Samsung Galaxy S21 vs S21 Plus vs S21 Ultra 3
David Imel / Android Authority

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

Before we jump into our top picks, note that this post 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.

The best unlocked Android phones:

  1. Samsung Galaxy S21 series
  2. Samsung Galaxy Note 20 series
  3. Asus ROG Phone 5
  4. Sony Xperia 1 II
  5. OnePlus 9 Pro
  6. Google Pixel 5

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


1. Samsung Galaxy S21 series

Samsung Galaxy S21 vs S21 Plus vs S21 Ultra 1 1
David Imel / Android Authority

The Samsung Galaxy S20 series includes the standard S21, the S21 Plus, and the S21 Ultra. All of them have the new Snapdragon 888 processor, so you should have no issues with pure performance.

The Galaxy S21 is the cheapest and smallest of the lot, but it is quite similar to the S21 Plus, apart from the display size. Both have 8GB of RAM and come with either 128GB or 256GB of storage. Both also have the same camera setups, with a 12MP wide-angle sensor, a 12MP ultra-wide camera, and a 64MP telephoto lens.

The S21 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 AMOLED display. It has the most cameras, including a 108MP main sensor, a 12MP ultra-wide camera, and not one but two 10MP  telephoto sensors. There’s also a laser autofocus sensor in the back and a 40MP front camera.

Given its larger footprint, it’s no surprise that the S21 Ultra also comes with the biggest battery of the lot. You can grab the phone with 16GB of RAM and up to 512GB of storage. It supports Samsung’s S Pen stylus, which is the first phone outside of the Note series to do so.

If you are looking for one of the many unlocked Android smartphones that also have microSD card slots for expanding your onboard storage, you might want to look elsewhere. None of the phones in the Galaxy S21 series has a microSD card slot.


Samsung Galaxy S21 specs:

  • Display: 6.2-inch, FHD+
  • SoC: Snapdragon 888
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Storage: 128GB/256GB
  • Cameras: 12, 64, and 12MP
  • Front camera: 10MP
  • Battery: 4,000mAh
  • Software: Android 11

Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus specs:

  • Display: 6.7-inch, FHD+
  • SoC: Snapdragon 888
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Storage: 128GB/256GB
  • Cameras: 12, 64, and 12MP
  • Front camera: 10MP
  • Battery: 4,800mAh
  • Software: Android 11

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra specs:

  • Display: 6.8-inch, WQHD+
  • SoC: Snapdragon 888
  • RAM: 12/16GB
  • Storage: 128GB/256GB/512GB
  • Cameras: 108, 10, 10, and 12MP + Laser AF sensor
  • Front camera: 40MP
  • Battery: 5,000mAh
  • Software: Android 11

2. Samsung Galaxy Note 20 series

The Galaxy Note 20 and 20 Ultra are both powerhouses in their own right. But if you want your smartphone to do anything and everything, the Ultra model is the one to go for. It has a larger display with a higher resolution, more RAM, a larger battery, and a 108MP main camera sensor. The display on the Ultra is also the first one that’s protected with Corning’s Gorilla Glass 7.

The standard Note 20 is made of “glasstic,” and the display is flat and of a lower resolution compared to the Ultra’s metal and glass build and curved Quad HD screen. Many of the other specs and features stay the same, though. Powering both phones is the Snapdragon 865 Plus, both can be charged wirelessly, and they also feature an IP68 rating. Of course, the improved S Pen is the big selling point regardless of which iteration you get.

See also: Samsung Galaxy Note 20 review | Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra review

The Samsung Galaxy Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra are undoubtedly two of the best Android smartphones you can get. However, something to keep in mind is that they are also costly, especially if you plan to get them unlocked.


Samsung Galaxy Note 20 specs:

  • Display: 6.7-inch, Full HD+
  • SoC: Snapdragon 865 Plus
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Storage: 128GB
  • 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/512GB
  • Cameras: 108, 12, and 12MP + ToF
  • Front camera: 10MP
  • Battery: 4,500mAh
  • Software: Android 10

3. Asus ROG Phone 5

Asus ROG Phone 5 ROG RGB logo
Ryan-Thomas Shaw / Android Authority

Mobile gamers are always looking for the best hardware, but features intended solely to enhance the gaming experience are a big positive. Luckily, the Asus ROG Phone 5 delivers on both counts. It’s hands-down the best Android gaming phone you can get, and it’s also available unlocked!

The ROG series is designed with gamers in mind, and Asus brought that sensibility over to its gaming phones as well. The spec list certainly impresses, with the Snapdragon 888 processor, a 144Hz refresh rate screen, 256GB of storage, and up to a whopping 16GB of RAM available to you. Keeping everything running is a massive 6,000mAh battery.

Read also: Asus ROG Phone 5 review

Power isn’t the only thing that the ROG Phone 5 brings to the table. It comes with air triggers that work like shoulder buttons. In non-gaming features, the phone’s camera setup also gets a decent upgrade over its predecessor. Now that the Asus ROG Phone 5 is officially available in the US, it’s certainly one of the best unlocked phones you can buy.

If you want even more of a gaming punch, Asus also offers the ROG Phone 5 Pro and ROG Phone 5 Ultimate. They don’t change in terms of display size, but you can leap up to 18GB of RAM and pack as much as 512GB of storage space into your powerhouse.


ROG Phone 5 specs:

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

4. Sony Xperia 1 II

Its name is weird and confusing, but that doesn’t change the fact that the Sony Xperia 1 II is one of the best unlocked phones you can buy. It’s a flagship phone through and through, with its  6.5-inch HDR OLED QHD+ display, Snapdragon 865 processor, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB of storage. Sony sticks with the 21:9 aspect ratio to make for a thin but long device. It’s also one of the few high-end devices to come with 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 Sony finally has a solid contender on its hands after quite a while.

We should also see the Sony Xperia 1 III and its more affordable sibling, the Xperia 5 III, around the corner before too long.


Sony Xperia 1 II specs:

  • Display: 6.5-inch, 4K
  • SoC: Snapdragon 865
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Storage: 64/128/256GB
  • Cameras: 12, 12, and 12MP + ToF
  • Front camera: 8MP
  • Battery: 4,00mAh
  • Software: Android 10

5. OnePlus 9 Pro

OnePlus 9 Pro showing back
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

OnePlus continues its foray into true flagship territory with the stand-out OnePlus 9 Pro. Like other 2021 flagships, the 9 Pro is powered by the Snapdragon 888, and you get up to 12GB of RAM to back that up. It also features an in-display fingerprint sensor, a beautiful 120Hz display, and four cameras in the back, including a 50MP sensor and a 48MP option.

The phone offers a great software experience thanks to OxygenOS, which is one of the best ones out there, in our opinion. The OnePlus 9 Pro also has features that the standard OnePlus 9 skips. This phone actually has a proper IP rating (IP68) this time around, instead of vague assurances of water resistances. The phone also supports 50W wireless charging compared to the 15W Qi option of its more affordable sibling.

The OnePlus 9 Pro might be the most expensive smartphone from the company yet, but it’s by far the most powerful. If you’re looking for one of the best unlocked Android phones around, this is definitely worth considering.


OnePlus 9 Pro specs:

  • Display: 6.7-inch, QHD+
  • SoC: Snapdragon 888
  • RAM: 8/12GB
  • Storage: 128/256GB
  • Cameras: 48, 8, 50, and 2MP
  • Front camera: 16MP
  • Battery: 4,500mAh
  • Software: Android 11

6. Google Pixel 5

Unlocked Android phones can get really expensive without the benefit of long-term contracts. If you don’t want to spend more than a thousand dollars on a phone but still want something that can meet your needs, the Google Pixel 5 is the phone to get. The latest Pixel isn’t the high-end flagship everyone expected, but the Pixel 5 is more than up to the task in many ways.

The most impressive thing about it is that it is one of the best camera phones you can get. The handsets pack the Snapdragon 765G chipset under the hood and 8GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage. The design is a huge improvement over its predecessor and looks a lot more modern. However, Google re-introduces some old-school features, such as the physical rear fingerprint scanner.

It has some flagship features, like wireless charging an IP rating for dust and water resistance. The Pixel 5 falls in the middle of mid-rangers and high-end devices, but its $699 price tag will make it an attractive option for many. The guarantee of timely software updates is an excellent bonus as well.


Google Pixel 5 specs:

  • Display: 6-inch, Full HD+
  • SoC: Snapdragon 765G
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Storage: 128GB
  • Camera: 12.2MP
  • Front camera: 8MP
  • Battery: 4,080mAh
  • Software: Android 11

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. We’ll make sure to update this post with new models once they are released.