Why carrier bullshit is fine - A case study from europe.
After the recent episode of top shelf, that you can find here i realized that I live in a country where we have an alternative to all the carrier bullshit but we still use the "Worse" alternative.
So, this is the Swedish phone market in a nutshell. You can buy pretty much any phone unlocked, from independent sellers and it will work on any carrier, even if some LTE phones doesn't have all the bands for all carriers.
You can also buy a phone, without a contract from your carrier of choice, but it is usually a bad idea as it is more expensive and might be SIM locked, it won't be otherwise.
Most people are locked in to 2 year contracts.
This is because the contracts end up cheaper in the long term. I use few minutes and messages every month, say 120 minutes and 100 messages, but I want 10gb of data every month. My contract gives me very cheap minutes and messages, around 5 cents per message or minute (Including 25% sales tax). I get a new phone every 2 years. I pay around $45 per month. My 2 year total without minutes and messages is $1100, the off contract price for my phone when I bought it was around $830 (Including 25% sales tax). That leaves me paying $270 for service over 24 months if I were to buy it separately. (You generally don't pay anything upfront, except for like a 32/64gb iPhone 5)
I could not have gotten as much service as I did for less than 11.25$ per month.
There are plans from high to low, you are unlikely to have a plan with much more data/minutes/messages than you actually need.
If you want a new phone before your two years are up, just buy a new one, stick your sim in it and everything works.
The carrier bullshit isn't that bad here in Sweden. Most people will end up paying less per two years if you want a new phone assuming they sign up for a 2yr contract.