Best unlocked phone in the US

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The best unlocked phone in the US is be a smart buy if you want to travel the globe or simply don’t want to be tied to a single carrier, like AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile or Sprint. You’ll be able to swap in SIM cards between various carriers and use the phone anywhere in the world. Say goodbye to expensive roaming charges.

However, before we dive into our updated list of recommendations, know that there are a few drawbacks with these no contract, unlocked smartphones. They’re typically expensive since you don’t sign up for a normal two-year contract. You're no longer subsidizing the full price of the phone (no, it doesn't really cost $199), so the upfront cost will be much higher. 

High up-front costs can be worth it, though. Freely switching between carriers means you can always get the right mobile plan at the right price for you. Want unlimited data one month but won't need it the next month? With an unlocked phone, you can switch as needed without worrying about breaking some agreement you have with an American carrier.

1. Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus

The best Android phone around

Release date: March 2018 | Weight: 189g | Dimensions: 158.1 x 73.8 x 8.5mm | OS: Android 8 Oreo | Screen size: 6.2-inch | Resolution: 1440 x 2960 | CPU: Snapdragon 845 / Exynos 9810 | RAM: 6GB | Storage: 64GB/128GB | Battery: 3,500mAh | Rear camera: Dual 12MP | Front camera: 8MP

Super premium build
Excellent low-light cameras
Battery not amazing

It’s not hard to pick the best unlocked phone when the best smartphone on the market is available unlocked. Samsung’s big, powerful Galaxy S9 Plus is the phone to beat, with its stunning 6.2-inch Super AMOLED display that isn’t flanked by ugly bezels or an over-hyped notch. It’s dual-lens, dual-aperture camera is also one of the best on the market (bested only by the Huawei P20 and P20 Pro). Let’s not forget it also has a big, fast-charging battery, Face Unlock, AR Emoji and a commendable 3.5mm headphone jack.

Will it work for me? The Galaxy S9 Plus supports a wide range of connections, with GSM and CDMA support. It’ll work on all major US mobile carriers, including Verizon, AT&T, Sprint T-Mobile and US Cellular, and even on many smaller carriers, like Boost Mobile and Cricket.

Read more: Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus review 

2. iPhone X

The best iPhone Apple has ever made

Release date: October 2017 | Weight: 174g | Dimensions: 143.6 x 70.9 x 7.7mm | OS: iOS 11 | Screen size: 5.8-inch | Resolution: 1125x2436 | CPU: A11 Bionic | RAM: 3GB | Storage: 64/256GB | Battery: 2716mAh | Rear camera: 12MP+12MP | Front camera: 7MP

Brilliant screen
Powerful innards
Incredibly expensive
iOS 11 can be buggy

Though Apple’s most advanced iPhone to date didn’t initially launch unlocked, Apple has since released a SIM-free model. The iPhone X boasts a fully revamped design, with a bezel-free, 5.8-inch display. This is Apple’s first iPhone to include an OLED screen, for vastly improved image contrast and better battery life. The iPhone X’s advanced front-facing camera enables Apple’s secure facial recognition and Animoji. Though iOS 11 problems can crop up, this is still the best iPhone there is, and that makes it the best unlocked iPhone as well.

Will it work for me? Apple says the unlocked iPhone X as working with any carrier. Expect no issues getting connected with AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint or Verizon.

Read more: iPhone X review 

3. Samsung Galaxy S9

A great phone for the smaller-handed

Release date: March 2018 | Weight: 163g | Dimensions: 147.7 x 68.7 x 8.5mm | OS: Android 8 Oreo | Screen size: 5.8-inch | Resolution: 1440 x 2960 | CPU: Snapdragon 845 / Exynos 9810 | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 64GB/128GB | Battery: 3,000mAh | Rear camera: 12MP | Front camera: 8MP

Premium build
Excellent screen
Battery life not great
Single sensor on the rear

Samsung’s Galaxy S9 is a great unlocked option for someone with a slightly smaller budget and hand. In most ways, it lives up to the reputation established by the Galaxy S9 Plus. It has the same powerful Snapdragon 845 chipset, a brilliant Super AMOLED display, but 5.8 inches in this case. Casual photographers will get a lot of mileage out of the new camera, which can capture superb low-light photos. Stereo speakers make streaming movies and TV shows that much better. And, Hi-Fi audio fans can breathe easy knowing the Galaxy S9 also has a 3.5mm headphone jack.

Will it work for me? The Galaxy S9 supports a wide range of connections, with GSM and CDMA support. It should work on all major US mobile carriers and even on many smaller carriers.

Read more: Samsung Galaxy S9 review 

4. Google Pixel 2 XL

A great cameraphone with a neat design

Release date: October 2017 | Weight: 175g | Dimensions: 157.9 x 76.7 x 7.9mm | OS: Android 8 Oreo | Screen size: 6-inch | Resolution: 1440 x 2880 | CPU: Snapdragon 835 | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 64GB/128GB | Battery: 3,520mAh | Rear camera: 12MP | Front camera: 8MP

 Superb camera 
 Great design 
 No 3.5mm headphone port 
 Screen has poor viewing angles 

For a clean Android experience and fast updates to the latest software, the Pixel 2 XL is the right choice. It’s the biggest and latest from Google, and has an edge on the smaller Pixel 2, as it has reduced bezels around a crisp Quad HD+ OLED display. That screen is 6 inches and flanked by front-facing stereo speakers for a superior experience watching content. The Pixel 2 XL camera also ranks among the best on a smartphone. Pair all that with a good battery life, and you’ve got a great unlocked phone.  

Will it work for me? The Pixel 2 XL boasts world-wide network compatibility, supporting both GSM and CDMA networks. It should work on all GSM-based mobile carriers in the US as well as Sprint, Verizon, smaller MVNOs and Google’s Project Fi network.

Read more: Google Pixel 2 XL review 

5. Samsung Galaxy Note 8

A brilliant phone for camera and stylus fans alike

Release date: September 2017 | Weight: 195g | Dimensions: 162.5 x 74.8 x 8.6mm | OS: Android 7.1.1 Nougat | Screen size: 6.3-inch | Resolution: 1440 x 2630 | CPU: Exynos 8895 | RAM: 6GB | Storage: 64GB/128GB/256GB | Battery: 3,300mAh | Rear camera: Dual 12MP | Front camera: 8MP

Amazing performance
Impressive camera
Expensive
Weak speaker

The Galaxy Note 8 may not be Samsung’s latest phone anymore, but it’s still the biggest, and that’s handy for folks that want as much screen real estate as possible. It comes with a dazzling 6.3-inch Super AMOLED display that goes right to the edges of the phone. There’s still plenty of performance coming from the Snapdragon 835 chipset as well. The dual-camera setup doesn’t fall far behind the competition either. Samsung’s S Pen for the Note 8 opens the door to special features that make this phablet a great pick for customers with mobile productivity in mind.

Will it work for me? The Galaxy Note 8 supports a wide range of connections, with GSM and CDMA support. It should work on all major US mobile carriers and even on many smaller carriers.

Read more: Samsung Galaxy Note 8 review  

6. LG V30

An impressive combination of power and performance

Release date: September 2017 | Weight: 158g | Dimensions: 151.7 x 75.4 x 7.3mm | OS: Android 7 | Screen size: 6.0-inch | Resolution: 1440 x 2880 | CPU: Snapdragon 835 | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 64/128GB | Battery: 3300mAh | Rear camera: 16MP+16MP | Front camera: 5MP

Streamlined design
Excellent audio performance
Low-light photography not great

The LG V30 is easy to miss, but it’s LG’s best smartphone, at least until the LG G7 ThinQ gets herer. It has a dazzling design the can go toe-to-toe with Samsung’s. The 6-inch OLED display is a crisp 2880 x 1440, and the phone has wonderful battery life. True audiophiles need look no further, as the included 3.5mm headphone jack and LG’s Quad DAC make for a superior smartphone audio experience.

Will it work for me? The LG V30 supports a wide range of connections, with GSM and CDMA support. It should work on all major US mobile carriers and even on many smaller MVNO carriers.

Read more: LG V30 review 

7. Samsung Galaxy S8

Last year's top phone is still a cracking buy

Release date: April 2017 | Weight: 155g | Dimensions: 148.9 x 68.1 x 8mm | OS: Android 7 | Screen size: 5.8-inch | Resolution: 1440 x 2960 | CPU: Exynos 8895 | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 64GB | Battery: 3000mAh | Rear camera: 12MP | Front camera: 8MP

Amazing camera
Lovely design
Brilliant screen
Biometric issues

Last year’s best Android smartphone makes for a great choice as an unlocked smartphone. The Galaxy S8 design still looks phenomenal with its bezel-reduced 5.8-inch Infinity Display, and the high resolution isn’t going to stop looking insanely crisp any time soon. The Snapdragon 835 powering the Galaxy S8 still has life in it, and the cameras won’t disappoint casual photographers. Best of all, since this isn’t the newest Samsung phone on the market, it’ll be easy to find great deals on the Galaxy S8, so you can save money on the phone and save money with your pick of mobile networks.

Will it work for me? Samsung says the unlocked Galaxy S8 as working on all four major US carriers, so you’ll have no trouble using it on AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint or Verizon. Other GSM and CDMA networks may have varying support, but most major networks should be supported. You can learn more here.

Read more: Samsung Galaxy S8 review

8. iPhone 8 Plus

The best 'normal' iPhone available right now

Release date: September 2017 | Weight: 202g | Dimensions: 158.4 x 78.1 x 7.5mm | OS: iOS 11 | Screen size: 5.5-inch | Resolution: 1080 x 1920 | CPU: A11 Bionic | RAM: 3GB | Storage: 64/256GB | Battery: 2691mAh | Rear camera: Dual 12MP | Front camera: 7MP

Wireless charging
Longer battery life
Dated design
Expensive

If you don’t need all the bells and whistles of the iPhone X, then the iPhone 8 Plus is a wonderful choice with a more palatable price tag. It has the same powerful processor as the iPhone X and boasts a big 5.5-inch display that presents extra appealing imagery thanks to Apple’s True Tone technology. The dual-camera setup on the back also snaps the high-quality still photos Apple has a reputation for delivering. 

Will it work for me? Apple says the unlocked iPhone 8 Plus as working with any carrier. Expect no issues getting connected with AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint or Verizon as well as smaller regional carriers.

Read more: iPhone 8 Plus review  

9. Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus

A great big-screen phone for less money

Release date: April 2017 | Weight: 173g | Dimensions: 159.5 x 73.4 x 8.1mm | OS: Android 7 | Screen size: 6.2-inch | Resolution: 1440 x 2960 | CPU: Exynos 8895 | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 64GB | Battery: 3,500mAh | Rear camera: 12MP | Front camera: 8MP

Fast performance
Top-notch camera
Flawed biometrics

For excellent design, a big screen and a discounted price, the Galaxy S8 Plus is solid pick. It’s no longer the newest phone, but like the smaller Galaxy S8, the Plus still has decent life ahead of it with it’s superb 6.2-inch display and Snapdragon 835 chipset. The 3,500mAh battery also helps the Galaxy S8 Plus go the extra mile. Since the Galaxy S9 Plus is already available, you can get great deals on the Galaxy S8 Plus.

Will it work for me? Samsung says the unlocked Galaxy S8 Plus as working on all four major US carriers, so you’ll have no trouble using it on AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint or Verizon. Other GSM and CDMA networks may have varying support, but most major networks should be supported. You can learn more here.

Read more: Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus review 

10. iPhone 8

The best new iPhone for those wanting to spend less

Release date: September 2017 | Weight: 148g | Dimensions: 138.4 x 67.3 x 7.3mm | OS: iOS 11 | Screen size: 4.7-inch | Resolution: 750 x 1334 | CPU: A11 Bionic | RAM: 2GB | Storage: 64GB/256GB | Battery: 1,821mAh | Rear camera: 12MP | Front camera: 7MP

Wireless charging is useful
Camera is great at point-and-shoot
Limited upgrade over iPhone 7
Bezel-heavy design looks dated

The iPhone 8 offers up a lot of the same things as the iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X while being more portable and more affordable. It may only have one rear camera, but it’s still a great shooter. Inside, it’s powered by the same processor as its larger siblings. And, like the others, it supports wireless charging. For a new unlocked iPhone at the best price possible, the iPhone 8 is a great choice.

Will it work for me? The unlocked iPhone 8 works with any carrier, according to Apple. You won’t see any issues getting connected with AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon or smaller US carriers.

Read more: iPhone 8 review