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I shouldn’t need to pay a premium for an unlocked Samsung phone

Samsung is trying to do what Apple does and charge more for buying unlocked phones direct from the manufacturer.
By

Published onOctober 28, 2023

samsung galaxy s23 fe back in hand
Ryan Haines / Android Authority
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE

On October 3, 2023, Samsung announced the Galaxy S23 FE. All its press materials said the phone costs $599 for the 128GB model. However, when the phone actually went up for sale at Samsung.com, the unlocked model didn’t cost $599 — it cost $629, a $30 increase. This was unusual, so we contacted Samsung about the discrepancy.

In its response, the company pointed out that you can still get the phone from its online store for the $599 price — if you buy a carrier version over the unlocked model. It also told us that Amazon, Best Buy, and other retail partners still sell the unlocked model for $599. The only exception here is buying the unlocked model directly from Samsung. However, the company did not explain why it made this change.

Perhaps Samsung has a last-minute reason to hike the price that it won’t tell us about (and pre-existing deals that keep some retailers at $599). Still, I’m suspicious that this could be a new strategy for Samsung because this is exactly what Apple does for its entry-tier iPhones. For example, the iPhone 15 has an MSRP of $799. But if you head to Apple.com to buy an unlocked version, you’ll actually pay $829. If you opt instead for a carrier version, you get the original $799 price. Apple started doing this in 2020 with the launch of the iPhone 12 series.

Interestingly, Apple does not do this switcheroo with Pro-level phones — the iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max cost the same at Apple.com whether you go unlocked or carrier-locked. It’s all about making those entry-level models appear more affordable.

This bizarre “punishment” for buying an unlocked iPhone 15 or 15 Plus directly from Apple is pretty irritating, no matter how you slice it. But Apple will be Apple, and moves like this don’t seem to stain its reputation with Apple fans. But Samsung fans aren’t nearly as forgiving. I sincerely hope this new phone pricing policy isn’t going to continue outside the Galaxy S23 FE.

Samsung phone pricing: MSRP should be MSRP

samsung galaxy s23 fe colors laid out
Ryan Haines / Android Authority
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE

Let me be clear by saying I have no problem with Samsung discounting a phone if you decide to buy a carrier-locked model. For example, buying a T-Mobile-branded Galaxy S23 Ultra from Samsung.com right now costs $1,169, or $30 less than the $1,199 MSRP. This discount makes sense because Samsung is likely making more profit from that phone thanks to carrier subsidies. It’s passing on those savings to you, the consumer, as it should.

But there’s a big difference between charging less than the MSRP for a carrier model and increasing the price of an unlocked model so the carrier model has a perceived discount. That’s not a discount — that’s more like a tax. The MSRP should be the starting point for discounts, not the price after discounts.

Samsung is not Apple, and I can only hope Sammy fans aren't going to let this slide.

You might think this is not a big deal because it’s just the Galaxy S23 FE. My concern is that Samsung is using this phone’s launch as a testing ground. The company may want to see if it can get away with this Apple-style price switcheroo for specific devices. Could we see wonky Samsung phone pricing like this in the upcoming Galaxy S24 series? I truly hope not.

Are you OK with Samsung charging more for unlocked phones?

333 votes

If you’re a Samsung fan who thinks charging more money for an unlocked model is a terrible idea, sound off in the comments below and the poll above. Hopefully, we can let the company know that just because Apple can do something that pulls one over on the consumer doesn’t mean Android fans will accept the same treatment.

In the meantime, if you want an unlocked Galaxy S23 FE, check out the link below to grab it from Amazon so you don’t needlessly spend $30 more on it.

Samsung Galaxy S23 FESamsung Galaxy S23 FE
Samsung Galaxy S23 FE
Slightly larger than S23 • Good size battery • Competitively priced
MSRP: $599.99
More than just a Fan Edition
The Samsung Galaxy S23 FE landed as more than just a slimmed down S23, it's a fourth size phone in the line. With a 6.4-inch display, it's larger than the S23, but smaller than the S23 Plus. Running the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, this phone offers few compromises over the S23 for a decent cost savings.