Your guide

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra right rear profile

Credit: Eric Zeman / 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 that have officially been released in the US and are 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 pre-paid phones post.

The best unlocked Android phones:

  1. Samsung Galaxy Note 20 series
  2. Samsung Galaxy S20 series
  3. Sony Xperia 1 II
  4. OnePlus 8 Pro
  5. Google Pixel 4a

1. Samsung Galaxy Note 20 series

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra rear panels

Credit: Eric Zeman / Android Authority

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.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra are undoubtedly two of the best Android smartphones you can get. Something to keep in mind though is that they are also really expensive, 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(US), 128/256GB (global)
  • 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 (US), 256/512GB (global)
  • Cameras: 108, 12, and 12MP + ToF
  • Front camera: 10MP
  • Battery: 4,500mAh
  • Software: Android 10

2. Samsung Galaxy S20 series

samsung galaxy s20 series colors

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 performance is something you won’t have to worry about. The Galaxy S20 is the cheapest and the smallest of the lot, but apart from the display size, is quite similar to the S20 Plus.

The S20 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 6.9-inch AMOLED display. It also has the most cameras, including a 108MP main sensor and a 40MP front camera. Given its larger footprint, it’s no surprise that the S20 Ultra also comes with the biggest battery of the lot.

See also: Samsung Galaxy Note 20 series vs Galaxy S20 series

It’s actually quite a toss-up between the Galaxy S20 series and the Galaxy Note 20 series, and the Ultra variants in particular. If you can live without the S Pen, you’ll save a decent chunk of money with the S20 devices. That said, these are still 2020 flagships and demand quite the premium. So be prepared for a hefty price tag for the unlocked variants.


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
  • RAM: 12/16GB
  • Storage: 128GB/512GB
  • Cameras: 108, 48, and 12MP + ToF
  • Front camera: 40MP
  • Battery: 5,000mAh
  • Software: Android 10

3. Sony Xperia 1 II

Sony Xperia 1 II front display

Credit: David Imel / Android Authority

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 a 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.


Sony Xperia 1 II specs:

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

4. OnePlus 8 Pro

OnePlus 8 Pro screen in hand

OnePlus continues its foray into true flagship territory with the OnePlus 8 Pro. Like other 2020 flagships, the 8 Pro is powered by the Snapdragon 865 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 two 48MP sensors.

The phone offers a great software experience thanks to OxygenOS, which is one of the best ones out there in our opinion. The OnePlus 8 Pro also has features that other OnePlus phones have lacked in the past. This phone actually has a proper IP rating (IP68) this time around, instead of vague assurances of water resistances. The phone also supports wireless charging, and its fast charging capabilities go to another level with Warp Charge 30T.

The OnePlus 8 Pro might be the most expensive smartphone from the company yet, but its starting price is still a couple of hundred dollars lower than its competition. If you’re looking for one of the best unlocked phones around, this is definitely worth considering.


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

5. Google Pixel 4a

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. That’s despite only having a single rear lens, which is unheard of in the current Android smartphone landscape.

The handsets pack the Snapdragon 730G chipset under the hood along with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. You also get the old fashioned headphone jack. The display and the design are a big improvement from the Pixel 3a, with a near bezel-less 5.81-inch screen.

There are a few omissions, of course, that 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 backs. It’s still one of the best mid-rangers you can get in the US right now, and the guarantee of timely software updates is an excellent bonus as well. The best part? The Google Pixel 4a is priced at just $349.


Google Pixel 4a specs:

  • Display: 5.81-inch, Full HD+
  • SoC: Snapdragon 730G
  • RAM: 6GB
  • Storage: 128GB
  • Camera: 12.2MP
  • Front camera: 8MP
  • Battery: 3,140mAh
  • Software: Android 10

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.