Best Unlocked Phone

by admin September 18, 2016 at 12:06 pm

When buying unlocked, our top pick doesn’t change — the Galaxy S7 is still the best phone to buy.

Best overall

Samsung Galaxy S7

Samsung Galaxy S7

See at Amazon

The Galaxy S7 is the complete package. All of the hardware features you could ask for, inside a beautifully designed metal-and-glass frame with a wonderful screen. There’s something refreshing about the compact body on a 5.1-inch phone, and Samsung has executed it perfectly here, while also filling it with top-end internals.

Samsung’s software gets better with every iteration, and everything you do with the phone just flies. The 12MP camera leads the industry, as does its display fingerprint sensor. Even though it’s over six months old, the Galaxy S7 is still the pinnacle of Android right now.

Bottom line: The unlocked Galaxy S7 is expensive, but it’s worth it.

One more thing: Even though it’s unlocked, this Galaxy S7 does work on the U.S. carriers — yes, even Verizon.

Why the Galaxy S7 is best

The best Android phone out there today, without any carrier attachments.

The Galaxy S7 is a fantastic all-around Android phone with few compromises, and it gets even better when you buy it unlocked without any carrier involvement. Though it may not immediately appeal to those who are used to bigger phones, the draw of the Galaxy S7 is that you can get a full-featured top-end phone without having a screen that’s too big to manage in one hand.

More: Samsung Galaxy S7 review

The 5.1-inch Super AMOLED display is absolutely the best in the industry, with excellent colors and amazing daytime visibility — even in direct sunlight. Driving the display is a top-end Snapdragon 820 processor and 4GB of RAM, with 32GB of storage that’s enough for most, augmented by an SD card slot for those who want even more. You also get a fingerprint sensor that doubles as a home button, which with two presses launches into the great 12MP camera.

And with all of that inside, Samsung still put together a great exterior that looks amazing and feels just right. The metal frame keeps things rigid, and the panes of Gorilla glass on the back and front are extra slick while enabling wireless charging as well. It’s also water-resistant with an IP68 rating, meaning it’ll survive all of the accidental dunks and splashes in life.

On the software side Samsung can still be dinged somewhat for loading up too many features on the phone, but without the carriers getting involved the “bloatware” situation is far more manageable. Once you have it all set up how you want it — perhaps including a new launcher and keyboard — it works like every other high-end phone, and the performance is absolutely at the top of its class.

You have to spend a pretty penny to get the Galaxy S7 unlocked, but you absolutely get what you pay for here.

Best for updates

Nexus 6P

Nexus 6P

See at Amazon

Even though the Nexus 6P is nearing its first birthday, it’s still one heck of a phone — and it can be had for an even lower price today. It’s still a big aluminum beauty with a great fingerprint sensor, plenty of internal power for a year to come and a good (albeit a bit slow) camera.

The real feature of the Nexus 6P is software updates that come directly from Google, meaning it was the first to get Nougat and will be in the first group to get future releases. The Google software experience is really good, and it’s why we don’t hesitate to recommend a year-old Nexus.

Bottom-line: At a new lower price, the Nexus 6P is a great value even as it nears a year old.

One more thing: If you just have to get the latest and greatest, you may consider holding off to see what the 6P’s successor is like.

Best value around

OnePlus 3

OnePlus 3

See at OnePlus

After a few generations, OnePlus finally nailed its low-cost high-value formula with the OnePlus 3. The hardware design doesn’t stand out, but the construction quality certainly does. And then you get everything you want internally: Snapdragon 820 processor, 6GB RAM, 64GB storage, fingerprint sensor and a 3000 mAh battery with fast charging tech inside.

The 5.5-inch display is right in the “just right” size category, and it also looks great — the only slight downside is its max brightness coming up short of the top-end competition. But that’s a small blemish on what’s otherwise the gold standard for phones at the $399 price point.

Bottom-line: For a great phone with tons of hardware behind it, the OnePlus 3 is what you want.

One more thing: The Dash Charge fast-charging solution is incompatible with other fast-charging standards like Quick Charge 3.0.

Best budget compact

HTC One A9

HTC One A9

See at HTC

The HTC One A9 was in an odd middle area as soon as it launched, landing under the flagship HTC 10 but still very expensive for what it offered. Nearly a year on after it launched, its price has been officially reduced to $299, and that changes the calculation entirely.

At $299 the One A9 is a great value, with its compact size, great 5-inch screen, solid aluminum build and surprisingly strong 13MP camera. Its extremely light version of HTC’s Sense software is very close to Google’s vision, and that makes it easy on the eyes and great for performance. The only real downside here is the positively small 2150 mAh battery.

Bottom-line: For a compact phone that won’t cost an arm and a leg, the One A9 at its new lower price is a great choice.

One more thing: If you don’t care about a U.S. warranty, you may be able to save even more by buying an international version on Amazon.

Best for less

Moto G4 Plus

Moto G4

See at Amazon

The Moto G4 Plus won’t blow you away with striking design or materials, but it’s all about value. Starting at $249 you get a 5.5-inch 1080p display, solid 16MP camera, good battery life and a fingerprint sensor. Moto’s software is always a fan favorite, and performance is solid though unspectacular from the older Snapdragon 617 processor.

The phone is very capable in its default configuration with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage, but if you want something more approximating what you get from the next tier up in phones consider buying the higher-end G4 Plus with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage.

Bottom-line: For an inexpensive unlocked phone that doesn’t feel cheap, the Moto G4 Plus is an awesome choice.

One more thing: Make sure you don’t accidentally buy the standard Moto G4 or Moto G4 Play — the listings are all very similar.

Conclusion

Though it’s expensive, the Galaxy S7 is your best choice when it comes to an unlocked phone. It does everything you expect from a high-end phone, and doesn’t make any major compromises. It’s a fantastic phone, made even better by not being tied to a carrier.

Best overall

Samsung Galaxy S7

Samsung Galaxy S7

See at Amazon

The Galaxy S7 is the complete package. All of the hardware features you could ask for, inside a beautifully designed metal-and-glass frame with a wonderful screen. There’s something refreshing about the compact body on a 5.1-inch phone, and Samsung has executed it perfectly here, while also filling it with top-end internals.

Samsung’s software gets better with every iteration, and everything you do with the phone just flies. The 12MP camera leads the industry, as does its display fingerprint sensor. Even though it’s over six months old, the Galaxy S7 is still the pinnacle of Android right now.

Bottom line: The unlocked Galaxy S7 is expensive, but it’s worth it.

One more thing: Even though it’s unlocked, this Galaxy S7 does work on the U.S. carriers — yes, even Verizon.

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