The best unlocked Android phones free you from carrier payment plans, letting you have full control over your phone buying experience. When you purchase a phone unlocked, you can pick a device without having to commit to a specific carrier and wireless plan. And many of the best Android phones are available unlocked, given you ample choice.
Generally, these Android phones are sold directly by the phone makers themselves or through online retailers like Amazon and Best Buy. And once you've made your choice, you can start searching for the best cell phone plan from the phone carrier of your choosing. While you'll have to pay more upfront to buy a phone unlocked, it gives you complete control over your carrier, contract length, cost and more.
So what are the best unlocked Android phones? And which one will best suit your current budget? Here are our current picks.
What are the best unlocked Android phones?
Picking the best unlocked Android phone means looking for the best value. Right now, that's the Pixel 6 from Google. This phone has flagship features but a starting price that's less than $600, making it easier to buy unlocked than pricier options.
Normally, we'd opt for an even better value in the Google Pixel 5a, which delivers a premium camera experience for less than $500. But Google is replacing that phone with the Pixel 6a in July. Unless you need a great camera phone right away, it's best to wait for the newer device. The Galaxy A53 is also a good value, and it costs the same as Google's Pixel A series devices.
The absolute lowest price you can pay for a great unlocked Android phone is a little less than $300 — the cost of the OnePlus N20 5G, which is now available unlocked after being tied to T-Mobile. On the other end of the OnePlus spectrum, the OnePlus 10 Pro improves upon its predecessor, especially with a lower price, making it an excellent option for people who prefer to buy their phones unlocked.
Samsung's Galaxy S phones dominate the Android world, and the Galaxy S22 is probably the best choice for unlocked phone fans, as it has the most affordable starting price at $799. Still, it's hard to ignore all the premium features included with the Galaxy S22 Ultra, assuming you can swing that phone's $1,199 cost. Foldable phones tend to be just as pricey, but the Galaxy Z Flip 3 is the first such device to cost less than $1,000, making it more palatable as an unlocked option.
The best unlocked Android phones right now
The Google Pixel 6 introduces the world to Tensor, the first system-on-chip designed by Google.You can expect performance comparable to the Snapdragon 888, but the real story here is Google’s emphasis on machine learning. The Pixel 6 sports a number of software-powered features from new photo editing skills to a smarter, more capable Google Assistant. Having Android 12 installed on the phone also means a pure Android experience.
Though the Google Pixel 6 Pro has the more impressive features — it’s got a telephoto lens in addition to wide and ultrawide cameras, and its larger screen offers a 120Hz refresh rate to the 90Hz rate on the standard Pixel 6 — we think this 6.4-inch phone is the better option for fans of unlocked devices. You can pick up a Pixel 6 unlocked for $599, which is an extremely attractive price for such a feature-rich device.
Read our full Google Pixel 6 review.
Phones that work with 5G networks no longer need to flirt with $1,000 prices. Device makers have rolled out cheaper 5G phones, and OnePlus lowers the threshold even further with the OnePlus Nord N20 5G.
While this is certainly a budget phone — the disappointing camera performance confirms that — you do get some premium features in the OnePlus Nord N20 5G, including a professional look, in-display fingerprint sensor, and good performance. We also like the battery life, which outperformed the average smartphone even with the faster refresh rate enabled.
The OnePlus Nord N20 5G is now available unlocked at Amazon, Best Buy and OnePlus's online store. You'll need to use it with a carrier that works with T-Mobile's 5G network to enjoy faster speeds, but there are plenty of T-Mobile MVNOs out there, including Mint Mobile and Google Fi.
Read our full OnePlus Nord N20 5G review.
If your idea of the best unlocked Android phone begins and ends with a device from Samsung, turn to the Galaxy A53. It’s got a low price at $449 that’s easy for unlocked phone fans to swing. But it also includes some high-end features you might not expect from a midrange handset.
The Galaxy A53 features a 6.5-inch display with a 120Hz refresh rate for smoother scrolling and more immersive experiences. While that can take a toll on battery life, the A53 matched the average smartphone on our battery test with its 120Hz enabled; with the faster refresh rate turned off, the phone lasted even longer on a charge.
You won’t get flagship-level performance from the Galaxy A53, but there is enough under the hood to handle common smartphone tasks and apps. And you’ll appreciate the polished design and IP67 water resistance rating that hides the Galaxy A53’s budget roots.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy A53 review.
The OnePlus 10 Pro can hold its own against phones like the Galaxy S22 Ultra, but without that latter device’s large price tag. At $899, the OnePlus 10 Pro should be more palatable if you’re looking to buy a great unlocked Android phone.
The excellent battery life on the OnePlus 10 Pro makes this phone stand out from the crowd — it lasted just under 12 hours on our battery test with its 120Hz refresh rate enabled. OnePlus also equipped its latest flagship with the best cameras on a OnePlus handset to date, thanks to the phone maker’s ongoing partnership with lens specialist Hasselblad.
Read our full OnePlus 10 Pro review.
If you're looking for an unlocked Samsung flagship phone that won't take too big a bite out of your wallet, the Galaxy S21 FE is currently your best bet. You make some trade-offs from the rest of the Galaxy S21 lineup — there's not as much RAM and the display refresh rate must be adjusted manually — but in exchange, you pay $699. That's $100 less than the standard S21 and $500 less than the Galaxy S21 Ultra.
Other than memory, refresh rate and the MP rating on the telephoto lens, the Galaxy S21 FE is essentially a member of the S21 family. You get the same Snapdragon 888 chipset, and a triple camera array capable of producing photos that can hold their own against any camera phone. (We're particularly impressed by the Night mode on the S21 FE, which Samsung took pains to improve.) The display is nice and bright, too.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S21 FE review.
Normally, the Google Pixel 5a would land much higher on this list. It only costs $449, but you're getting a great camera phone capable of terrific shots. With a 6.43-inch display, this phone might be a bit large for some hands (and it's considerably larger than the 4a). You'll also get a 3.5mm headphone jack, a fleeting sight on smartphones these days.
However, the Pixel 6a hits stores on July 28, and this Pixel 5a successor replaces the aging Snapdragon 765G chipset with Google's Tensor silicon. That's the same chipset that powers the Pixel 6, and it should enable some premium experiences on the Pixel 6a, including new photo features. As good as the Pixel 5a has been, we'd recommend holding off for the Pixel 6a if at all possible.
Read our full Google Pixel 5a review.
Samsung’s flagships usually top our Android phone rankings, but they’re also quite expensive, making them tough to buy unlocked. The Samsung Galaxy S22 gives you an option for getting one of the best unlocked Android phones without having to put a big dent in your wallet, as it costs $799 — $200 cheaper than the Galaxy S22 Plus.
You’re still getting plenty of top features with the Galaxy S22, from a powerful Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset to a triple camera array that includes improvements to the main sensor and telephoto lens. Samsung has also beefed up low-light photo capabilities in the Galaxy S22 lineup, and this model benefits from those changes.
Add a very bright display and a compact form factor that’s easy to use with one hand, and the Galaxy S22 becomes a very compelling option, even if it’s a little pricey than more affordable unlocked phones.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S22 review.
More expensive phones like the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra now offer stylus support with Samsung's S Pen, but the Moto G Stylus 5G proves you don't need to spend big bucks for a phone with a handy input device. The stylus pops out of the Motorola phone's frame for easy note-taking and photo editing.
For $399, you get a 5G-capable phone that lasts a long time on a charge — nearly 11 hours on our battery test. The cameras are very unremarkable, but this is a good productivity booster for Android users on a budget. Certainly pick this model over the LTE-only Moto G Stylus (2022), which is done in by a poor processor, but you might want to wait until we get a chance to review the 2022 model of the Moto G Stylus 5G to see how the new 5G version performs.
Read our full Moto G Stylus 5G review.
Up until now, foldable phones have not really been feasible options as unlocked devices, as their high price tags meant paying well over $1,000 in one go. But the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 changes that, now that Samsung has dropped the price to $999.
You get a very attractive flip phone with that opens to reveal a foldable 6.7-inch display. This version of the Flip features a much larger external display, which is good for notifications and a view finder that saves you from having to open up the phone.
We wish battery life was much better on this device — it's easily the biggest mark against the Galaxy Z Flip 3. But if you're committed to unlocked devices and you want a foldable phone, this is the one to get.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 review.
The Motorola Edge Plus normally costs $999. But you can still find an unlocked version of the phone at a $100 discount. That’s a pretty good price for a phone that uses the same Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset found in Samsung’s Galaxy S22 lineup. The Motorola Edge Plus also offers a display with a 144Hz refresh rate, while most flagships top out at 120Hz.
That higher refresh rate puts a hurt on battery life, so you may find it hard to get through the day on a single charge. But solid cameras — particularly the main lens — add to the value of the Motorola Edge Plus. Just don’t get this phone expecting a telephoto lens.
Read our full Motorola Edge Plus (2022) review.
What is an unlocked Android phone?
When it comes to buying a new phone, you have two options — an unlocked device or one that's tied to a phone carrier. In a nutshell, unlocked simply means you are getting a phone with no connections to a carrier yet.
This allows you to hand pick one of the best cell phone plans for your phone. While unlocked phones are nearly always the cheaper option overall, you do have to pay for the phone up front. (Carriers let you pay off your phone in installments to keep you tied to their service.)
But with one of the best unlocked Android phones, you're free to choose a cheap plan from somewhere like Mint Mobile or opt for service with more of the bells and whistles from AT&T or Verizon.
How we test the best unlocked Android phones
In order for a smartphone to make our best phone list, it needs to excel on several tests that we run on every handset. We perform some of these tests in our labs and some in the real world.
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.)
|Geekbench 5 (single-core / muiticore)||3DMark Wild Life Unlimited (FPS)|
|Pixel 6||1029 / 2696||34|
|Galaxy A53||745 / 1888||14|
|OnePlus 10 Pro||995 / 3482||61|
|Galaxy S21 FE||1101 / 3199||34|
|Pixel 5a||581 / 1345||10|
|Galaxy S22||1222 / 3341||60|
|Pixel 6 Pro||1027 / 2760||40|
|Moto G Stylus 5G||505 / 1651||6|
|Nord N20||696 / 1995||7|
|Galaxy Z Flip 3||737 / 2984||27|
|Edge Plus||1196 / 3644||61|
To measure the quality of a phone's display, we perform lab tests to determine the brightness of the panel (in nits), as well as how colorful each screen is (DCI-P3 color gamut). In these cases, higher numbers are better. We also measure color accuracy of each panel with a Delta-E rating, where lower numbers are better and score of 0 is perfect.
|sRGB (%)||DCI-P3 (%)||Delta-E|
|Galaxy A53||204 (Vivid) / 123 (Natural)||145 (Vivid) / 87 (Natural)||0.32 (Vivid) / 0.31 (Natural)|
|OnePlus 10 Pro||174 (Vivid) / 119 (Natural)||123 (Vivid) / 84 (Natural)||0.32 (Vivid) / 0.23 (Natural)|
|Galaxy S21 FE||207 (Vivid) / 120 (Natural)||147 (Vivid) / 79 (Natural)||0.32 (Vivid) / 0.29 (Natural)|
|Galaxy S22||213 (Vivid) / 112 (Natural)||151 (Vivid) / 80 (Natural)||0.33 (Vivid) / 0.24 (Natural)|
|Pixel 6 Pro||104||74||0.3|
|Moto G Stylus 5G||131 (Saturated) / 124 (Natural)||93 (Saturated) / 88 (Natural)||0.36 (Saturated) / 0.23 (Natural)|
|Nord N20||179 (Vivid) / 103 (Gentle)||127 (Vivid) / 73 (Gentle)||0.34 (Vivid) / 0.3 (Gentle)|
|Galaxy Z Flip 3||102||76||0.32|
|Edge Plus||192 (Saturated) / 104 (Natural)||136 (Saturated) / 74 (Natural)||0.33 (Saturated) / 0.28 (Natural)|
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.
|Battery life (Hrs:Mins)|
|Pixel 6||8:13 (Adaptive) / 7:56 (60Hz)|
|Galaxy A53||9:48 (120Hz) / 10:38 (60Hz)|
|OnePlus 10 Pro||11:52 (Adaptive) / 12:40 (60Hz)|
|Galaxy S21 FE||7:40 (120Hz) / 9:15 (60Hz)|
|Galaxy S22||7:54 (Adaptive) / 8:20 (60Hz)|
|Pixel 6 Pro||7:43 (Adaptive) / 7:55 (60Hz)|
|Moto G Stylus 5G||10:50|
|Galaxy Z Flip 3||5:43 (Adaptive) / 6:00 (60Hz)|
|Edge Plus||6:57 (144Hz) / 8:24 (60Hz)|
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.