The norm across seas has been to buy a phone at full retail price and then pop a sim card in from your favorite carrier. Here in the US the carriers have consumers by the collar! They subsidize prices by locking you in to a lengthy contract. This makes for cheap phones, but in the long run the crazy ridiculous prices we pay for data and cell service on a monthly basis end up making the phones cost more. Last month T-mobile announced that it would eliminate the subsidizing of phones all together in 2013 introducing plans that allow for intrest free financing instead.