The best unlocked Samsung phones give the ultimate freedom to pick your carrier and hop between them at your leisure. 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 offers an overwhelming amount of devices ranging from powerful flagships through to budget handsets.
- The best Samsung phones overall
- Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra vs. Galaxy Note 20 Ultra: Which should you buy?
While our picks for the best unlocked phones from Samsung go to the powerful Samsung Galaxy S21 and Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, budget hunters will be interested in the Galaxy A52 5G or the Samsung Galaxy A32 5G. Samsung's Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is also a great pick if you enjoy big-screen phablets.
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.
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.
- Compare all of Samsung's prices directly on the Samsung website
The best unlocked Samsung phones right now
Samsung offers more premium phones than the Galaxy S21, as you'll see below. But those phones are priced out of the reach of many people looking for an unlocked phone who have to pay for the device upfront. That's why we think the Galaxy S21 is a better choice as one of the best unlocked Samsung phones.
To offer the phone at $799, Samsung went with a plastic design for the S21, but other flagship features remain. You're getting the same Snapdragon 888 chipset as the Galaxy S21 Ultra, which finishes just behind Apple's A14 Bionic chip as the most powerful around. Samsung also squeezes in a 4,000 mAh battery and 5G connectivity into the Galaxy S21.
As for the display, although it is a slight downgrade from last year's devices in resolution, the Galaxy S21 gets a dynamically refreshing screen, capable of ramping up to 120Hz when you need smooth scrolling and immersive gaming. The cameras on the back of the S21 also measure up well to the best camera phones.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S21 review.
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.
The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is certainly not the least expensive option from Samsung. In fact, it is one of the most expensive devices you can get it you don't consider Samsung's foldable options. With that in mind, the S21 Ultra is most definitely not going to be for everyone but if you are after a powerful phone, it will be a great choice for you to go for.
The Galaxy S21 Ultra offers a 6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED display with 120Hz refresh rate and Samsung's brightest display yet. That's paired with a super powerful Snapdragon 888 Plus processor and a battery capable of lasting 11 hours on a charge. The S21 Ultra is also the first phone outside of Samsung's Galaxy Note series to work with the powerful S Pen stylus (sold as a separate accessory).
The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is near the top of our best Android phones guide and despite its massive size, this phablet is surprisingly comfortable to hold. With such a high level of camera quality and powerful specs, those who can afford the S21 Ultra won't find a better Samsung phone.
If you go directly to the Samsung website, you can also get exclusive colors.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review.
Although it launched more than a year ago, the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra remains one of Samsung's most powerful devices; it's definitely the best version of the Note series yet.
The Note 20 Ultra offers a similar package to the S21 Ultra — the ability to use an S Pen, a large display with a dynamic refresh rate and a powerful processor. The chipset on the Note 20 Ultra is slightly older than the Snapdragon 888 silicon inside the S21, but can still hold its own against any Android phone.
The Note 20 Ultra remains an expensive phone, though you can lower the cost when buying your phone from Samsung by trading in your current phone. We'd expect the price to fall even further as we get deeper into 2021.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra review.
The Samsung Galaxy A52 5G reflects Samsung's ongoing push to offer more compelling midrange phones that fit key high-end specs into a more affordable device. You'll make a few compromises — the design of the Galaxy A52 won't make you forget the Galaxy S series and the cameras aren't as powerful — but Samsung packed in some impressive features.
Chiefly, the Galaxy A52 5G has a display with a 120Hz refresh rate — not something you typically find in a phone that costs less than $500. While the cameras aren't exactly cutting edge, the 64MP main lens does produce some pretty impressive shots that measure up well against other budget phones.
Opt for the Galaxy A52 5G, and you'll get a 5G ready phone that lasts a while on a charge. And since it starts at $499, that's not a lot of money you'll need to pay upfront when buying the phone unlocked.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy A52 5G review.
While the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is the best Note device you can buy, it does cost a lot, which can be a big consideration when buying an unlocked phone. That's what makes the less expensive Samsung Galaxy Note 20 an appealing alternative.
You don't get the dynamic 120Hz refresh rate on the regular Note 20, and the main camera is a more straightforward 12MP instead of the Note 20 Ultra's garish 108MP sensor. But the Snapdragon 865 Plus chipset is the same, and you do get the S Pen and all its features.
The cameras may be scaled back from the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, but the Note 20 still produces excellent shots, and the 64MP telephoto lens helps you zoom in for more detailed shots. Don't expect outstanding battery life with this phone, but otherwise, this more affordable phablet is one of the best unlocked Samsung phones available right now.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy Note 20 review.
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.
Samsung isn't resting on its laurels with the affordable 5G smartphone market. Cue 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 $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.
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. The Galaxy A52 5G, for example, works with sub 6Hz-based networks, but you'll have to look elsewhere for a device that's compatible with Verizon's high-speed mmWave-based 5G. (That would be the Galaxy A42 5G, which is tied to that particular phone carrier.)
Best unlocked Samsung phones: how we've ranked them
We put every smartphone through a rigorous test here at Toms Guide, spending a few days testing each handset in real-world conditions and benchmarking them with a number of performance-measuring apps.
We use benchmarks to measure a phone's processor and graphics performance. We also measure a display's color accuracy and brightness. Additional testing includes our custom battery test in which we have phones surf the web over cellular until they run out of power. We test the phone's camera by comparing its shots to another handset in the same price range.
We combine all this testing with the device's cost, availability, operating system and a number of other factors allows us to make a decision, coming up with a final rating and buying advice.