The popularity of unlocked phones has been growing rapidly, with an estimated 28 million people in the U.S. owning one. With unlocked phones, you skip signing a contract with a carrier. Instead, you buy your phone outright. Then you choose almost any carrier and any plan, and switch them up whenever you want.
Best Buy is the exclusive unlocked retail partner where you can now pre-order the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ unlocked smartphones. You can pre-order on BestBuy.com and in stores. You can choose between the Galaxy S8 for $724.99, or the Galaxy S8+ for $824.99. Both will be available in Midnight Black.
Another great advantage of these unlocked phones is its convenience and versatility when travelling. If a local carrier in another country offers a good price for service, you can simply slide in their SIM card and use your phone on that network without any interruption. You would have a local phone number, and use however much data the service package comes with. This option may be cheaper than a roaming plan from your Canadian carrier.
An unlocked Moto G Power was available at Walmart, Amazon, Best Buy and eBay for less than $200. However, the best deal I saw was at Swappa for under $100. These are especially great deals because Clark recommends the Motorola product line for people who are price sensitive.
Finally, I found a great deal on a refurbished Google Pixel 6 at Walmart for $279.97. The best deal I found on a brand new device was at eBay for $379. Swappa offered the same phone for $200-$258, but keep in mind that phones sold on this site will be used.
Every listing on Swappa is reviewed and approved by a team that checks verification photos, serial numbers, criteria compliance and seller history. You can browse the approved listings for phones in fair, good and mint conditions.
When I compared prices on unlocked phones in February 2023, Newegg offered the lowest prices on a Samsung Galaxy A53 behind only eBay and Swappa. For this reason, I recommend checking out Newegg before deciding where to buy an unlocked smartphone.
This is a classic example of why it is always best to buy an iPhone in the country you live and will use it. iPhone warranty is not international either. Should anything go wrong with a phone purchased in the US requiring warranty support will need to be physically brought back to the US.
Only Apple sells unlocked phones, the ones sold for any carrier at Best Buy (and they label it that way) lock to the first carrier they are used with (apparently he used it with T-Mobile). Only T-Mobile in that case can start the unlocking process and if they refuse to do so there is nothing else that can be done. Apple cannot help with this.
The best unlocked phones let you get whatever device you want while remaining free from carrier payment plans. Although you have to buy them upfront, you can then bring that unlocked handset to the best phone carrier for your needs.
Best unlocked phone overall: iPhone 14 (opens in new tab)Apple's flagship phone is the best device to buy unlocked (though you will pay an extra $30 at Apple to get an unlocked iPhone 14 instead of one tied to a specific carrier.) It's got great cameras, the best performing processor we've tested and a stylish design. Plus, the software experience is second-to-none, with plenty of apps to make your phone even more useful.
Best overall value: Pixel 7 (opens in new tab)The Google Pixel 7 offers the best value of any unlocked phone, with flagship features in a device that costs $200 less than comparable premium handsets. With the Pixel 7, you get powerful cameras that are backed up by Google's excellent computational photography for photos that stand up well against the images produced by any other phone. A Tensor G2 processor also delivers unique features like real-time dictation and call screening.
Best Android value: Google Pixel 6a (opens in new tab)If you don't want to spend more than $500 on a phone, turn to the Pixel 6a. For $449, you get a flagship class processor that has incredible AI smarts. The Pixel 6a features the best cameras at this price point. This is the best phone under $500 hands down.
Other phones boast better battery life, but few can match the amount of high-end capabilities the Galaxy S22 offers for less than $700. And fans of compact phones will appreciate how easy it is to use this 6.1-inch device with just one hand.
With 5x optical zoom, the Pixel 6 Pro can pull off some fancy zoom tricks in combination with the enhanced Super Res Zoom. But we think the colors are a bit dull on the telephoto shots, certainly less vibrant than the iPhone 14 Pro in our testing. Regardless, the Pixel 7 Pro is the Android phone to get if you want the best cameras.
Though it's been out for a while, the Nord N20 is a newcomer to our best unlocked phone list, as the phone had been tied to T-Mobile. That's no longer the case, as you can buy the N20 5G unlocked, though you will need to take it to a wireless carrier that uses T-Mobile's coverage if you want to enjoy 5G speeds. Still, the low price of the Nord N20 5G makes this phone awfully hard to pass up, especially at a time of rising costs.
While no longer the best iPhone, it's still a compelling value and the fact that the iPhone 14 only includes modest improvements will make this the right choice for some shoppers. After all, the iPhone 13 still takes some amazing pictures and Apple's software support will keep it running for years to come.
When it comes to performance, we rely on such synthetic benchmarks as Geekbench 5 and 3DMark to measure graphics performance. These tests allow us to compare performance across iPhones and Android devices. We also run a real-world video transcoding test on each phone using the Adobe Premiere Rush app and time the result. (We unfortunately have to skip this test on some phones due to app compatibility issues, but we attempt this benchmark with each device we get in to review.)
One of the most important tests we run is the Tom's Guide battery test. We run a web surfing test over 5G (or 4G if the phone doesn't have 5G support) at 150 nits of screen brightness until the battery gives out. In general, a phone that lasts 10 hours or more is good, and anything above 11 hours makes our list of the best phone battery life.
Last but not least, we take the best phones out in the field to take photos outdoors, indoors and at night in low light to see how they perform versus their closest competitors. We take shots of landscapes, food, portraits and more, and also allow you to be the judge with side-by-side comparisons in our reviews.
Phone makers and retailers sell both unlocked phones and locked carrier phones. For example, Apple sells an unlocked version of its iPhone X, but it also sells models that are tied to AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile or Verizon. Best Buy sells an unlocked version of the Samsung Galaxy S9 ($350 at Walmart) as well as locked versions for different carriers.
Smartphones are designed to work on either GSM or CDMA phone networks -- think AM versus FM radio. Here in the US for example, AT&T and T-Mobile are GSM networks while Sprint and Verizon use CDMA. A universal phone can be used on any of those networks.
For years, unlocked phones were almost exclusively GSM. But recently, more smartphones are universal, like the iPhone X, Google Pixel 2 and Moto G6. When in doubt, always check with the phone manufacturer or your carrier for compatibility.
No. Some brands, like Moto and Huawei, sell phones only from their websites or through retailers like Best Buy and Amazon. It's the same deal with Google's Pixel 2 or Pixel 2 XL. If you want to buy it directly from a carrier, you have one choice: Verizon. But Google's online store also sells an unlocked version which works on AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon.
The big advantage here is that buying an unlocked model from a phone maker gives you access to a larger variety of phone models compared with the smaller selection of handsets that carriers typically offer.
Yes and no. For example, if you buy a Google Pixel directly from Google, it's unlocked and can be used on any major carrier simply by putting a SIM card in it. However, if you bought a OnePlus 6 directly from OnePlus, it too is unlocked, but can only be used on GSM networks like AT&T and T-Mobile in the US -- it won't support Sprint or Verizon's network bands.
Keep in mind, the phone is unlocked but must be activated in an Apple Store on one for the four major carriers. Also, the finance payment you're making to Apple is in addition to the cost of a monthly data plan. AppleCare+ has additional charges if you actually end up using it: a $29 fee for screen damage and a $99 fee for other damage.
The good news is you don't have to. Just know that there are no financial advantages to buying a phone from a manufacturer or from a carrier -- locked or unlocked. The real advantage to buying a phone from a carrier is the convenience of doing it all at once. While the advantages of an unlocked phone are that you have more say over which carrier you want to use as well as a wider selection of phone models. 781b155fdc