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Best unlocked phones that work on Verizon, T-Mobile or AT&T out of the box

Best unlocked phones that work on Verizon, T-Mobile or AT&T out of the box 2

The vast majority of the US still gets their phones directly from the carriers, be it online or in their stores, but there is an increasing trend to source them in a different way – by paying for the full price of the device, and then bringing it to whichever carrier you’d like to use it with. Until recently, that was only possible with GSM carriers, but even that has started to change, with an increasing number of devices capable of running on all major US networks.

Nowadays, Qualcomm and other cellular modem makers have gotten so good in stuffing tens of LTE or 5G bands and filtering them without interference in a single chip, that more and more phone makers are offering unlocked phones that can work with any US carrier out of the box, Verizon and Sprint included. We won’t bore you with CDMA support details here, as Verizon is phasing this out, but will instead list the best of those unlocked phones you can get right now, pop a SIM card in, and just start enjoying your network of choice in all of its glory.


Apple iPhone 12 Pro/Max

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra


The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is the new super-premium S Pen-wielding smartphone by Samsung. It’s an extra large phone with a huge camera bump, plus it’s heavier than before and it barely fits in a pocket. If you like a big phone, though, this one is among the best: it has a luxurious feel, and it features a new toughened glass that can theoretically survive a head-high drop. The 6.9-inch screen is class-leading and features a 120Hz refresh rate for a buttery smooth experience. Under the hood, the Note 20 Ultra is the equivalent of a muscle car: Snapdragon 865+ is perfect for gaming, and you have 12GB of RAM for effortless multitasking. Camera quality is also excellent and you have up to 50X zoom. Battery life, however, is just good, not quite great. You will need to charge it every night.

Last but not least, at $1,300 we feel the price is a bit too high, but Samsung often runs deals, and chances are that you will be able to get it for less. S Pen lovers won’t be disappointed, but those looking for the best value-for-money or for a more compact phone might want to look elsewhere.

Apple iPhone 11 Pro and Max

Given that iPhones currently represent 45% of all smart handsets that Americans carry, we’d be remiss not to start with them as one of the most popular unlocked devices out there, with the widest LTE band support. While buying iPhones straight from Apple is not as popular of a pastime as buying them from carriers, there is a benefit to going the full-price Apple Store way, if you demand maximum flexibility.

The $1,099 iPhone11 Pro Max is the flagship with the longest battery ever on an iPhone, while the $999 Pro Max is for the lovers of compact. The two new iPhones have absolutely identical triple cameras, with the addition of “tele” and “ultrawide” lens that allows you to get clearer zoom and capture wider backgrounds.

Why should you get the new iPhones? They stand out with buttery smooth performance and a rich ecosystem of apps and games. Also, you can be assured that an iPhone will be supported for years with updates and those updates will not come a year after they are released, but on day one. You should buy them if you value the performance and want a good camera. And of course, if you don’t mind those super high prices.

Read more: Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max review

Samsung Galaxy S20, S20+, S20 Ultra

Specs S20 | Specs S20 Ultra


Samsung’s latest flagship trio is packed to the brim with powerful hardware and impressive cameras. Yes, the S20 Ultra can go to crazy 100x zoom, but the S20 and S20+’s cameras are not ones to disappoint.

Equipped with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 865 and support for a wide variety of bands, these devices will not disappoint not only on every major US carrier, but across the world as well.

Read more: Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra review


Apple iPhone 12

Not only is this pretty boy the best value-for-money iPhone in the new 12 series, as it carries most of the Pro features without the price tag, but it is also the most future-proof 5G handset.

With the support of the new C-bands that are acquired or will be auctioned off to Verizon, AT&T or T-Mobile, it is the one piece of hardware to get if you want to take advantage of the 5G buildouts that are yet to happen in the next year or two in the US. 

Google Pixel 5 and Pixel 4/XL

Specs | Review

Google Pixel 5 – $50 off at Best Buy

In the great Google Pixel tradition, these come unlocked and are no hardware slouches, but come with bigger bezels than most new flagships and even midrangers. They used to have a rather high price for the hardware, but now that the Pixel 5 is out, it slots well among other $700 “value flagships”. The Pixels do have the smoothest Android performance, though, and amazing cameras with great dynamic range and beautiful colors. The other big selling point is, of course, stock Android and fast updates, plus the Motion Sense radar-based gesture navigation on the 4 series. The Pixels offer the tightest integration with Google’s services you can currently get, including Google’s artificially intelligent Assistant bot. No matter if you get the Pixel 4/5 from Verizon, AT&T, the Google Store, Project Fi or Best Buy, they all come unlocked and loaded for action.

Samsung Galaxy S10 series

Buy Samsung Galaxy S10 series from:

The Galaxy S10 and Note 10 series are some of the best pocket cameras you can always carry with you, as they offer awesome photo buff features like a variable aperture or 4K 60fps video recording. Samsung also equipped them with ultrafast chipsets, stereo speakers with wonderful sound, and added great looks and ergonomics to the mix. The experience of setting up Samsung’s top phones to work on any US carrier is a piece of cake as they come packing a wide variety of bands.

Read more: Samsung Galaxy S10 series


Apple iPhone 8 to 11

The iPhones 8 (for the nostalgia-driven) to 11 are currently sitting in Apple’s midrange and are very carrier-friendly, with more than 20 supported LTE bands. It’s important to have the right model if you intend on switching carriers. The Unlocked models, available at Apple.com, can work with any carrier in the US. The only “trap” is if you purchase an AT&T model – those can’t work with Verizon or Sprint, but that doesn’t go for T-Mobile’s unlocked 11, for instance.

Apple started this trend by providing a record number of LTE band support with each and every iPhone iteration since the 5s, and we are now at the 26-band mark with the unlocked iPhone XR models, which the globetrotter or carrier hopper in you will surely appreciate. We don’t need to extol the iPhone 11 virtues to you – great camera and battery life plus ultrafast A13 chipset, with the display resolution being the only ho-hum aspect.

Read more: Apple iPhone 11 review

Google Pixel 4a

The Google Pixel 4a follows up on the popularity of the affordable Pixel 3a, which brought most of Android best at a competitive price point. This year’s midrange 4a is an even better deal, with Google bringing a surprising amount of polish for just $350. Between its excellent camera, good display, and competent specs, the Pixel 4a is an incredible value and a triumphant addition to Google’s smartphone legacy.

Read more: Google Pixel 4a review

Motorola Moto G Stylus

Buy from:

The Moto G Pro is one of the very few phones that come with a built-in stylus, but that’s not the only thing this new mid-range Moto has going for it. The phone delivers hiccup-free performance, good photos and videos, and even great audio quality. The Moto G Pro is a good option for people on a budget as it covers all the fundamentals well despite its low cost of $270.

Read more: Motorola Moto G Stylus review

Apple iPhone SE 2020

The iPhone SE 2020 is an wolf in sheep’s clothing, holding mighty power under its inconspicuous iPhone 8 exterior and modest $399 pricing. The sheer fact, however, that the iPhone SE 2020 is 99% iPhone 8 means that Apple may have managed to keep a larger profit margin on the handset that it does with the iPhone 11 family. Still, you are getting one of the best cameras and certainly the most powerful processor in the budget class.

Read more: Apple iPhone SE 2020 review

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