Buying an unlocked cell phone is a great way to save money on your monthly cell phone bill. You can bring an unlocked cell phone to any carrier, and you can choose whatever device you would like. If you want to switch carriers, no problem; you aren’t locked in because you haven’t signed a 2-year contract to get your device. So there’s no early termination fees and no tricks.
The downside of unlocked phones is that you have to buy it yourself. This means you might miss out on the heavily discounted price of the phone that often comes with a 2-year contract. In the end, though, it is generally cheaper to buy an unlocked phone with good features and go to the carriers than it is to sign up for a plan with a 2-year contract. Here are some of the best unlocked phones you can buy right now.
Google Pixel 4A
At just $350, the Pixel 4A is a steal. It has a great camera shared with its big brother the Pixel 4, and a 5.8 inch OLED screen, yet it maintains a compact feeling. Google’s Night Sight mode enables the camera to snap excellent photos at night. The design is best-in-class, and the batter life could be better, and pales compared to the iPhone SE. It works on both Verizon and Sprint and the GSM networks (AT&T, T-Mobile). The Pixel 4A 5G is a bit more money at $499, so if you’re on a budget and want a decent mid-range phone, this is the one for you.
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE
The Galaxy S20 Fan Edition offers a lot of the benefits of its bigger brother the Galaxy S20, without the price. The battery life lasts all day, and has a 6.5 inch screen that is excellent. It has a Snapdragon 865 processor and a 120Hz refresh rate to keep your games and movies crystal clear. The camera is also quite good. At $599, this is quite a package for the price.
Motorola Moto G Fast
This bargain basement phone is not as bad as $200 phones normally are — and now it’s just $149 unlocked. It has a Snapdragon 665 processor, which has enough power to run usual day to day apps without lagging. It also has a traditional headphone jack, a full day of battery life, and the body is made of plastic. It is thus a great option for older people who want a lot of practicality and usability of a regular phone without the high price. The cameras are not as good as more expensive phones, and it doesn’t have NFC to make contactless payments, which shouldn’t bother most normal folks who just want a phone to do basic talking, texting, and browsing with.
This bargain basement of iPhones is an amazing deal for just $399. It has the same processor as the iPhone 11, making it quite snappy, though this cheaper iPhone is not without tradeoffs. It has wireless charging, gets iOS updates, and has an excellent 12-megapixel camera that is pretty darn good, especially compared to many Android cameras (though it does not offer a night mode). If you want a cheap iPhone, the iPhone SE doesn’t have too much to compromise.
The Nokia 1.3 is available for $99 without a contract, and it’s not half bad. It has a nice-feeling, textured finish, and feels solid in your hand. It has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 215, 1GB of RAM, and 16GB of internal storage, so while it’s no speed demon, it will enable you to call your family, text your grandchildren, and lightly browse the internet. It has a 3,000mAh battery, which means it should handily last you the day, if not longer. Finally, it has a camera to take pictures of whatever you please.
The new Samsung Galaxy S21 is being offered with a promotion for just $99 on approved credit with eligible trade-in (with a contract). With a stellar triple camera, it has fantastic photos and videos, even taking video in 8k, better than many professional grade cameras. It also comes with a beautiful 6.2 inch display. Finally, it is available in pink, white, violet, or grey.
There’s a ton of great unlocked smartphones there are under $500, and many of them are just as good (or nearly as good) as their much pricier competitors. If you want the latest technology, you’ll still have to buck up for an iPhone 11 or Galaxy S20, but if you are okay with some small compromises, you can get most of the benefit without all of the price.