The best unlocked Samsung phones give you the best Galaxy experience without a carrier payment plan. If you're unsure of which one suits your needs, we've got you covered.
Samsung offers an almost overwhelming amount of devices ranging from powerful flagships through to budget handsets.
Whether it's a flagship you're after, something cheap and cheerful or something in the middle, we've picked out the best unlocked Samsung phones below for you to look through — all perfect to pair with the best cell phone plans. Here's a look at the best unlocked Samsung phones that are currently available.
The best unlocked Samsung phones right now
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The changes that Samsung made with the Galaxy S23 lack the pizzaz of some Galaxy S23 Ultra features. Nevertheless, there are some solid improvements over past Galaxy S flagships, largely driven by the introduction of the customized Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset.
Not only does this silicon bolster the Galaxy S23's performance, it also helps improve battery life over last year's model, addressing one of our key concerns about Samsung's flagships.
Samsung also improved the Galaxy S23's display, giving it the same maximum brightness as the Galaxy S23 Plus and Galaxy S23 Ultra screens. Throw in some worthwhile if not earth-shattering photo processing improvements, and this is certainly a solid addition to the Galaxy lineup.
At $799, it's the Samsung flagship most people can afford, and they'll be getting plenty of premium features for their purchase.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S23 review.
Editor's note: Samsung just announced the Galaxy S23 series. Be sure to check out our Galaxy S23 and Galaxy S23 Plus hands-on review.
If you’ve got an extra $100 to spend, you should really consider the Galaxy S22 over the Galaxy S21 FE. Yes, the newer flagship is more expensive, but you’re getting a number of improvements over the more budget-minded FE model.
For starters, there’s a more up-to-date chipset powering the Galaxy S22 in the form of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 (at least for phones released in the U.S.). Samsung boosted the megapixel rating on the main camera to 50MP and increased the size of the sensor to let in more light. The telephoto lens now supports a 3x optical zoom as well.
Battery life is a disappointment, and the Galaxy S22 doesn’t charge as fast as the more expensive options in the S22 lineup. But with a 6.1-inch display that’s very bright, it’s also a compact phone that fits easily in one hand. And it packs a lot of value into that device.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S22 review.
If you don’t want to pay flagship prices for the bet unlocked Samsung phone, turn to the Galaxy A53. It may not have the processing power of the Galaxy S22 lineup, but its Exynos 1280 chipset is comparable to other phones in its price range, and Samsung still equips the A53 with a 120Hz display.
Best of all, the Galaxy A53 costs just $449 — a $50 discount from its predecessor. That’s an easier price to swallow than the hundreds of dollars more you’ll need to pay for a Galaxy S model. Battery life is decent, and the cameras are capable, if not exactly up to the standards set by the Google Pixel 5a. But for $449, you get a device that makes only a few sacrifices while also offering 5G connectivity.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy A53 review.
The Galaxy S23 may be the less expensive option — not to mention the $699 Galaxy S22 — but the Galaxy S22 Plus still deserves some love. It's a very capable upgrade over the Galaxy S22 Plus, offering the brightest display we've ever seen on a phone with a peak brightness of 1,750 nits.
It also sports the new Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy chip from Qualcomm. And with a few camera upgrades, you're getting one of the best photography experiences ever with a Galaxy phone. It's a good phone at $999.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S23 Plus review.
The Galaxy S23 Ultra has almost anything you could ever want in a phone, including a built-in S Pen stylus. It’s got powerful cameras, the top-tier Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy processor, plenty of storage options, and a jaw-droppingly gorgeous display. It might lack a microSD card slot like Galaxy phones of old, but it makes up for it with up to 1TB of storage.
We're pretty confident in calling the Galaxy S23 Ultra the best phone you can buy right now, but it carries a price tag to match. That's our biggest complaint, especially since battery life is so much better than last year.
If you’re firmly in the Android camp, there’s no better phone than the Galaxy S23 Ultra right now. You’ll just have to pay $1,199 for the privilege.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra review.
The Galaxy Z Flip 4 is the refinement over its predecessor. It features enhanced durability, better displays, and upgraded cameras. It's even got better battery life All told, it's a pretty great phone. For the most part.
Unfortunately, the Galaxy Z Flip 4's still struggles with battery life, despite its improvements. Making it through a day can still be a tough challenge, though far less so than the Galaxy Z Flip 3.
But if you're really in on foldable phones and don't want to drop the kind of money that the Galaxy Z Fold 4 demands, this is the phone for you.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 review.
The Galaxy A lineup has been refreshed for 2022, but don't overlook last year's models if you want a cheap unlocked Samsung phone. The Galaxy A32 5G, a sub-$300 5G-capable smartphone. It sports many things people love about Galaxy phones, but with some corners cut to keep the price down. The biggest downside is the underwhelming display. The size combined with the low resolution doesn't look great in person.
However, if you're strapped for cash and want a phone with decent cameras, the Galaxy A32 5G is one you should consider. With its big 6.5-inch screen, the A32 is not a small phone. But it packs a 5,000 mAh battery that lasts a really long time — almost 12 hours in our testing with its adaptive refresh rate enabled. You can also expect the Galaxy A32 to go for longer than many other budget options, with Samsung promising three years of Android updates and four years of security patches.
At a debut price of $280, the Galaxy A32 5G won't win awards for its performance or camera quality, but for people who need a solid phone under $300, this is the phone to look at, especially if the A33 remains unavailable in your area.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy A32 5G review.
What is an unlocked Samsung phone?
An unlocked phone is simply one that isn't tied to any network yet. Generally, you can buy phones unlocked directly from the phone maker and from some retailers. In contrast, a phone bought from a wireless carrier is usually tied to that carrier's network.
If you buy one of the best unlocked Samsung phones, you'll have to buy the phone outright, as carriers are the only ones offering installment plans. (All the better to tie you to their wireless service for a couple years.) But if you can swing the upfront cost of an unlocked phone, you get the freedom to choose your own carrier and get a cheap cell phone plan.
If you're looking for a 5G phone, pay attention to the bands a handset supports. Last year, the Galaxy A52 5G, worked with sub 6Hz-based networks, but not mmWave 5G. (The Galaxy A53 doesn't suffer from this problem, though.)
How we test the best unlocked Samsung 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.)
|Row 0 - Cell 0||Geekbench 5 (single-core / multicore)||3DMark Wild Life Unlimited (FPS)|
|Galaxy S21 FE||1101 / 3199||34|
|Galaxy S22||1204 / 3388||55|
|Galaxy A53||745 / 1888||14|
|Galaxy S22 Plus||1214 / 3361||60|
|Galaxy S22 Ultra||1240 / 3392||57|
|Galaxy Z Flip 4||1291 / 4015||67|
|Galaxy A32||500 / 1642||7|
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.
|Row 0 - Cell 0||sRGB (%)||DCI-P3 (%)||Delta-E|
|Galaxy S21 FE||207 (Vivid) / 120 (Natural)||147 (Vivid) / 79 (Natural)||0.32 (Vivid) / 0.29 (Natural)|
|Galaxy S22||210 (Vivid) / 110 (Natural)||149 (Vivid) / 78 (Natural)||0.33 (Vivid) / 0.22 (Natural)|
|Galaxy A53||204 (Vivid) / 123 (Natural)||145 (Vivid) / 87 (Natural)||0.32 (Vivid) / 0.31 (Natural)|
|Galaxy S22 Plus||212 (Vivid) / 129 (Natural)||150 (Vivid) / 91 (Natural)||0.35 (Vivid) / 0.23 (Natural)|
|Galaxy S22 Ultra||138||97||0.25|
|Galaxy Z Flip 4||187 (Vivid) / 110 (Natural)||132 (Vivid) / 78 (Natural)||0.36 (Vivid) / 0.24 (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.
|Row 0 - Cell 0||Battery life (Hrs:Mins)|
|Galaxy S21 FE||7:40 (120Hz) / 9:15 (60Hz)|
|Galaxy S22||7:51 (Adaptive) / 8:02 (60Hz)|
|Galaxy A53||9:48 (120Hz) / 10:38 (60Hz)|
|Galaxy S22 Plus||9:27 (Adaptive) / 10:27 (60Hz)|
|Galaxy S22 Ultra||8:50 (Adaptive) / 8:56 (60Hz)|
|Galaxy Z Flip 4||8:34 (Adaptive) / 8:57 (60Hz)|
|Galaxy A32||11:36 (Adaptive) / 12:10 (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.