Best Picks

Find Freedom with the Six Best Unlocked Phones in the US

By Dev Gupta / June 22, 2018

If you are a traveler that’s trotting around the globe or do not want to be tied down to a single phone carrier, you will do well with an unlocked phone. You can swap the SIM cards from one carrier to another and practically use the phone just about anywhere in the world. Forget about those innocuous international roaming charges.

But before we dive into the list of our recommendations, you should understand that these unlocked phones come with certain drawbacks. In the absence of the two-year contract, the phones are typically more expensive than usual. The full price of the phone does not get subsidized and that means you need to pay a higher upfront charge.

However, the high cost at the start is not a bad deal. Switching carriers gives you the liberty to choose the best and the most customized plans available for you. Say you want unlimited data one month and need lesser the month that follows. On an unlocked phone, you can switch as you need without having to break any kind of agreement.

  1. Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus


Released March 2018
Screen 6.2 inches | 1440 x 2960
RAM | Storage 6GB | 64GB/128GB
Camera   Rear: 12MP | Front: 8MP
Battery 3,500mAh
Price $819.12
Buy From  Amazon

It is not all that difficult to top the table for the best unlocked phones when the best phone available on the market is available unlocked. The large, powerful (and stunning!) Galaxy S9 Plus is the phone to fight for, simply because of its gutsy approach to doing away with ugly bezels and the unnecessarily hyped notch.

The dual-lens and dual-aperture camera on the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus are also the best in the market today. Only the Huawei P20 Pro comes close to the S9 Plus when it comes to the camera. Plus, you get fast-charging, AR Emoji, Face Unlock, and a godsend 3.5mm jack for the headphones. Thankfully, the Galaxy S9 Plus also supports a number of connections with support for both CDMA and GSM.

It works on every major cellular network in the US, including Sprint, T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon, and US Cellular. In addition, it also supports smaller carriers of the likes of Cricket Wireless and Boost Mobile. This cross-platform compatibility and the thump that the S9 Plus already has a smartphone, make it the best-unlocked phone.

  1. iPhone X

Apple iPhone X

Released October 2017
Screen 5.8 inches | 1125 x 2436
RAM | Storage 3GB | 64GB/256GB
Camera   Rear: 12MP | Front: 12MP
Battery 2,716mAh
Price $1279
Buy From  Amazon

The best Apple phone did not originally launch as an unlocked phone. But Apple did release an unlocked version of the phone later. The iPhone X comes with a totally revamped design and a 5.8-inch display free of bezels. The screen on the iPhone X is better than anything we have seen from Apple before. For the first time, Apple has used an OLED display.

The OLED screen greatly improves the contrast, image quality and battery life of the phone. The advanced front facing camera gives you the security of facial recognition and the Animoji. There are still some problems with iOS 11 that need resolution, though. Notwithstanding that, it is still the best iPhone under the sun, which is why the iPhone X is also the best iPhone when available unlocked.

As far as compatibility with carriers goes, Apple has claimed that the unlocked iPhone will be compatible with just about any carrier there is. So you can expect smooth connections and network coverage when using it with T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon, or Sprint.

  1. Samsung Galaxy S9

samsung galaxy s9

Released March 2018
Screen 5.8 inches | 1440 x 2960
RAM | Storage 4GB | 64GB/128GB
Camera   Rear: 12MP | Front: 8MP
Battery 3,000mAh
Price $699.99
Buy From  Amazon

If you have smaller hands and a relatively smaller budget, the Galaxy S9 is one of the best-unlocked phones. In more than many ways, the S9 lives up to the reputation of the S9 Plus. You get the same power with the Snapdragon 845 chipset. There’s a resplendent Super AMOLED display. But the screen size is smaller, which means you will get a bit less of that screen!

Clicking snaps with the phone is also easier than before. There is an all-new camera on the phone and it’s fully capable of low-light photography. The stereo speakers installed on the phone make movies and TV watching a different kind of joy on this phone. Then, there’s also the godsend 3.5mm headphone jack.

When you use it unlocked, the Galaxy S9 works with a wide range of connections along with CDMA and GSM support. In our tests, it worked fine on the Big Four carriers along with their subsidiaries like MetroPCS and Boost Mobile. So the verdict is the Samsung Galaxy S9 is just as good a phone when used unlocked.

  1. Google Pixel 2 XL


Released October 2017
Screen 6 inches | 1440 x 2880
RAM | Storage 4GB | 64GB/128GB
Camera   Rear: 12MP | Front: 8MP
Battery 3,520mAh
Price $849.99
Buy From  Amazon

The Google Pixel 2 XL is a special phone. It gives you a buttery smooth Android experience with quick updates to the latest Android software upgrades. Google’s latest phone also has a slight advantage over Google Pixel 2 because the XL has smaller bezels and sports an OLED + Quad HD display. You get a 6-inch screen with front-facing stereo speakers. There is no dearth of sound on this one.

The camera of the Google Pixel 2 has also been ranked by TechNadu as one of the best ones you will ever see on a smartphone. Add to that a solid battery life and you have gifted yourself a great unlocked phone. Whether you are playing games or watching media, the Pixel 2 XL hardly shows you any lag in performance.

In its unlocked form, the Google Pixel 2 boasts of compatibility with any network provider in the world. It supports both CDMA as well as GSM networks. It works fine with networks like Sprint, AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile as well as the smaller MVNOs and Google’s proprietary Project Fi.

  1. Samsung Galaxy Note 8


Released September 2017
Screen 6.3 inches | 1440 x 2630
RAM | Storage 6GB | 64GB/128GB/256GB
Camera   Rear: 12MP | Front: 8MP
Battery 3,300mAh
Price $819.99
Buy From  Amazon

The Galaxy Note 8 is slightly older than the other flagships in Samsung’s stable. But it continues to be the biggest Samsung phone on the market, which is great news for fans of large displays. The dazzling 6.3-inch Super AMOLED screen flows into and fills the edges of the phone, making the display look a little beyond infinity.

There is also some substantial performance delivered by the Snapdragon 835 chipset. The dual-camera setup also doesn’t fall too far behind the competition. The S Pen from Samsung for the Note 8 opens up new doors of mobile productivity for users. The Note 8 is also the best Note yet.

As an unlocked phone, the Galaxy Note 8 supports a rather wide range of connections including support for CDMA and GSM. It works well on all the major US carriers and does not show any sign of lag even on the smaller carriers. But make sure to choose a provider that works well in your region, to begin with.

  1. Samsung Galaxy S8

Samsung Galaxy S8 smartphones are randomly restarting, complaints filed by the user

Released April 2017
Screen 5.8 inches | 1440 x 2630
RAM | Storage 4GB | 64GB
Camera   Rear: 12MP | Front: 8MP
Battery 3,000mAh
Price $724.99
Buy From  Amazon

If your need for an unlocked smartphone is temporary, you might want to stick to an option with a lower price. That is what makes the Samsung Galaxy S8 a great option. It was the best Android phone last year and it still looks the part with the bezel-less infinity display of 5.8 inches.

The high resolution on the Galaxy S8’s screen still looks awesome and will stay that way for some time now. The Snapdragon 835 of the Galaxy S8 is still one of the best processors around. Casual photographers are not going to be disappointed with the camera either. Plus, there is a big advantage to not buying the latest Samsung phone. You can land a great deal anytime.

Samsung claims that the unlocked version of the Galaxy S8 works on all the four major US carriers. That means you will be able to use it on AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile. There could be varying support for other CDMA and GSM networks. But most major networks should fit well with the S8.

Final Words

Buying an unlocked phone is mostly a one-time decision. You should buy a good and expensive option if you are looking at the long-term. But if your needs are limited, something like the Galaxy S8 could be a great catch. Overall, you may have to pay a higher cost upfront. But you can always have the freedom to change the SIM card and switch to another carrier anytime you want!

Which phone does suit you? Do let us know in the comment section. Get instant updates from TechNadu’s Facebook page and Twitter handle.

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