Hereís Acerís Liquid S1. Itís available for $380 at various places that sell Acer products and is completely unlocked. Since itís unlocked you do whatever you want with it. You can switch carriers, take it travelling, buy it as present and not have to wonder whether you passed all of a carrierís rules to get your unlock code nor do you have to visit a 3rd party to get a code.
For $380 you get a 5.7", 1280x720 IPS display. Underneath the hood is a quad-core 1.5Ghz MediaTek MT6589 SoC with a PowerVR SGX 544MP GPU with 1GB of RAM, 8GB of storage (5.5GB available) and a MicroSD. On the back is a 8MP camera with a 2MP one in front and a 2400mAh battery. There's no LTE but you do get penta-band DC-HSPA+. On the software side you get Android 4.2.2 with Acer's custom launcher.
Aside from a couple of iPhones (which cost a lot more than the S1), Googleís Nexus 5 and Motorolaís Moto E and some Moto Gís, there arenít a whole lot of unlocked phones in the Canadian market.
The way I see it, the Liquid S1 has 2 main competitors; The Google Nexus 5 and Motorola Moto G. Like the S1, both are sold unlocked and some what readily available locally. The Nexus 5 is available for $349.99 online from Google Play while you can pick up the Moto G unlocked from Staples for $249.99. Letís compare:
Google Nexus 5:
While technically cheaper, Google Play doesnít offer free shipping for the Nexus 5. For me, shipping is around $20 so the $349.99 cost is more like $369.99 which brings it within $10 of the Liquid S1. Another thing to consider is that if you want a Nexus 5 for that price, you may have to wait since Google Play lists a 2-3 week wait before it ships. Otherwise, if you want it right away youíre looking at paying the carrier off-contract price which is around $500.
In terms of bang for your buck, itís hard for anyone to beat the Nexus 5. On paper, the only advantage the S1 has is a larger display, a microSD slot and a slightly larger battery. If you consume a lot of media, youíll love the S1ís larger display. 0.7Ē doesnít sound like a lot but the extra space makes a big difference.
The Nexus has a smaller display but has 50% more resolution than the S1 so itís noticeably sharper. It also has a faster SoC, support for LTE and NFC, double the RAM, a more up-to-date version of Android plus Iím guessing it will receive updates for at least another year if not longer. The Nexus also has a superior camera.
If you can wait the 2-3 weeks, and donít need the S1ís larger display or microSD slot, then the Nexus 5 is a better deal.
Until Google ends their Nexus program, itís going to be hard for second and third tier companies to compete on price because you get so much for your money with a Nexus phone.
Motorola Moto G unlocked:
There are a couple of Moto G variants available in the market right now. The unlocked version at Staples supports HSPA including AWS (so it works in all Canadian carriers and all US carriers which use HSPA) and includes 16GB of storage but no memory card slot.
You get a 4.5Ē, 1280x720 display, 1GB of RAM, a quad-core processor, 5MP camera and Android 4.4.
WIth the S1, you get the same screen resolution but at 5.7Ē, the screen is much bigger. Otherwise you get a quad-core processor, 1GB of RAM, 8GB of storage which is expandable with MicroSD cards and a 8MP camera. On the other hand the S1 ships with Android 4.2 and my guess is that it wonít receive many updates.
While you do get more with the S1, it costs $379.99 which is 50% more than the $249.99 Moto G.
The Moto Gís 4.5Ē screen will feel a lot more cramped compared to the S1ís 5.7Ē. For a moment forget that theyíre both the same resolution. While resolution is an important spec, itís not as important as itís made out to be as long as you have enough of it (itís like horsepower, more is better but after a certain point itís not as important).
Most of the time, the S1 has ENOUGH resolution so most people will probably prefer consuming media on its larger display.
The other difference is that the S1 has a slightly better camera. The story is not that it has 60% more resolution but that itís slightly more sensitive (better in low light) which should make it a more capable camera.
To be honest, after writing about it Iím going to have to contradict myself and say that the S1 and Moto G are not really comparable. Yes, theyíre both available unlocked but the Moto G is a great and solid low-midrange phone while the S1 has higher aspirations.
If youíre comfortable getting unlock codes on your own, there are other phones to consider besides the Moto G and Nexus 5. First off, you might consider a used phone. For $380 or less you can pick up a used LG G2 which provides you a lot more for your money including a bigger battery, NFC, LTE, better camera, a better screen,etc.