Buying one of the best unlocked phones gives you the freedom to choose the handset you want first and then bring it to the network that works for you.
Don’t worry if you want to switch carriers: It’s super easy to jump from one to another when you own an unlocked phone. And the best part is, you don’t have to pay any termination fees.
- Best cheap phones: Our top picks under $300
- The best Android phones you can buy
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While most unlocked phones support GSM carriers like AT&T and T-Mobile, it’s best to look for devices that support all the major U.S. providers, including Sprint and Verizon. That way, you can freely choose to take your device to any carrier. And if you don’t like your current service provider or another happens to be offering a better deal, you can always leave. To learn more, see our what is an unlocked phone guide.
The downside of unlocked phones is that they rarely come with the sort of massive promotional discounts you often see carriers offering, especially to new subscribers agreeing to long-term equipment installment plans. The upside, however, is that there are many inexpensive unlocked options out there that won’t break the bank, yet provide flagship-caliber features and experiences for less. We’ve hand picked some of these devices across a range of prices in the list below to help you find the perfect fit.
What are the best unlocked phones?
The best unlocked phone based on our testing is the Google Pixel 3a. It boasts a great camera, including Night Sight mode for low-light shots, and you can buy it directly through Google and retailers like Amazon. And if you’re interested in the Pixel 3a but need a larger display, the 6-inch Pixel 3a XL is the perfect fit.
Those willing to spend more should look into the OnePlus 7T, which delivers flagship-like specs and performance for a reasonable price. You also get very fast charging and a premium design. On the other hand, if you’re especially concerned about battery life, the inexpensive Moto G7 Power, which costs just $149, is our undisputed battery life king thanks to a massive 5,000-mAh battery and energy-sipping CPU.
Finally, iOS loyalists can also get the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro unlocked. Likewise, the new Samsung Galaxy S20, S20 Plus and S20 Ultra can all be purchased unlocked, too. You’re less likely to save much by opting for Apple and Samsung’s best models without a service agreement, though you can at least still reduce the price of your next device by trading in your old one.
The best unlocked phones you can buy today
1. Google Pixel 3a
The best unlocked phone overall
Screen: 5.6-inch LCD (2280×1080) | Processor: Snapdragon 670 | Cameras: 12 MP (Rear); 8 MP (Front) | RAM/Storage: 4 GB/64 GB
Read our full Pixel 3a review.
2. Moto G7 Power
Epic battery life for under $300
Screen: 6.2-inch LCD (1512×720) | Processor: Snapdragon 632 | Cameras: 12 MP (Rear); 8 MP (Front) | RAM/Storage: 3 GB/32 GB
Read our full Moto G7 Power review.
3. Samsung Galaxy A50
A great unlocked phone under $300
Screen: 6.4-inch AMOLED (2340×1080) | Processor: Exynos 9610 | Cameras: 25 MP main, 8 MP wide and 5 MP depth (Rear);25 MP (Front) | RAM/Storage: 4 GB/64 GB
Read our full Samsung Galaxy A50 review.
4. Google Pixel 3a XL
Screen: 6-inch LCD (2160×1080) | Processor: Snapdragon 670 | Cameras: 12 MP (Rear); 8 MP (Front) | RAM/Storage: 4 GB/64 GB
Read our full Google Pixel 3a XL review.
5. OnePlus 7T
Screen Size: 6.55 inches | Android Version: 10 with Oxygen OS | Processor: Snapdragon 855+ | Cameras: 48 MP, 16 MP and 12 MP (Rear); 16 MP (Front) | RAM/Storage: 8 GB/128 GB
Read our full OnePlus 7T review.
6. Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus
Screen: 6.4-inch OLED (3040×1440) | Processor: Snapdragon 855 (NA) / Exynos 9820 (WW) | Cameras: 16 MP, 12 MP and 12 MP (Rear);10 MP and 8 MP (Front) | RAM/Storage: 8, 12 GB/128 GB, 512 GB, 1 TB
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus review.
7. iPhone 11
The best unlocked iPhone
Screen: 6.1-inch OLED (1,792 x 828) | Processor: A13 Bionic | Cameras: Dual 12 MP (Rear);12 MP (Front) | RAM/Storage: Unknown/64, 256, 512 GB
Read our full apple iphone 11 reviews
How to choose the best unlocked phone for you
- Find a phone that works on your carrier: The vast majority of unlocked devices operate on GSM networks in the U.S. These include AT&T and T-Mobile, as well as discount carriers that run on those networks, such as Cricket Wireless, Metro by T-Mobile and Straight Talk. Some so-called multimode unlocked phones also work with CDMA carriers like Sprint and Verizon, such as all of Apple’s iPhones, and the Google Pixel 4 and Pixel 3a.
- Make sure the coverage map fits your needs: In terms of coverage area, there’s less discrepancy between networks than ever before, but there are still gaps, especially in less-populated areas. “Make sure [the phone you’re buying] works on a carrier that offers good coverage in your area,” advised Avi Greengart, research director for consumer platforms and devices at market research firm Current Analysis.’
- Shop around, and don’t be afraid to go used: Because some unlocked phone makers skip the carriers to sell their devices, they can often pass those savings onto you. However, don’t be afraid to entertain buying one of the best used phones, as you can often find very tempting offers on previous-generation flagships from sites like aliexpress, Saleholy and even dhgate for refurbished examples.
How we test unlocked phones
Every smartphone Tom’s Guide evaluates is tested for days in real-world use cases and benchmarked with a gamut of performance-measuring apps. We use a light meter to ascertain display quality data, like brightness and color accuracy, and our proprietary battery test determines longevity on a charge by streaming webpages over a 4G or 5G network.
We explore the software, test gaming performance and conduct live camera comparisons with rival handsets. We also factor in network compatibility, so you can be certain whether a device will be operational on your carrier before you buy. Each of these factors plays a part in our comprehensive verdict.