The 10 Best Unlocked Cell Phones

Updated January 09, 2018 by Brett Dvoretz

10 Best Unlocked Cell Phones
Best High-End
Best Mid-Range
Best Inexpensive
We spent 47 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top options for this wiki. If you want the flexibility to choose your own mobile carrier without getting stuck in lengthy and costly contracts, try one of these unlocked cell phones. They give you communication with freedom and can also work overseas, so are good for frequent travelers who want to stay connected. We've included some of the best premium models as well as some budget-friendly options. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best unlocked cell phone on Amazon.

10. Google Pixel 2

The Google Pixel 2 has two forward-facing speakers, giving it some of the best sound of any current model, plus a high degree of water resistance, making it great for users who often subject their devices to extreme conditions.
  • supports cdma and gsm
  • doesn't have a headphone jack
  • bezel looks too thick
Brand Google
Model N/A
Weight 1.4 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

9. OnePlus 5

The OnePlus 5 gives you a lot of bang for your buck, making it a smart choice for those looking for a middle of the road price with high-end performance. Its dual-lens rear camera takes great photos in high and low light situations
  • feels like a premium model
  • dual sim card slots
  • not compatible with cdma carriers
Brand OnePlus
Model oneplus 5 gray
Weight 1.1 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

8. Moto G Plus 5th Gen

The Moto G Plus 5th Gen is a great budget option that is compatible with nearly every carrier and every frequency band. If you often travel between countries and use different carriers, you should have no trouble connecting. The speakers sound pretty tinny though.
  • durable metal build
  • simple one-button navigation
  • doesn't support nfc transfers
Brand Motorola
Model 01119NAAZN
Weight 12.8 ounces
Rating 3.5 / 5.0

7. Blackberry DTEK 60

The Blackberry DTEK 60 performs well in day-to-day use and has a polished appearance and interface that you'd expect from these former industry giants, showing that the company is stepping up their game. It's great for business users with its productivity-focused features.
  • impressive 21mp camera
  • very high pixel density
  • fingerprint sensor is finicky
Brand BlackBerry
Model PRD-63036-001
Weight 13.6 ounces
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

6. Sony Xperia XZ Premium

In addition to the more standard colors, the Sony Xperia XZ Premium comes in a vibrant red for those who like to be a little more flashy. It is equipped with four gigabytes of RAM, runs on Android 7.1 Nougat, and supports a large number of frequency bands.
  • opens and closes apps smoothly
  • feels extremely well-made
  • camera autofocus is a little slow
Brand Sony
Model G8142
Weight 1.1 pounds
Rating 4.5 / 5.0

5. Apple iPhone 8 Plus

The Apple iPhone 8 Plus works with both CDMA and GSM carriers and offers all of the intuitive functionality this company is known for, so using it quickly becomes second nature. Its camera features wide-angle and telephoto lenses so you can leave your DSLR at home.
  • can record 4k video
  • triple-core gpu
  • decent speaker sound quality
Brand Apple
Model A1864-64-Gold
Weight 1.1 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

4. Huawei Honor 8

It may not be a brand most Americans are familiar with, but the Huawei Honor 8 is an impressive option that brings new meaning to the word value. Its available in a 32- or 64-GB model, supports fast charging, and has a battery that lasts for 10 hours of video playback.
  • free swype keyboard
  • 4g lte technology
  • fingerprint security
Brand Huawei
Model FRD-L14 Blue
Weight 1.3 pounds
Rating 4.5 / 5.0

3. Samsung Galaxy S8

With its full edge-to-edge screen, thanks to a bezel-less frame, the Samsung Galaxy S8 maximizes its usable space to minimize the bulk in your pocket. It features invisible navigation keys for a beautifully uncluttered look.
  • world's first 10nm processor
  • battery lasts a long time
  • adjustable widget sizes
Brand Samsung
Model SM-G950
Weight 1.5 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

2. Samsung Galaxy J7 Pro

The Samsung Galaxy J7 Pro may be one of the company's budget models, but that doesn't mean it lacks sufficient processing power for the average consumer to browse the internet, play games, and multitask to their heart's content.
  • dual and single sim models available
  • full amoled hd screen
  • works domestically and overseas
Brand Samsung
Model SM-J730G/DS
Weight 11.2 ounces
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

1. Apple iPhone X

The Apple iPhone X features a premium 5.8-inch Super Retina screen that makes games and videos really pop. As with all of their previous generations, this model is blazing fast and very intuitive to use. It is also dust- and water-resistant.
  • supports wireless qi charging
  • takes crisp and vibrant photos
  • both front and back are all glass
Brand Apple
Model A1901-256-Space Gray
Weight 13.6 ounces
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

Unlock Your Potential

The one time I traveled to Europe I thought I'd simply grab a burner and a SIM card from an overseas carrier, and that I'd be set to text and talk all I wanted for the duration of my trip. I couldn't have been more wrong. Over the course of those four weeks overseas, I couldn't seem to get any option to work. My cell phone from the states was about as useful as an electric paper weight, and I was useless in the face of emergencies going on at home that I barely knew were happening.

Go ahead and try dropping off the map to your friends and family for a month while they assume you're gallivanting about Europe without a care in the world. It's not great for relationships.

Which is all to say that staying connected is important, whether you're trying to do so while touring the globe or simply trying to save money on the prospect here at home. An unlocked smartphone operates without tying you to the intricate contractual clauses and international barriers that wireless companies set up specifically so that they can go about charging you more for your needs.

With an unlocked phone, all you need is a prepaid SIM card from any major carrier's pay-as-you-go service, like AT&T's GoPhone, for example, and you've got texting, call minutes, and data to surf the internet at your leisure. You can even re-up your data plan using the phone, so once you've got the SIM card and a prepaid plan in place, you're golden.

Overseas, the prospect is just as simple. There was a man standing on a street corner who promised he could unlock my factory phone for me for a mere £100, which seemed rather steep considering I was 100% sure he would make off with my phone and never return. With an unlocked phone, however, you could buy a prepaid SIM card from any shop or internet cafe in the land, pop it into your phone, and you're good to go.

Sure, the phones on our list may not boast the brand names with which you've become so familiar over the years, but their operating systems are the same and their technical specs–like the camera quality, battery life, and processing speeds–, are even better in some cases.

International Phones Of Mystery

Savvy consumers who don't need the latest and greatest cell phone technology often reach for unlocked phones for the flexibility they provide in choosing your carrier. If you've ever moved into a new house or apartment, only to find that your cellular carrier has terrible reception in and around your home, you know how frustrating it can be to be locked into a contract.

If your interest in unlocked phones doesn't extend beyond the borders of your home country, then you can make your selection off of our list based on more traditional phone criteria. Some of the phones on our list have excellent battery life, which is great if you're out of the house for long stretches of time or if you have a tendency to lose your chargers.

Other phones have better cameras and faster processors, which are great if you do a lot of video chatting with friends and family who are far away from you. There are even phones on our list that are specifically designed to be more rugged and less "smart," or that have advantages for use in the hands of a child or an elderly customer.

If you do intend to use your unlocked phone to international travel, all of the above still applies, but another question or two does come up. If you move pretty freely and constantly between carrier areas in such a way that would necessitate a lot of SIM card swapping, you should look for a phone on this list that not only matches your other technical requirements, but that also has more than one slot for a SIM card, allowing you to switch between them from within the phone's operating system.

Finally, while we're talking about operating systems, look for something with which you're familiar. Most of these phones run either Android or Windows, and if you don't use a Windows machine at home, it'd be wise to stay away, as their connectivity with anything other than Windows can get a little wonky.

Smartphones, Not-So-Smart Consumers

From IBM's massive attempt at a cell phone with computing technology in 1993 to the introduction of the iPhone in 2007, mobile talk and computing went through a number of interesting shifts. That IBM device, known as Simon, cost $800 in 1993 (roughly $1,500 today adjusted for inflation), and all it had was talk, email, and fax.

Well before the advent of the smartphone, however, cellular carriers discovered that they could lock consumers into lengthy contracts by massively subsidizing the cost of their cell phone purchase. You could walk into any wireless provider's store and walk out with $500 in technology for less than $100, never realizing that they'd take the difference out of your monthly installments until you were "eligible" for an upgrade.

Then, companies like Virgin Mobile and Cricket came along to upset the apple cart, and they offered a prepaid service with simple, inexpensive phones. That model has led phone manufacturers to create smartphones with as much capability as possible for as little money as possible, that they might capture a chunk of the market not interested in tying itself down to any of the big cellular companies.


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Last updated on January 09, 2018 by Brett Dvoretz

A wandering writer who spends as much time on the road as behind the computer screen, Brett can either be found hacking furiously away at the keyboard or perhaps enjoying a whiskey and coke on some exotic beach, sometimes both simultaneously, usually with a four-legged companion by his side. He hopes to one day become a modern day renaissance man.


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