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Best unlocked phone in the US: 10 smartphones with no contract

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Image Credit: TechRadar

The best unlocked phones in the US will ensure you don’t get stuck with a mobile carrier or network that doesn’t cut it. With unlocked phones, you can switch from carrier to carrier, so one month you can snag unlimited data and the next you can hold back and save some money. 

This freedom comes at a higher upfront price generally, but the freedom to choose your plan can save you money in the long wrong.

If you’re looking at the best unlimited data plans, having an unlocked phone will give you considerably more options to choose the one that perfectly suits you. And, even if you end up going with one of the flagship unlimited plans like T-Mobile’s Magenta plan or Verizon’s Start Unlimited plan, you’ll have the option to switch to a new, better plan if you find one. And, you’ll get to do so without difficulty from the carriers.

There’s more good news, as almost all of the best phones are available unlocked. But, that can make it a little harder to choose. Most of these unlocked phones can work on AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon and most MVNOs, though some GSM-only phones have more limited support, making it trickier still to be sure you’re getting the right phone. 

We’ve paid close attention to all the key details, from what the phone offers to which carriers it can work with. This way, your research is made that much easier. Here are the best unlocked phones to choose from:

Best unlocked phone in the US at a glance:

  1. Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus
  2. iPhone 11
  3. Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus
  4. iPhone 11 Pro Max
  5. Samsung Galaxy S10e
  6. OnePlus 7 Pro
  7. Google Pixel 4 XL
  8. Huawei P30 Pro
  9. Samsung Galaxy S10
  10. iPhone XR

Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus

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1. Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus

The champions' champ

Release date: March 2019 | Weight: 175g/198g (ceramic) | Dimensions: 157.6 x 74.1 x 7.8 mm | OS: Android 9 | Screen size: 6.4-inch | Resolution: 1440 x 3040 | CPU: Snapdragon 855 / Exynos 9820 | RAM: 8GB/12GB | Storage: 128GB/512GB/1TB | Battery: 4,100mAh | Rear camera: 12MP wide + 12MP 2x telephoto + 16MP ultrawide | Front camera: 10MP + 8MP

Five amazing cameras
Big screen backed by a big battery
In-screen fingerprint sensor
Expensive

If you to just get the best phone out there without worry about its hefty cost, then the Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus is it. This powerful Android phones runs on the  Snapdragon 855 chipset backed by 8GB to 12GB of RAM, so it can blast through productivity and gaming alike.

The 6.4-inch Super AMOLED display is incredibly sharp and features a hole-punch design for the twin front-facing cameras, allowing the screen to stretch extra high up on the front of the phone. And, the three rear cameras on the back of the Galaxy S10 Plus are among the best we've ever seen.

Will it work for me? Samsung’s phones support a wide range of carriers, including the big four here in the US. Expect full support at AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon. (Note: Make sure you're buying the US-version with a Snapdragon chipset for full carrier support.)

Read more: Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus review

(Image credit: Future)

2. iPhone 11

An iPhone for anyone

Weight: 194g | Dimensions: 150.9 x 75.7 x 8.3mm | OS: iOS 13 | Screen size: 6.1-inch | Resolution: 828 x 1792 | CPU: A13 Bionic | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 64/128/256GB | Battery: Unknown | Rear camera: 12MP+12MP | Front camera: 12MP

Great value
Fast speeds at a discount
Ultrawide lens is far better than telephoto
Still an LCD screen
Glass back attracts fingerprints

The iPhone 11 is an impressive phone simply because it offers incredible performance while actually lowering the starting price of an iPhone in 2019. It has two powerful cameras on the rear, and a 6.1-inch display. It’s likely going to be the best iPhone option for most shoppers turning to Apple, and it will last for years to come with Apple’s consistent software updates.

Will it work for me? Apple can support you in activating the iPhone 11 with all four major carriers carrier, which means you’ll have no issue with AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, or Verizon, and many smaller carriers will likely work as well using a nano-SIM or eSIM. 

Read More: iPhone 11 review

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus

(Image credit: Future)

3. Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus

A king among big phones

Release date: August 2019 | Weight: 196g | Dimensions: 162.3 x 77.2 x 7.9mm | OS: Android 9 | Screen size: 6.8-inch | CPU: Exynos 9825 / Snapdragon 855 | RAM: 12GB | Storage: 256/512GB | Battery: 4,300mAh | Rear camera: 12MP + 12MP + 16MP + ToF | Front camera: 10MP

The best screen on a phone
Handy S Pen stylus
Supremely expensive
Big and slippery design

The Galaxy Note 10 Plus is a beast. It has a 6.8-inch Super AMOLED display that supports the S-Pen, meaning you get ample screen real estate and the ability to write on it with the best smartphone stylus. It’s also powerful thanks to the Snapdragon 855 chipset inside, and it comes loaded with 256GB of storage at a minimum. The rear even has three cameras plus a Time-of-Flight sensor.

Will it work for me? Samsung’s phones support a wide range of carriers, including the big four here in the US. Expect full support at AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon. (Note: Make sure you're buying the US-version with a Snapdragon chipset for full carrier support.)

Read More: Galaxy Note 10 Plus review

(Image credit: Future)

4. iPhone 11 Pro Max

The ultimate iPhone

Release date: September 2019 | Weight: 226g | Dimensions: 158 x 77.8 x 8.1mm | OS: iOS 13 | Screen size: 6.5-inch | Resolution: 1242 x 2688 | CPU: A13 Bionic | RAM: 4GB TBC | Storage: 64/256/512GB | Battery: 3,500mAh TBC | Rear camera: 12MP + 12MP + 12MP | Front camera: 12MP

Night mode really shines
Lots of power
Design isn't updated
Super expensive

The iPhone 11 Pro Max takes everything from the iPhone 11 and turns it up. It’s got a bigger, 6.5-inch OLED display that can hit a peak brightness of 1200 nits. It also goes with a triple-camera array on the rear that can take excellent photos and videos. All of the camera can even record at once, for some extra special editing afterward or a seamless transition between feeds.

Will it work for me? Apple can support you in activating the iPhone 11 Pro Max with all four major carriers carrier, which means you’ll have no issue with AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, or Verizon, and many smaller carriers will likely work as well using a nano-SIM or eSIM. 

Read More: iPhone 11 Pro Max review

Samsung Galaxy S10e

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5. Samsung Galaxy S10e

The budget version of the Galaxy S10

Release date: March 2019 | Weight: 150g | Dimensions: 142.2 x 69.9 x 7.9 mm | OS: Android 9 | Screen size: 5.8-inch | Resolution: 1080 x 2280 | CPU: Snapdragon 855 / Exynos 9820 | RAM: 6GB/8GB | Storage: 128GB/256GB | Battery: 3,100mAh | Rear camera: 12MP wide + 16MP ultrawide | Front camera: 10MP

High power, lower price
S10 qualities for less
Easier one-handed use
No in-screen fingerprint scanner
Smaller screen size worse for gaming/media

As new flagship smartphone prices have started to creep up, Samsung did fans of the Galaxy family a favor by releasing the Galaxy S10e. This phone still has much of what makes its biggest siblings great, but it skips a few features, keeps down the size, and thereby keeps down the price. 

Thanks to its added affordability, the Galaxy S10e even outranks the Galaxy S10 in our opinion. It still has a stunning 5.8-inch screen that's easy to wield in one hand, though the side-mounted fingerprint scanner may favor right-handed users.  The Snapdragon 855 chipset inside is wonderfully powerful, and the phone comes with either 6GB or 8GB of RAM to keep apps snappy when switching between them.

Will it work for me? Samsung’s phones support a wide range of carriers, including the big four here in the US. Expect full support at AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon. (Note: Make sure you're buying the US-version with a Snapdragon chipset for full carrier support.) 

Read More: Samsung Galaxy S10e review

Image Credit: TechRadar

Image Credit: TechRadar (Image credit: Future)

6. OnePlus 7 Pro

A fun camera that allows for a stunning display

Release date: May 2019 | Weight: 206g | Dimensions: 162 x 75 x 8.8mm | OS: Android Pie | Screen size: 6.67-inch | Resolution: Quad HD+ | CPU: Snapdragon 855 | RAM: 6/8/12GB | Storage: 128/256GB | Battery: 4,000mAh | Rear camera: 48MP + 8MP + 16MP | Front camera: 16MP

Novel pop-up front camera
Brilliant true all-screen display
Fast performance and charging
Costs more than the OnePlus 6T
Camera is good, but not great
Tall display isn't for smaller hands

The OnePlus 7 Pro is the company's most expensive phone yet, but it still comes at a price lower than almost all of its flagship competition from Samsung, Apple, and LG. At that lower price, you're still getting the a mostly clean version of Android with all of OnePlus's excellent optimizations, and you get a Snapdragon 855 chipset with plenty of power.

This phone also has one of the most impressive smartphone displays, as its use of a pop-up selfie camera means the display can cover the whole front. It's a 6.67-inch OLED panel with a Quad HD+ resolution and a 90Hz refresh rate that makes it smoother than what Apple and Samsung have on offer. 

Will it work for me? Unless you’re on Sprint or a Sprint-based MNVO like Boost Mobile, you should be able to use the OnePlus 7 Pro just fine. It supports numerous 4G LTE bands on AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon. With a dual-SIM tray, you can even connect to multiple networks at the same time, making it extra handy for frequent international travelers.

Read more: OnePlus 7 Pro review

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7. Google Pixel 4 XL

Smartphone cameras at their best

Release date: October 2019 | Weight: 193g | Dimensions: 160.4 x 75.1 x 8.2mm | OS: Android 10 | Screen size: 6.3-inch | Resolution: 1440 x 3040 | CPU: Snapdragon 855 | RAM: 6GB | Storage: 64GB/128 | Battery: 3,700mAh | Rear camera: 12.2MP + 16MP | Front camera: 8MP

Top-of-the-line camera suite
Simple, no-nonsense design
Face Unlock is finicky, no fingerprint sensor
Low storage options
Battery life is barely adequate

The Google Pixel 4 XL is the Android phone to get if you love photography. It not only has all the power of a Snapdragon 855 chipset paired with 6GB of RAM, but it also has an impressive dual-camera setup on the back. Two cameras might not mean much with some phones offering more, but Google’s image processing shows that it’s not all about the number of cameras. Everything you do on the Pixel 4 XL will look great as well, since the 6.3-inch OLED display offers a sharp 1440x3040 resolution and a 90Hz refresh rate.

Will it work for me? Google advertises the Pixel 4 XL as working on major carriers using GSM and CDMA, so you’ll have no trouble activating on AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile or Verizon. Smaller carriers should usually work unless they have their own restrictions, and the Pixel 4 XL also offers access to Google’s Project Fi network.

Read More: Pixel 4 XL review

Huawei P30 Pro

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8. Huawei P30 Pro

Huawei's answer to Samsung's best efforts

Release date: April 2019 | Weight: 192g | Dimensions: 158 x 73.4 x 8.4 mm | OS: Android 9 | Screen size: 6.47-inch | Resolution: 1080 x 2340 | CPU: Kirin 980 | RAM: 6GB/8GB | Storage: 128GB/256GB/512GB | Battery: 4,200mAh | Rear camera: 40MP + 20MP + 8MP + TOF | Front camera: 32MP

Four incredibly capable rear cameras
Premium specs and design
Huge battery
Limited US carrier support
Only Full HD display

The US government might not like Huawei very much, but we sure like it's new P30 Pro smartphone. This is one of the best Android phones out right now, just falling shy of the Galaxy S10 Plus, and it's a fair bit cheaper. The P30 Pro offers a snappy experience with its Kirin 980 chipset and up to 8GB of RAM. It also comes with a base storage of 128GB but that can be affordably expanded via microSD card.

The cameras are where the Huawei P30 Pro really shines. It has five of them. The front camera has a high 32MP resolution, and the rear system combines a 40MP, 20MP, 8MP, and time-of-flight sensor to some incredible results. A powerful Night Mode take seemingly impossible photos, and it features 5x optical zoom that boosts up to 50x with surprising, though not perfect, clarity. The big issue here is US availability and carrier support, which sees it drop down in the ranks a bit.

Will it work for me? This will depend on the variant you buy, so make sure to compare the supported network bands with the carriers you want to use it with. The Latin American variant has some US compatibility, with full support for T-Mobile and 3G/4G LTE support for AT&T. Don't expect support for Sprint, Verizon, or MVNOs running on their networks.

Read more: Huawei P30 Pro review

Samsung Galaxy S10

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9. Samsung Galaxy S10

Premium specs and design at a price

Release date: March 2019 | Weight: 157g | Dimensions: 149.9 x 70.4 x 7.8 mm | OS: Android 9 | Screen size: 6.1-inch | Resolution: 1440 x 3040 | CPU: Snapdragon 855 / Exynos 9820 | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 128GB/512GB | Battery: 3,400mAh | Rear camera: 12MP + 12MP 2x telephoto + 16MP ultrawide | Front camera: 10MP

Big and powerful
Great cameras
In-screen fingerprint sensor
Odd fit in S10 family
Too expensive next to S10e

The Galaxy S10 has an odd fit among its more capable sibling, the S10 Plus, and its more affordable sibling, the S10e. It has a big, 6.1-inch display with a single hole-punch camera, and a fingerprint scanner built beneath the display glass. It also has the ability to serve as a wireless charger for other phones and electronics.

It also has a three camera system on the back that includes both ultra-wide and zoom lenses for some great versatility. It's not quite as capable as the Galaxy S10 Plus, but it's a bit cheaper. If the extra screen is something you want, and the high-tech fingerprint and wireless powershare interest you, it may be a worthwhile upgrade over the Galaxy S10e. It's definitely an excellent phone, it's just tricky to choose over one of the other two S10 models.

Will it work for me? Samsung’s phones support a wide range of carriers, including the big four here in the US. Expect full support at AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon. (Note: Make sure you're buying the US-version with a Snapdragon chipset for full carrier support.) 

Read more: Samsung Galaxy S10 review

iPhone XR

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10. iPhone XR

The most affordable of the 2018 iPhones

Release date: October 2018 | Weight: 194g | Dimensions: 150.9 x 75.7 x 8.3mm | OS: iOS 12 | Screen size: 6.1-inch | Resolution: 1792x828 | CPU: A12 Bionic | RAM: 3GB | Storage: 64/128/256GB | Battery: 2,942mAh | Rear camera: 12MP | Front camera: 7MP

Great battery life for an iPhone
Colorful options
Most affordable this year
Lower resolution screen

The iPhone XR is last year's cheapest iPhone, coming out shortly after the iPhone XS and XS Max. Of the 2018 models, this is the budget one, even if it still has a high price. While it doesn’t have the dual-rear cameras, lacks an OLED screen, and falls just short of Full HD resolution on the display, it’s not a miss. The powerful internals match the other iPhones, the main camera is still a powerful shooter, and the whole package is made all the better thanks to some of the best battery performance we’ve seen in an iPhone.

Will it work for me? Apple says the unlocked iPhone XR can be activated with any carrier, which means you’ll have no issue with AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, or Verizon, and many smaller carriers will likely work as well.

Read more: iPhone XR review