In simple terms, a “locked” device has certain mechanisms so only a specific cellular carrier’s service will allow it to operate. In other words, it will only work with that carrier. Carriers like AT&T and T-Mobile use GSM technology that requires a “SIM Card” that slides into the phone to identify the service. Carriers like Verizon and Sprint utilize different technology that does not require a SIM card, but devices intended for their networks are typically “locked” nonetheless. Either way, a phone is typically “locked” to the service of a particular carrier. Carriers normally require using a “locked” device if they are going to provide a subsidy (or “discount”) in exchange for a consumer service contract (typically a 2-year contract term). Once the device is “locked”, which is typically done in the factory, it is locked regardless of whether a service contract was sold with the device or not. Even if a “locked” device is sold at full price (often termed “unactivated” at point of sale) it will only work with the locked carrier.
So in summary:
“Locked” means the device will only accept SIM card from the designed carrier. This could be sold with or without a contact (full price). Consumers normally would prefer “unlocked” if they pay full price, but some carriers require all devices to be locked regardless of whether a contact was sold.
Offers subject to change, not combinable with all other offers. Taxes, shipping, handling and other fees apply. U.S. Dell Home new purchases only. Dell reserves the right to cancel orders arising from pricing or other errors.