring 5-inches diagonal at 1280×720 (720p) HD resolution.
The big difference is that the s505 is designed to be an open market phone, designed to be purchased as-is rather than as a subsidized purchase through a carrier that’s tied the device down to a particular protocol or frequency setting. If you’ve ever switched carriers just be told that you needed to get a whole new set of phones because the old devices were “tied to the other carrier network”, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
It’s considerably bigger than the iPhone 5s too, if you’re curious:
I’ve always felt that the locking of devices by carrier was anti-consumer, and brings into question the meaning of “buy”: are you leasing a phone from T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon, or are you actually gaining ownership of the physical device, and can then do whatever you want to it?
And so a new market of vendors has been slowly growing on the sidelines, companies like verykool that offer smartphones that are functionally identical to the major vendors, the Samsung, Apple, Nokia, HTC devices, but at a more consumer-friendly price and without the constraints of being tied to a specific network.
Which isn’t to say that the Infosonics / verykool s505 Spark isn’t constrained by cellular technology. In fact, the device that the company sent me is a GSM phone, which means that it’ll work on GSM band 850/900/1800/1900 and WCDMA850/1900/2100, which means that it works with AT&T, GCI, ACS and Sprint, but not Verizon or T-Mobile. The company has a different version of the s505 that works with T-Mobile, and Cricket uses an EVDO technology that just isn’t part of the s505 chipset, so Cricket users are out of luck.
But let’s talk AT&T Wireless for a minute. The s505, priced at $199 and available through large retailers like Walmart, New Egg, Petra and Amazon, is functionally quite similar to the Galaxy S5, as already discussed. Except the S5 will set you back a cool $649 as a Go Phone (e.g., without a long term service contract). That’s quite a difference!
The s505 also includes 3G HSPA+, 3G and 2G connectivity, a built-in FM radio, 1080p HD video recording, a 12Mp rear-facing camera and 2Mp forward-facing camera, speakerphone capability, proximity, light and gravity sensors (for all those games, of course) and a decent size 2000mAh battery integrated into the unit.
And support for two SIM cards simultaneously, which means you can have both your work phone and personal phone on the same device. No need to carry and hassle with two cellphones. Darn helpful for a lot of users.
If a third-party phone like the verykool s505 “Spark” can work for you, it really is a good deal, functionally identical to every other Android smartphone, able to jump carriers (as explained earlier) and with support for two SIM cards. If you can use it and can figure out the case situation (aftermarket S5 cases don’t quite fit, the one shown above is your only option at this point) there’s no reason not to pick one up. Start here: verykool.net.
Disclaimer: verykool supplied us with a test s505 Spark phone for review purposes. And we like it!