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The best unlocked Android phones for demanding users

The best of the best, with no carrier limitations.
By
April 6, 2022
Google Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro lying on autumn leaves
Robert Triggs / Android Authority

If you don’t like buying phones on contracts, unlocked Android phones are for you. They’re available from various retailers and can be used with any carrier of your choice. Unlocked smartphones also allow you to switch between carriers with ease.

Before jumping into our top picks, note that this article only includes devices officially released in the US and backed by a warranty. It’s also focused on high-end handsets aimed at demanding users. If you’re looking for something more affordable, check out our roundup of the best cheap Android phones you can get. You’ll also find a few great budget-friendly and mid-range options in our best prepaid phones post.

First: The pros and cons of going with an unlocked phone

What is an unlocked phone?

SIM unlocked phones are devices that come with no limitations as to which GSM network they can be used on. You can pop any SIM card into an unlocked phone, and everything should work. Of course, this is given that the unlocked handset supports the bands the network uses.

On the other hand, carrier-locked smartphones only work with a specific carrier. These are usually devices sold straight from the carrier, and they’re locked to avoid fraud. People might stop paying for their plans and take the phones elsewhere, or they could stop paying smartphone payment plans. Carrier-locked devices give cellphone service providers a level of protection to avoid losing money on subsidized or unpaid smartphones.

That said, carriers often have some kind of unlocking policy for smartphones. You can check your carrier’s website for more details.

Also: Unlocked phones vs carrier phones

The best unlocked Android phones

Editor’s note: We’ll regularly update this list of the best unlocked phones as new devices launch.


Samsung Galaxy S22 series

Samsung Galaxy S22 Family in white spread on wood
Eric Zeman / Android Authority

The Samsung Galaxy S22 series includes three of the best unlocked Android phones: the standard S22, the S22 Plus, and the S22 Ultra. They all have the new Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor (or the Exynos 2200 outside the USA), so you should have no issues with pure performance.

The Galaxy S22 is the cheapest and smallest of the lot, but is pretty similar to the S22 Plus, apart from the display and battery size. The S22 Plus can also charge faster at 45W instead of the S22’s 25W charging. Both have 8GB of RAM and come with either 128GB or 256GB of storage. They also have the same camera setups, with a 50MP primary sensor, a 12MP ultrawide camera, and a 10MP telephoto lens.

Also: These are the best Samsung phones available

The S22 Ultra, on the other hand, is an absolute beast. It handily beats the other two across a variety of features. To start with, it comes with a massive 6.8-inch QHD+ display, but all devices feature a 120Hz refresh rate and a gorgeous Dynamic AMOLED 2X panel. The S22 Ultra also has the most cameras, including a 108MP primary sensor, a 12MP ultrawide camera, and two 10MP telephoto sensors, one of which is a periscope camera. There’s also a laser autofocus sensor in the back and a 40MP front camera. Not to mention the larger 5,000mAh battery.


Samsung Galaxy S22 specs

  • Display: 6.1-inch, FHD+
  • SoC: Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 or Exynos 2200
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Storage: 128GB/256GB
  • Cameras: 50, 12, and 10MP
  • Front camera: 10MP
  • Battery: 3,700mAh
  • Software: Android 12

Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus specs

  • Display: 6.6-inch, FHD+
  • SoC: Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 or Exynos 2200
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Storage: 128GB/256GB
  • Cameras: 50, 12, and 10MP
  • Front camera: 10MP
  • Battery: 4,500mAh
  • Software: Android 12

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra specs

  • Display: 6.8-inch, QHD+
  • SoC: Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 or Exynos 2200
  • RAM: 8/12GB
  • Storage: 128GB/256GB/512/1024GB
  • Cameras: 108, 12, 10, and 10MP + Laser AF sensor
  • Front camera: 40MP
  • Battery: 5,000mAh
  • Software: Android 12

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 and Z Fold 3

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 in hand closed up
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

Not only is the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 one of the best unlocked phones you can get, but it’s also one of the most fun and interesting ones. The device’s special design, reminiscent of classic flip phones, makes it a unique conversation starter. Not to mention you can relive the dramatic method of hanging up a call by shutting the phone close!

Cool design aside, the phone is no slouch. It comes with a powerful Snapdragon 888 processor and 8GB of RAM. The foldable display is really nice, measuring in at 6.7 inches, and featuring a Full HD+ AMOLED panel with a 120Hz refresh rate. You even get a small display on the outside for notifications. The only real downside is the battery is pretty tiny at 3,300mAh, but that’s the sacrifice you must make when you go for such a small foldable handset.

More: The best foldable phones available

If you want a larger screen and a more premium experience, consider the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3. While the Z Flip 3 is a tiny device that folds out into a regular-sized handset, the Z Fold 3 is more of a regular-sized device that folds out into a tablet.

The Galaxy Z Fold 3 is also a very powerful handset, and Samsung made no compromises with it. Specs include a Snapdragon 888 chipset, 12GB of RAM, and up to 512GB of storage. It also features a 4.400mAh battery, a triple camera setup, and a large 7.6-inch main display. It’s also one of the most expensive phones around, though.


Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 specs

  • Display: 6.7-inch, Full HD+
  • SoC: Snapdragon 888
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Storage: 128/256GB
  • Cameras: 12 and 12MP
  • Front camera: 10MP
  • Battery: 3,300mAh
  • Software: Android 11

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 specs

  • Display: 7.6-inch QXGA+ and 6.2-inch HD+
  • SoC: Snapdragon 888
  • RAM: 12GB
  • Storage: 256/512GB
  • Cameras: 12, 12 and 12MP
  • Front camera: 10MP, 4MP UDC
  • Battery: 4,400mAh
  • Software: Android 11

Asus ROG Phone 5s series

Asus ROG Phone 5s Pro - The best unlocked Android phones

The Asus ROG Phone 5s series is extraordinary. These devices were made for gaming, and they blow other phones out of the water in every department.

The phones come with powerful Snapdragon 888+ chipsets, and up to a whopping 18GB of RAM. Both also feature a massive 6,000mAh battery. The display is equally impressive, featuring an AMOLED panel with a 144Hz refresh rate and a sizeable 6.78-inch size.

Also read: The best gaming phones around

These unlocked Android phones will also offer other unique features to improve your gaming experience. They come with a 360Hz touch response time, shoulder triggers, the Asus Armoury Crate app, and the gaming look we know many of you love.


ROG Phone 5s specs

  • Display: 6.78-inch, Full HD+
  • SoC: Snapdragon 888+
  • RAM: 8/12/16/18GB
  • Storage: 128/256/512GB
  • Cameras: 64, 13, and 5MP
  • Front camera: 24MP
  • Battery: 6,000mAh
  • Software: Android 11

ROG Phone 5s Pro specs

  • Display: 6.78-inch, Full HD+
  • SoC: Snapdragon 888+
  • RAM: 18GB
  • Storage: 512GB
  • Cameras: 64, 13, and 5MP
  • Front camera: 24MP
  • Battery: 6,000mAh
  • Software: Android 11

Sony Xperia 1 III and 5 III

Sony Xperia 1 III back 2 - The best unlocked Android phones
Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Sony’s designs are simple and elegant. These devices probably don’t turn many heads, but they perform and stand out from the crowd in other areas. The Sony Xperia 1 III is powerful and featureful. It’s easily one of the best unlocked Android phones you can get right now.

Related: These are the best camera phones available today

For starters, it’s one of the very few phones with a 4K display. It also happens to be a gorgeous OLED screen with a 120Hz refresh rate. The cameras are also great, but this phone mainly stands out in video shooting. It can record 4K content of up to 120fps, and inherits amazing auto-focusing tech that assimilates what you find on Sony mirrorless cameras.

The Sony Xperia 1 III is also an expensive handset compared to its competitors, so be ready to pay up if you want it. If you want to save a bit of cash and still benefit from everything Sony has to offer, the Xperia 5 III is nearly as good as the company’s top dog. The only fundamental differences are that it comes with a smaller 6.1-inch OLED screen with a Full HD+ resolution, and has 8GB of RAM instead of 12GB. It’s still a high-end device, though, and it’s not really cheap, just slightly less expensive.


Sony Xperia 1 III specs

  • Display: 6.5-inch, 4K
  • SoC: Snapdragon 888
  • RAM: 12GB
  • Storage: 256/512GB
  • Cameras: 12, 12, and 12MP + ToF
  • Front camera: 8MP
  • Battery: 4,50mAh
  • Software: Android 11

Sony Xperia 5 III specs

  • Display: 6.1-inch, Full HD+
  • SoC: Snapdragon 888
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Storage: 128/256GB
  • Cameras: 12, 12, and 12MP
  • Front camera: 8MP
  • Battery: 4,50mAh
  • Software: Android 11

OnePlus 10 Pro

OnePlus 10 Pro top down view of the back panel - The best unlocked Android phones
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

While it launched only in China initially, the OnePlus 10 Pro has reached global markets, including North America. This is definitely one of the best unlocked phones you can get, offering a premium design, capable performance, and overall high-end experience. It’s also unique because it was one of the first OnePlus devices launched after the merger with Oppo, something you’ll notice if you take a closer look at the design, which looks great.

Specs are nothing to scoff at. The OnePlus 10 Pro comes with a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor and up to 12GB of RAM. The screen is gorgeous, offering a 6.7-inch AMOLED panel with a QHD+ resolution and a 120Hz refresh rate.

You also get an IP68 rating, a large 5,000mAh battery, and 80W fast charging (65W in the USA). Any phone with these characteristics should cost a small fortune, and while the OnePlus 10 Pro isn’t cheap, it’s surprisingly competitive with a $900 MSRP.


OnePlus 10 Pro specs

  • Display: 6.7-inch, QHD+
  • Chipset: Snapdragon 8 Gen 1
  • RAM: 8/12GB
  • Storage: 128/256/512GB
  • Cameras: 48, 50, and 8MP
  • Front camera: 32MP
  • Battery: 5,000mAh
  • Software: Android 12

Google Pixel 6 series

Google Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro on red leaf background - The best unlocked Android phones
Robert Triggs / Android Authority

We might have left the best for last. Google’s new Pixel 6 family features two impressive handsets. The Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro have a unique design, competent performance, great displays, and a fantastic smartphone experience.

A lot of this is due to the Google promise, which includes the vanilla Android experience and timely updates. That’s not all the phones have going for them, though. They also come with Google’s new Tensor chipset and plenty of RAM, keeping them running smoothly, regardless of what you throw at them.

Next: All the best Google products around

The standard Pixel 6 features a 6.4-inch AMOLED display with a 90Hz refresh rate, while the Pixel 6 Pro takes things up a notch with a 6.71-inch QHD+ LTPO AMOLED panel running at 120Hz. We can’t forget about the prices, which come in at very competitive levels. You can’t ignore these devices when looking for the best unlocked Android phones.


Google Pixel 6 specs

  • Display: 6.4-inch, Full HD+
  • SoC: Google Tensor
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Storage: 128/256GB
  • Camera: 50 and 12MP
  • Front camera: 8MP
  • Battery: 4,614mAh
  • Software: Android 12

Google Pixel 6 Pro specs

  • Display: 6.71-inch, QHD+
  • SoC: Google Tensor
  • RAM: 12GB
  • Storage: 128/256/512GB
  • Camera: 50, 48, and 12MP
  • Front camera: 11.1MP
  • Battery: 5,003mAh
  • Software: Android 12

These are our picks for the best unlocked Android phones you can get in the US, although there are plenty of other great options out there as well. There’s also a chance you won’t mind going with a locked phone, as doing so comes with its benefits. You should check out our list of the best Android phones if you need more options and can handle a carrier-locked device.