Your guide

Google Pixel 4a in hand close to chest wide

Credit: David Imel / Android Authority

Prepaid phones are usually bought off-contract, which means you can’t get them on an installment plan and have to pay for them upfront. You can get prepaid phones from any carrier in the US, although that may not always be the best idea.

Some carriers will often lock prepaid phones, at least for a certain period of time. The duration depends on the network provider, but for reference, Verizon’s prepaid phones are locked for 60 days after activation, while those from AT&T have to be used on their network for at least six months before you can request an unlock code. This means that if you opt for a prepaid phone along with a prepaid plan from one carrier, you may not be able to switch to another carrier right away. You’ll have to wait until the phone gets unlocked, which can take months depending on your provider.

This is why it’s better to just get an unlocked phone directly from a manufacturer like Samsung, or a retailer like Amazon. These phones can then be activated on your carrier of choice — carriers won’t lock these devices. We’ll show you the best ones to spend your money on. All these phones have officially been released in the US and are backed by a warranty.

Also: These are the best phones available right now

The best unlocked prepaid phones:

Editor’s note: We’ll be updating this list of the best prepaid phones regularly as new ones launch.


1. Samsung Galaxy Note 20 series — high-end

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra pen leaning against phone

Credit: David Imel / Android Authority

The Galaxy Note 20 and 20 Ultra are both aimed at demanding users, although the Ultra model offers more. It has a larger display with a higher resolution, more RAM, a larger battery, and a big 108MP main camera sensor. It also supports expandable storage. The display on the Ultra is also the first one that’s protected with Corning’s Gorilla Glass 7.

The regulate Note 20 is made of plastic, and has a flat screen, compared to the Ultra’s metal and glass material and curved screen. However, many of the specs and features are the same between the two devices. You get the Snapdragon 865 Plus chipset, an in-display fingerprint scanner, and wireless charging. Both are also IP68 rated and come with the embedded S Pen stylus. All these things combined put the Galaxy Note 20 and 20 Ultra among the best prepaid phones you can spend your money on.

Both phones lack a headphone jack and run Android 10 with Samsung’s One UI on top. You really can’t go wrong with either one.


Samsung Galaxy Note 20 specs:

  • Display: 6.7-inch, Full HD+
  • SoC: Snapdragon 865 Plus
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Storage: 128/256GB
  • Cameras: 12, 64, and 12MP
  • Front camera: 10MP
  • Battery: 4,300mAh
  • Software: Android 10

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra specs:

  • Display: 6.9-inch, QHD+
  • SoC: Snapdragon 865 Plus
  • RAM: 12GB
  • Storage: 128GB/256/512GB
  • Cameras: 108, 12, and 12MP + ToF
  • Front camera: 10MP
  • Battery: 4,500mAh
  • Software: Android 10

2. Samsung Galaxy S20 series — high-end

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra back at angle

Credit: David Imel / Android Authority

The Samsung Galaxy S20 series includes the standard S20, the S20 Plus, and the S20 Ultra. All of them have the Snapdragon 865 processor, so they are very powerful and very pricey. The Galaxy S20 is the cheapest of the three but is still close to $1,000. It’s also the smallest with a 6.2-inch display. The S20 Plus has 12GB of RAM and a 6.7-inch 120Hz AMOLED panel with an Infinity-O punch hole.

The S20 Ultra beats the S20 Plus with a massive 16GB of RAM and a 6.9-inch AMOLED display. it also has the most cameras including a 108MP main sensor and a 40MP front camera. The camera includes support for hybrid optical/digital zoom at 10x, and support for Super Resolution at 100x. It also has the biggest battery of the three phones at 5,000mAh and is the most expensive. You really can’t go wrong with any of these high-end Galaxy S20 phones as they are among the best of the prepaid phones.


Samsung Galaxy S20 specs:

  • Display: 6.2-inch, QHD+
  • SoC: Snapdragon 865
  • RAM: 12GB
  • Storage: 128GB
  • Cameras: 12, 64, and 12MP
  • Front camera: 10MP
  • Battery: 4,000mAh
  • Software: Android 10

Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus specs:

  • Display: 6.7-inch, QHD+
  • SoC: Snapdragon 865
  • RAM: 12GB
  • Storage: 128GB/512GB
  • Cameras: 12, 64, and 12MP
  • Front camera: 10MP
  • Battery: 4,500mAh
  • Software: Android 10

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra specs:

  • Display: 6.9-inch, QHD+
  • SoC: Snapdragon 865 Plus
  • RAM: 12/16GB
  • Storage: 128GB/512GB
  • Cameras: 108, 48, and 12MP + ToF
  • Front camera: 40MP
  • Battery: 5,000mAh
  • Software: Android 10

3. OnePlus 8 Pro — high-end

OnePlus 8 Pro screen in hand

The OnePlus 8 Pro packs the Snapdragon 865 chipset along with as much as 12GB of RAM under the hood, which means it can handle just about any task you throw at it. It also features an in-display fingerprint sensor, and four cameras in the back, including two 48MP sensors.

Read next: OnePlus 8 buyer’s guide

The phone offers a great software experience thanks to its OxygenOS skin, which is one of the best ones out there in our opinion. All these things combined make the OnePlus 8 Pro one of the best prepaid phones you can get.

The OnePlus 8 Pro also has features that other OnePlus phones have lacked in the past. This phone actually has an IP rating (IP68 in fact) and its 4,510mAh battery supports wireless charging. You can even go faster with the wired charging with its support for Warp Charge 30T.


OnePlus 8 Pro specs:

  • Display: 6.78-inch, QHD+
  • SoC: Snapdragon 865
  • RAM: 8/12GB
  • Storage: 128/256GB
  • Cameras: 48, 8, 48MP and 5MP
  • Front camera: 16MP
  • Battery: 4,510mAh
  • Software: Android 10

4. Google Pixel 4 series — high-end

Google Pixel 4 vs Pixel 4 XL in orange and white

Credit: David Imel / Android Authority

The Pixel 4 family pack high-end specs like the Snapdragon 855 (paired with 6GB of RAM), but that’s not what makes these phones stand out. The Pixel series has always been great at photography and this continues with the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL. The Pixel 4/XL camera captures more detail than the Pixel 3 series, handles white balance even better, and improves on HDR, portrait mode, and selfies. Night Sight (Google’s name for night mode) is also better this time around than it was in the Pixel 3 series, and Google now offers a killer feature called astrophotography mode.

These are also great devices to buy if you don’t want to spend over a thousand dollars, which is what the other high-end prepaid phones in this list usually cost. Not to mention it’s Google’s flagship line-up, which means users will get on-time updates and a clean experience.


Google Pixel 4 specs:

  • Display: 5.7-inch, Full HD+
  • SoC: Snapdragon 855
  • RAM: 6GB
  • Storage: 64/128GB
  • Cameras: 12.2 and 16MP
  • Front camera: 8.1MP
  • Battery: 2,800mAh
  • Software: Android 10

Google Pixel 4 XL specs:

  • Display: 6.3-inch, QHD+
  • SoC: Snapdragon 855
  • RAM: 6GB
  • Storage: 64/128GB
  • Cameras: 12.2 and 16MP
  • Front camera: 8.1MP
  • Battery: 3,700mAh
  • Software: Android 10

5. Sony Xperia 1 II — high-end

Sony Xperia 1 II back hero shot 2

Credit: David Imel / Android Authority

It may have a dumb name, but the Sony Xperia 1 II is one of the best prepaid phones you can buy. It includes a 6.5-inch HDR OLED display with a 3,840 x 1,644 resolution. Inside there’s the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor, 8GB of RAM and 256GB of onboard storage. You also get a 4,000mAh battery with wireless charging, and there’s even a headphone jack.

While the cameras onboard the phone are not quite up to other expensive flagship phones, the Xperia 1 II makes up for it somewhat with some nice features. The big one is the ability to use its 20fps autofocus-capable burst mode, similar to Sony’s A9 series of stand-alone cameras. It’s expensive, but this handset can compete with other flagship phones in its price range.


Sony Xperia 1 II specs:

  • Display: 6.5-inch, 4K
  • SoC: Snapdragon 865
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Storage: 64/128GB
  • Cameras: 12, 12, and 12MP + ToF
  • Front camera: 8MP
  • Battery: 4,00mAh
  • Software: Android 10

6. Google Pixel 4a — mid-range

Google Pixel 4a prepaid phone

Credit: David Imel / Android Authority

If you’re in the market for a mid-range smartphone, the Google Pixel 4a should be at the top of your list. The most impressive thing about it is that it is one of the best camera phones you can get, despite only having a single rear lens.

More: The best camera phones | The best cheap camera phones

The Pixel 4a packs the Snapdragon 720G chipset under the hood along with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. You also get the old fashioned headphone jack. The display is a big improvement from the Pixel 3a, with a near bezel-free 5.81-inch screen. You will also get three Android OS updates with this phone. All of that for a price of $349.

There are a few omissions, though, which are expected due to the price tag. There’s no wireless charging or an IP rating. The phone also doesn’t feel quite as upmarket because of its plastic back.


Google Pixel 4a specs:

  • Display: 5.81-inch, Full HD+
  • SoC: Snapdragon 720G
  • RAM: 6GB
  • Storage: 128GB
  • Camera: 12.2MP
  • Front camera: 8MP
  • Battery: 3,140mAh
  • Software: Android 10

7. Motorola Moto Edge — mid-range

Motorola Moto Edge front view

Credit: Eric Zeman / Android Authority

The Motorola Moto Edge is a mid-range phone with 5G network support. It comes with a large 6.7-inch display and packs the Snapdragon 765 chipset under the hood along with 6GB of RAM and 255GB of storage. The phone also sports a large 4,500mAh battery and an in-display fingerprint scanner.

Also: Our favorite Motorola phones

This phone has three rear camera sensors, including a big 64MP main camera, a 16MP ultra-wide camera, and an 8MP telephoto camera. But its list price is a bit on the expensive side, although the phone is often on sale.


Motorola Moto Edge specs:

  • Display: 6.75-inch, Full HD+
  • SoC: Snapdragon 765
  • RAM: 6GB
  • Storage: 256GB
  • Cameras: 64, 16, and 8MP
  • Front camera: 25MP
  • Battery: 4,500mAh
  • Software: Android 10

8. Apple iPhone SE (2020) — mid-range

iPhone SE home screen

Yes, we have to give it up to Apple. The folks at Cupertino have released a $399.99 phone that happens to include the fastest processor they have. The iPhone SE (2020) may look like an old iPhone 8, but inside it runs the same A13 Bionic chip found on their expensive iPhone 11 series. It also runs on iOS 13, and will likely be updated for several years.

Next: iPhone buying guide

The phone itself is well made, with an IP67 water and dust resistance rating. However, it still has the body of an older iPhone, with big bezels, the Touch ID fingerprint sensor on the bottom, and the older 12MP rear camera sensor. However, the processing power inside still allows for some good pictures, including support for portrait mode. All in all, this mid-range phone has just enough flagship features to make it one of the best prepaid phones.


Apple SE (2020) specs:

  • Display: 4.7-inch, 1,334 x 750
  • SoC: A13 Bionic
  • RAM: 3GB
  • Storage: 64/128/256GB
  • Camera: 12MP
  • Front camera: 7MP
  • Battery: 1,821mAh
  • Software: iOS 13

9. Motorola Moto E (2020) — budget

Moto E 2020 hero image prepaid phones

Credit: Motorola

Motorola is doing a soft launch of its budget E series of phones. No more numbers; it’s just the Moto E for 2020. It runs a near-stock version of Android, supports expandable storage, and has a fingerprint scanner at the back, despite its affordable price.

As you can imagine for a phone coming in at way under $200, it offers entry-level specs. You get the Snapdragon 632 chipset and 2GB of RAM, along with 32GB of onboard storage, while a 3,550mAh battery keeps the lights on.

The new Moto E sports a headphone jack and is easy on the eyes. It’s a great phone for undemanding users who are looking for something cheap.


Moto E (2020) specs:

  • Display: 6.2-inch, HD+
  • SoC: Snapdragon 632
  • RAM: 2GB
  • Storage: 32GB
  • Cameras: 13 and 2MP
  • Front camera: 5MP
  • Battery: 3,550mAh
  • Software: Android 10

10. Nokia 1.3 — budget

nokia 1 3 prepaid

Credit: Nokia

The last model on our list of the best prepaid phones you can get in the US is the Nokia 1.3. It’s the most affordable phone on this list, although it doesn’t look cheap.

Next: Look at some other great Nokia phones

The handset, which is aimed at undemanding users, comes with a 5.71-inch HD+ screen, a 5MP selfie camera in a waterdrop notch, an 8MP rear shooter, and a 3,000mAh battery.

The Nokia 1.3 is an Android One device, which means it offers a bloat-free software experience. It runs Android 10 but will get upgraded to Android 11. Best of all, you can get it for $99.99.


Nokia 1.3 specs:

  • Display: 5.71-inch, HD+
  • SoC: Qualcomm Snapdragon 215
  • RAM: 1GB
  • Storage: 16GB
  • Camera: 8MP
  • Front camera: 5MP
  • Battery: 3,000mAh
  • Software: Android 10 Go

The best deals on prepaid phones

Although we recommend getting an unlocked phone from a retailer like Amazon, that doesn’t mean that buying a prepaid phone from a carrier doesn’t make sense. It does, but only if you can get it cheaper than from other retailers and if you plan on staying with that carrier for the period in which the phone will be locked. With that in mind, here are the best deals on prepaid phones you can get from carriers at the moment:

Metro by T-Mobile:

AT&T:

Cricket Wireless:

Boost Mobile: