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Best unlocked Samsung phones in 2022

Samsung galaxy s21 fe review
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The best unlocked Samsung phones give the best Galaxy experiences without you being tied to a carrier payment plan. That allows you to choose your perfect handset first and then pick exactly which of the best phone carriers is right for you later. 

And if you've decided Samsung is the way you want to go but you're not sure which handset fits your needs, we're here to help. Samsung (opens in new tab) offers an overwhelming amount of devices ranging from powerful flagships through to budget handsets. Make sure you check our Samsung promo codes for the latest deals and discounts.  

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.

What are the best unlocked Samsung phones?

Our top pick is the $699 Galaxy S21 FE. Close behind that are the new Galaxy S22 models, while budget hunters will be interested in the Galaxy A53 5G. (The Galaxy A33 5G ships later in April, though not outside of Europe.) The point is, you can find the best unlocked Samsung phones at every price.

Samsung has a stronger focus on foldables these days, and you can see what we think of both the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Galaxy Z Flip 3. While the Fold has the more impressive features, the Flip's lower $999 starting price makes it much more attractive as an unlocked option.

The best unlocked Samsung phones right now

Samsung galaxy s21 fe is one of the best unlocked samsung phones for its low price

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)
One of the best values for an unlocked Samsung phone

Specifications

Display: 6.4-inch OLED (2400 x 1080)
CPU: Snapdragon 888
RAM: 6GB, 8GB
Storage / Expandable: 128GB, 256GB / No
Rear camera: 12MP (f/1.8) main, 12MP (f/2.2) ultrawide, 8MP telephoto (f/2.4)
Front camera: 32MP (ƒ/2.2)
Weight: 6.2 ounces
Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 7:46

Reasons to buy

+
Costs $100 less than the Galaxy S21
+
Uses the same Snapdragon 888 chipset as the other S21 models
+
Takes excellent photos

Reasons to avoid

-
Subpar battery life
-
120Hz refresh rate doesn't adjust automatically

The Galaxy S21 FE arrives later than expected but with many of the Galaxy S21's features still intact. That's good news if you're looking for an unlocked phone, as the S21 FE costs $100 less than the standard S21 without asking for too many compromises. You'll get less RAM with this phone and the 6.4-inch display's 120Hz refresh rate doesn't automatically adjust, but those are the only real sacrifices you have to make.

But think of what your $699 gets you in return — a phone with the same Snapdragon 888 chipset as the rest of the S21 lineup and great rear cameras that take outstanding pictures. The display is very bright, too, and this phone ships with the latest version of Android 12 pre-installed. It's a strong value, even with the Galaxy S22 expected in short order.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy S21 FE review.

Samsung Galaxy S22 review

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The new lost-cost Galaxy flagship

Specifications

Display: 6.1-inch Dynamic AMOLED (2340 x 1080)
CPU: Snapdragon 8 Gen 1
RAM: 8GB
Storage / Expandable: 128GB, 256GB / No
Rear cameras: 50MP (f/1.8) main, 12MP (f/2.2) ultrawide, 10MP (f/2.4) 3x telephoto
Front camera: 10MP (f/2.2)
Weight: 5.89 ounces
Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 7:51 (adaptive), 8:02 (60Hz)

Reasons to buy

+
Most affordable Galaxy S22 model
+
Bright, colorful display
+
Improved zoom and low-light photos
+
Solid performance

Reasons to avoid

-
Below-average battery life

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.

Samsung Galaxy A53 display

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Samsung’s best midrange phone

Specifications

Display: 6.5-inch OLED (2400 x 1080)
CPU: Exynos 1280
RAM: 6GB
Storage / Expandable: 128GB / Yes
Rear camera: 64MP main (f/1.8), 12MP ultrawide (f/2.2), 5MP macro (f/2.4), 5MP depth (f/2.4)
Front camera: 32MP (f/2.2)
Weight: 6.7 ounces
Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 9:49 (120Hz), 10:38 (60Hz)

Reasons to buy

+
Low cost
+
120Hz refresh rate
+
Expandable storage

Reasons to avoid

-
Processor isn't as power as Galaxy S21, Galaxy S22 options
-
Superfluous macro and depth sensors

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.

galaxy s22 plus review

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Samsung's latest is a great Galaxy

Specifications

Display: 6.6-inch AMOLED (2400x1080; 48-120Hz)
CPU: Snapdragon 8 Gen 1
RAM: 8GB
Storage / Expandable: 128GB, 256GB / No
Rear camera: 50MP wide (f/1.8); 12MP ultrawide (f/2.2); 10MP telephoto (f/2.4) with 3x optical zoom
Front camera: 10MP (ƒ/2.2)
Weight: 6.9 ounces
Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 9:46 (adaptive), 9:57 (60Hz)

Reasons to buy

+
Beautiful and very bright display
+
Powerful performance
+
Faster 45W charging
+
Strong telephoto camera

Reasons to avoid

-
Battery life barely better than last year

The Galaxy S22 may be the less expensive option, but the Galaxy S22 Plus still deserves some love. It's a very capable upgrade over the Galaxy S21 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 1 chip from Qualcomm, which is the cheap that we'll see in many of the best Android phones this year. And with several camera upgrades, you're getting one of the best photography experiences ever with a Galaxy phone. 

If we had to lodge one major complaint with the Galaxy S22 Plus, it would be the so-so battery life. Samsung shrunk the battery from 4,800 mAh last year to 4,500 mAh. The Galaxy S22 Plus turned in a similar result as its predecessor, which is not what we wanted to see. Even so, it's a good phone at $999.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus review.

the galaxy s22 ultra is one of the best unlocked samsung phones, despite its high price

(Image credit: Future)
The best premium Android unlocked phone

Specifications

Display: 6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED (3088 x 1440)
CPU: Snapdragon 8 Gen 1
RAM: 8GB, 12GB
Storage / Expandable: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB / No
Rear cameras: 108MP (f/2.2) main, 12MP (f/2.2) ultrawide, 10MP (f/2.4) 10x telephoto, 10MP (f/2.4) 3x telephoto
Front camera: 40MP (f/2.2)
Weight: 8.04 ounces
Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 8:50 (adaptive), 10:18 (60Hz)

Reasons to buy

+
Faster S Pen built in
+
Super bright display
+
Cameras offer better low light performance

Reasons to avoid

-
Pricey
-
Shorter battery life than S21 Ultra

The Galaxy S22 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 1 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.

The Galaxy S22 Ultra still stumbles in the battery life department, more so than its predecessor, despite its 5,000 mAh power pack. In the 120Hz adaptive refresh rate mode, the latest Ultra only lasted for 8 hours and 50 minutes, well below the 10-hour mark we like to see from today’s phones. Even the iPhone 13 Pro Max, which also as an adaptive 120Hz refresh rate, went for several hours longer.

But if you’re firmly in the Android camp, there’s no better phone than the Galaxy S22 Ultra right now. You’ll just have to pay $1,199 for the privilege. 

Read our full Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra review.

best unlocked samsung phones: the galaxy z flip 3 is the most affordable foldable yet

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The most affordable foldable

Specifications

Display: 6.7-inch Super AMOLED (2640 x 1080); 1.9-inch Super AMOLED (260 x 512)
CPU: Snapdragon 888
RAM: 8GB
Storage / Expandable: 128GB, 256GB / No
Rear camera: 12MP (f/1.8) main, 12MP (f/2.2) ultrawide
Front camera: 10MP (f/2.4)
Weight: 6.5 ounces
Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 5:43 (adaptive); 6:00 (60Hz)

Reasons to buy

+
Enhanced durability
+
Bigger cover display
+
120Hz refresh rate on inner display

Reasons to avoid

-
Bad battery life
-
No telephoto lens

The Galaxy Z Flip 3 is the first foldable phone under $1,000. It features enhanced durability, better displays, and upgraded cameras. Android 11 comes standard out of the box with the Android 12 update right around the corner. All told, it's a pretty great phone. For the most part.

Unfortunately, the Galaxy Z Flip 3's biggest problem is its poor battery life. With only 3,300 mAh powering two 120Hz displays (and a 1.9-inch over display) and 5G, the Flip 3 performed worse than its predecessor in this area. Making it through a day can be a tough challenge unless you just don't use it.

But if you're really in on foldable phones and don't want to drop the kind of money that the Galaxy Z Fold 3 demands, this is the phone for you.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 review.

best unlocked samsung phones: galaxy a32 5G

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)
5G on the cheap

Specifications

Display: 6.5-inch TFT LCD (1600x720)
CPU: Dimensity 720
RAM: 4GB
Storage / Expandable: 64GB / Yes
Rear camera: 48MP (f/1.8) main, 8MP (f/2.2) ultrawide, 5MP (f/2.4) macro, 2MP (f/2.34) depth
Front camera: 13MP (f/2.2)
Weight: 7.23 ounces
Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 11:39 (adaptive), 12:22 (60hz)

Reasons to buy

+
Very low price
+
Four years of security patches
+
Great battery life
+
90Hz refresh rate

Reasons to avoid

-
Subpar HD+ display

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.)

Performance benchmarks
Geekbench 5 (single-core / multicore)3DMark Wild Life Unlimited (FPS)
Galaxy S21 FE1101 / 319934
Galaxy S221204 / 338855
Galaxy A53745 / 188814
Galaxy S22 Plus1214 / 336160
Galaxy S22 Ultra1240 / 339257
Galaxy Z Flip 3737 / 298427
Galaxy A32500 / 16427

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.

DIsplay benchmarks
sRGB (%)DCI-P3 (%)Delta-E
Galaxy S21 FE207 (Vivid) / 120 (Natural)147 (Vivid) / 79 (Natural)0.32 (Vivid) / 0.29 (Natural)
Galaxy S22210 (Vivid) / 110 (Natural)149 (Vivid) / 78 (Natural)0.33 (Vivid) / 0.22 (Natural)
Galaxy A53204 (Vivid) / 123 (Natural)145 (Vivid) / 87 (Natural)0.32 (Vivid) / 0.31 (Natural)
Galaxy S22 Plus212 (Vivid) / 129 (Natural)150 (Vivid) / 91 (Natural)0.35 (Vivid) / 0.23 (Natural)
Galaxy S22 Ultra138970.25
Galaxy Z Flip 3102760.32
Galaxy A3296680.35

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 benchmark
Battery life (Hrs:Mins)
Galaxy S21 FE7:40 (120Hz) / 9:15 (60Hz)
Galaxy S227:51 (Adaptive) / 8:02 (60Hz)
Galaxy A539:48 (120Hz) / 10:38 (60Hz)
Galaxy S22 Plus9:27 (Adaptive) / 10:27 (60Hz)
Galaxy S22 Ultra8:50 (Adaptive) / 8:56 (60Hz)
Galaxy Z Flip 35:43 (Adaptive) / 6:00 (60Hz)
Galaxy A3211:36 (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. 

Jordan Palmer
Jordan Palmer

Jordan is the Phones Editor for Tom's Guide, covering all things phone-related. He's written about phones for over five years and plans to continue for a long while to come. He loves nothing more than relaxing in his home with a book, game, or his latest personal writing project. Jordan likes finding new things to dive into, from books and games to new mechanical keyboard switches and fun keycap sets. Outside of work, you can find him poring over open-source software and his studies.