Buy Unlocked Android
These are our choices for the best unlocked phones available in the US, followed by what to consider when you buy an unlocked device. Our picks range from inexpensive basic handsets to powerful flagships. Most are 5G phones, including those in Apple's iPhone 14 series, Google's Pixel 7 lineup, and Samsung's latest Galaxy S and Z families. These run on every form of US 5G, including high-speed millimeter wave and C-band spectrum.
buy unlocked android
Google's Pixel phones have the smoothest software and are among the most future-proof Android handsets. The Pixel 7 also has an all-day battery and excellent cameras. Available unlocked from Google's store, it works on all three US carriers.
The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra has two unique features: a built-in S Pen stylus and a 10x optical zoom camera that goes to 100x digitally. If you buy the unlocked model from Samsung's website, it should work with all US carriers and you get to pick from some online-exclusive colors.
iPhones are the most easily available, universally unlocked line of phones in America because of Apple's nationwide network of brick-and-mortar stores. Unlocked iPhones support every US carrier's frequency bands and you can easily switch them from carrier to carrier. Just remember, it's all eSIM in iPhone 14 models.
The Galaxy S23+ is our top pick for Android flagship phones: It offers class-leading power, excellent cameras, extensive battery life, and a standout display. And with the unlocked model, you can take advantage of its superb 5G connectivity on all the major US carriers. Like the S23 Ultra, you can even get it in some exclusive colors if you buy directly from Samsung online.
With an unlocked device, you can trade up or sell your phone whenever you want without waiting for the end of a leasing or installment plan. You can also own multiple handsets and swap your SIM card between them. If you travel internationally, you can pop in a local, pay-as-you-go card overseas and never pay horrendous international roaming charges. You can also take advantage of super-cheap prepaid plans from virtual operators in the US that piggyback on compatible networks (for the best carrier where you live, see our story on the Best Mobile Networks).
Shopping for an unlocked handset can be tricky because carrier stores don't stock them. If you're looking for one, Amazon, the Apple Store, Best Buy Mobile, and manufacturers' online stores are all good bets. Sometimes, you can even unlock the phone you already have, though the particulars depend on the handset and carrier.
If you're in the market for a new smartphone, you'll almost certainly come across the term "unlocked phone." What exactly is an unlocked phone, and how can you tell if it's unlocked? Do you even want an unlocked phone, and if so, is it secure to use? We provide answers to all of your burning questions.
A smartphone that has been unlocked can be used with any cell phone carrier. Some phones aren't unlocked, meaning they can only be used with one carrier. That is not the case with an unlocked phone. However, a phone's network compatibility is only relevant for mobile phone carriers, not wireless networks like WiFi. Any phone, whether unlocked or locked, can connect to a WiFi network as long as that WiFi is operational.
When traveling, it makes international SIM cards simple to use. Phones that have been unlocked are free to connect to any network in the globe. The instructions for changing SIM cards for your phone model will be available from most providers.
Installing a SIM card is much easier if your phone is unlocked. Unlike locked phones, which are limited to using the network carrier's SIM card, unlocked phones give you the freedom to choose your carrier. It's very simple to put a fresh SIM card in a new unlocked phone device. You can choose a SIM card from any carrier and set it up once you've chosen the proper phone model based on the cellular network frequency specs. If you're transferring an old SIM card from another phone and want to transfer SIM data, you'll need to back up the data from the previous phone first before removing the SIM. You may do this by going to your SIM settings folder and selecting "export files to SIM card."
When you have an unlocked phone, you can use any SIM card. Prior to the invention of 4G LTE, networks were split between GSM and CDMA operators. Now, since the introduction of 4G LTE phones, new iPhones and Android devices are compatible with both GSM and CDMA networks. This means we no longer have to worry about whether our phone is GSM or CDMA or whether it will accept a SIM card. Basically, every unlocked iPhone after the iPhone 5 and any unlocked Android phone released after 2013 should be SIM card compatible.
Further, a locked phone contains a software code that prevents it from being used on another network. An unlocked phone either does not have the software lock or has been able to obtain a code to unlock the program. Once a smartphone is unlocked, you can remove the SIM card and replace it with a different SIM card to continue using it.
With an unlocked phone, One advantage is that you have the freedom to choose the plan and pricing that best suits your needs. Some carriers lock you into plans at a higher price point in order to obtain a discount on a locked phone. With an unlocked phone, you will often have more freedom to add or remove services as well as switch between plans to suit your needs.
Another advantage of an unlocked phone is that it's not bound by a contract. You are not required to stay with a single carrier for more than two years or to adhere to your contract's restrictions and data allotments.
For the international traveler, another pro of owning an unlocked phone is that you may use your unlocked phone easily in other countries. By simply buying a SIM card and plan for an international provider during a trip, one may obtain service often at lower prices than the major US providers offer for international roaming. it is in high demand, especially among international visitors who simply need to purchase a foreign GSM SIM card, so you may get a good price for it if you decide to sell it.
Carriers will allow you to use unlocked phones, but they may not be able to provide as much help in the event that something goes wrong. You may be on your own if your phone stops working, the network goes down, or you have any other technical troubles. The manufacturer has a support team, but their expertise of carrier network technology is confined to their products.
Unless you pay using a credit card, unlocked phones must be paid in full. The problem is that you need to pay for the phone right away, and we all know how pricey these devices can be. It's not pleasant to see your bank account plummet by over $1,000 after purchasing a high-end smartphone. Even low-cost phones can be inconvenient at times.
By now, you should have a better idea of what "unlocked" means in the context of phones. Remember, even if you have paid off your phone and fulfilled your contact duties, the phone is yours to keep, and you should be able to swap at any time. Ultimately, the choice of a locked versus an unlocked phone is yours, and hopefully, our guide will help you navigate finding your next phone.
From Amazon's cell phones page, you can quickly narrow down your search by all sorts of criteria, including whether or not the device is unlocked. Most phones also have a carrier compatibility check so you can know it'll work properly when it arrives. So whether you're looking for the flagship Galaxy S22 Ultra or the more affordable Pixel 6a, Amazon has you covered.
Best Buy is known more for its sales of carrier devices bundled with plans but has opened up to selling lots of unlocked phones as well. Best Buy has unlocked versions of a lot of different models right alongside carrier versions, though when you search the site, it can be a little tough to differentiate them.
Make sure when you're buying that you're for sure getting an unlocked model and not one with a carrier tie-in that needs to be activated. Many of the promotional deals and sales Best Buy runs are in conjunction with the carriers, so you can accidentally buy a phone that requires a carrier plan to make good on the price.
You'll see a listing for unlocked phones from all of the major brands, from just-released devices to popular sellers that may not be the latest thing. Plus, you'll see gear you didn't know existed as Newegg also imports unlocked phones from all over the world. For the latter, just be sure to check network compatibility and read the warranty fine print before buying.
Sometimes when you're looking for an unlocked phone deal, it makes sense to look at second-hand devices. Swappa is the place to start your search when you want to save money by buying a used unlocked phone.
This isn't some dodgy marketplace, either. On the contrary, fully protected sales through the company make user-to-user buying (and selling!) as safe as it is easy, and the phones listed are guaranteed to be gently used and in great working condition. And it's extremely clear whether you're looking at a carrier device or one that's been unlocked.
If you're in the market for a used unlocked phone, Swappa should be your first stop. It's amazing how much money you can save when your "new" phone has just been gently used by a smartphone enthusiast for a few months.
As good as newIt's good to know that you can find a great unlocked smartphone at the same place you shop for paper towels and snacks. And if you want, you can add service later through Walmart's Straight Talk MVNO.
There are a lot of different Android phones out there, so there are many different Settings configurations. But in general, you can go to Settings > Connections > Mobile Networks > Network Operators and tap Search Now to see if the names of other carriers come up. If multiple carrier names show up, your phone might be unlocked. This method works a lot of the time but is not always 100% accurate. 041b061a72