Now that an increasing amount of smartphone manufacturers are selling their phones at cheaper price points, it’s much easier for consumers to afford an off-contract device rather than purchasing one with a two-year contract. At least in the United States, the way smartphones are priced has changed dramatically, and that’s a good thing.

So, what are the best smartphones out there for those who’d like to forgo the standard contract and buy unlocked? We’re here to take you through the best unlocked Android smartphones for under $250, under $500 and over $500. As always, if you have anything you’d like to suggest, be sure to speak up in the comment section at the bottom of the post.

Editor’s note: We’ll be updating this list regularly as new devices launch. It’s also worth noting that this article is written for a U.S.-centric point of view, though (since they are unlocked) pretty much all of these devices are available outside of the U.S., at least in some capacity.


Best phones under $250

Moto G5 Plus

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If you’re in the market for an affordable, unlocked smartphone for under $250, look no further. Lenovo’s Moto G5 Plus is one of the best cheap Android phones on the market, and for good reason.

The 1080p display is vibrant and perfect for watching YouTube videos and surfing the web, and the big 3,000 mAh battery will help keep you going all day long. Plus, with the Snapdragon 625 processor coupled with 2-4 GB of RAM, this thing can basically handle everything you throw at it.

And for those of you interested in a bare-bones software experience, you’ll be happy to hear that the G5 Plus runs a very slimmed-down version of Android 7.0 Nougat.

The Moto G5 Plus is reliable, sleek, and inexpensive. What more could you want?

Specs

  • 5.2-inch IPS LCD display with 1920 x 1080 resolution, 424 ppi
  • 2.0 GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor
  • 2/3/4 GB of RAM
  • 32/64 GB of on-board storage, microSD expansion up to 256 GB
  • 12 MP rear camera, 5 MP front camera
  • Non-removable 3,000 mAh battery
  • Android 7.0 Nougat
  • 150.2 x 74 x 7.7 mm, 155 g

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Honor 6X

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If you’re looking for a phone under $250, you should definitely check out the Honor 6X. With its big 5.5-inch 1080p display, long-lasting battery, metal construction, dual-SIM support and super fast fingerprint sensor, the 6X gives many other budget phones a run for their money.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this device is its rear-facing dual camera setup, which features 12 and 2 MP sensors. While every dual-camera setup utilizes the secondary camera differently, the 6X uses the 2 MP sensor to capture depth information that can be taken advantage of when using the camera’s wide aperture mode.

This phone isn’t perfect, though. It doesn’t come with USB Type-C support, EMUI is a little unpolished, and the device’s bottom-firing speaker isn’t the greatest. If you can get past those few caveats, though, the Honor 6X might be well worth your money.

Specs

  • 5.5-inch IPS LCD display with 1920 x 1080 resolution, 403 ppi
  • Octa-core HiSilicon Kirin 655 processor
  • 3/4 GB of RAM
  • 32/64 GB of on-board storage, microSD expansion up to 256 GB
  • Dual 12 and 2 MP rear cameras, 8 MP front camera
  • Non-removable 3,340 mAh battery
  • Android 7.0 Nougat
  • 150.9 x 76.2 x 8.2 mm, 162 g

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Moto G4 Plus

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Instead of announcing just one Moto G variant in 2016, Lenovo brought us three different devices – the Moto G4 Plus, Moto G4 and Moto G4 Play.

The highest-end of the bunch is the Moto G4 Plus, and it brings a handful of notable improvements to the Moto G range. It has a big 1080p display, capable processor, expandable storage, and even a fingerprint sensor this time around. While we had a slight problem with the volume/power buttons and the camera in low light, we can honestly say this is one of the best budget offerings in 2016.

Right now you can buy it in the U.S. for under $200 through Amazon.

Specs

  • 5.5-inch IPS LCD display with 1920 x 1080 resolution, 401 ppi
  • Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 processor
  • 2/3/4 GB of RAM
  • 16/32/64 GB of on-board storage, microSD expansion up to 256 GB
  • 16 MP rear camera, 5 MP front camera
  • Non-removable 3,000 mAh battery
  • Android 7.0 Nougat
  • 153 x 76.6 x 9.8 mm, 155 g

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Motorola Moto E4

The Motorola Moto E4 manages to offer a solid amount of hardware inside a super-cheap phone. It has a 5-inch 1,280 x 720 display, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 425 processor, with a clock speed of 1.54 GHz, along with 2 GB of RAM, 16 GB of onboard storage, and a microSD card slot that accepts up to 128 GB in additional storage. The Android 7.1 Nougat phone also comes with an 8 MP rear camera, a 5 MP front-facing camera and a 2,800 mAh removable battery.

You can get the Moto E4 for as low as $49 from MetroPCS, after a $20 instant rebate and a $60 mail-in rebate. Verizon Wireless is selling the phone right now for just $69.99, if you sign up for the carrier’s pre-paid service. Motorola is also selling the Moto E4, in a truly unlocked version, for just $129.99. Amazon also sells the same phone for $129.99, but Amazon Prime members can get it for the lower price of $99.99, with lock screen ads included.

Specs

  • 5-inch 1,280x 7,20 HD display
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 425 1.4GHz quad-core CPU
  • Android 7.1 Nougat with Moto experiences
  • 2 GB of RAM
  • 16 GB of internal storage, microSD card support up to 128 GB
  • 8 MP rear camera
  • 5 MP front camera
  • 2, 800mAh removable battery

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Best phones under $500

OnePlus 5

The recently launched OnePlus 5 manages to just barely make it inside the $500 price point in this category with the model that has 6 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage. That version costs $479, but if you want more, you can also get the version with 8 GB of memory and 128 GB of onboard storage for $539.

Both models have a 5.5-inch AMOLED display with 1,920 x 1,080 resolution, along with the fastest current mobile processor, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835. It also has a dual camera set up, with 16 MP and 20 MP sensors, along with a 16 MP front-facing camera. It also comes with a  3,300 mAh battery that lasts up to a day, and supports OnePlus’ Dash Charge technology that can charge its battery from zero to over 50 percent in about a half hour. If you can live with “only” 6 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage, the OnePlus 5 could be the best unlocked phone you can get for less than $500.

Specs

  • 5.5-inch Optic AMOLED display with 1,920 x 1,080 resolution, 401 ppi
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 mobile platform
  • 6/8 GB of RAM
  • 64/128 GB of on-board storage, no microSD expansion
  • Dual 16 and 20 MP rear cameras, 16 MP front camera
  • Non-removable 3,300 mAh battery
  • Android 7.1.1 Nougat
  • 154.2 x 74.1 x 7.25 mm, 153 g

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Best phones above $500

Samsung Galaxy Note 8

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After a controversial 2016, Samsung’s Galaxy Note line is back in full force. With top-of-the-line specs, a stunning design, an all-new dual-camera setup, and new software features, the Galaxy Note 8 is the best Android phone you can buy right now.

The Note 8’s near-bezel-less 6.3-inch QuadHD+ Infinity Display with an 18.5:9 aspect ratio is one of our favorite parts about this phone. DisplayMate agrees with us too. It’s big, maybe too big for some people, but at least the company puts that screen to good use. There’s a new App Pairing feature that allows you to open up two favorited apps in multi-window at the same time, and there are a few new S Pen features that will satisfy the stylus users out there.

What’s more, the new dual-camera setup on the back performs incredibly well. While picture quality isn’t a huge step up from what we saw on the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus, the extra 12 MP sensor with OIS allows you to take clear, concise photos and impressive bokeh shots in just about any situation.

No, it’s not perfect, but no phone is. Samsung’s fingerprint sensor placement is still super annoying, and this phone is expensive. If those things don’t matter to you though, the Note 8 might be the right phone for you. Check out our full review below!

Specs

  • 6.3-inch Super AMOLED Infinity Display with 2960 x 1440 resolution, 521 ppi
  • Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 or Octa-core Samsung Exynos 8895 processor (depending on region)
  • 6 GB of RAM
  • 64/128/256 GB of on-board storage, microSD expansion up to 256 GB
  • Dual 12 MP rear cameras, 8 MP front camera
  • Non-removable 3,300 mAh battery
  • Android 7.1.1 Nougat
  • 162.5 x 74.8 x 8.6 mm, 195 g

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Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus

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Following a successful launch of the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge, Samsung seemed to have a pretty good idea as to what users want in a smartphone. Solid battery life, high-res screens, impressive camera performance and more were all things the company achieved with the 2016 flagships. And while the Note 7 seemed to improve even more in those areas, overheating problems caused the device to enter total recall mode.

Now we get to see what Samsung has in store for us in 2017. It should come as no surprise that the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus feature top-of-the-line specifications, great cameras and an all-new design that’s truly futuristic.

See also:

This time around, Samsung included a curved screen on both the S8 and S8 Plus, as well as a unique 18.5:9 aspect ratio that allows for a much more comfortable in-hand feel. The company even ditched its famous physical home button and included on-screen navigation keys (finally). Under the hood, these devices come with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor (or Exynos 8895, depending on the region), 4 GB of RAM, 64 GB of on-board storage, and one of the latest versions of Android, 7.0 Nougat.

Samsung even launched a few extra accessories alongside the S8 that you should definitely consider checking out. The new Samsung DeX dock lets you use your S8 as a desktop computer, and there’s also a new Gear 360 camera that allows for shooting video in 4K and live streaming to YouTube. Of course, there’s also a new Galaxy S8-compatible Gear VR headset, complete with a controller for easier navigation.

All in all, the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus are two of the most promising smartphones launching in 2017.

Specs

Samsung Galaxy S8

  • 5.8-inch Super AMOLED display with 2960 x 1440 resolution, 570 ppi
  • Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 or Octa-core Samsung Exynos 8895 processor (depending on region)
  • 4 GB of RAM
  • 64 GB of on-board storage, microSD expansion up to 256 GB
  • 12 MP rear camera, 8 MP front camera
  • Non-removable 3,000 mAh battery
  • Android 7.0 Nougat
  • 148.9 x 68.1 x 8 mm, 155 g

Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus

  • 6.2-inch Super AMOLED display with 2960 x 1440 resolution, 529 ppi
  • Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 or Octa-core Samsung Exynos 8895 processor (depending on region)
  • 4 GB of RAM
  • 64 GB of on-board storage, microSD expansion up to 256 GB
  • 12 MP rear camera, 8 MP front camera
  • Non-removable 3,000 mAh battery
  • Android 7.0 Nougat
  • 159.5 x 73.4 x 8.1 mm, 173 g

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LG G6

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Throughout 2016, the LG G5 struggled to take on the Galaxy S7, HTC 10 and all the other flagships released that year. It’s not a bad phone, per se, it just lacks the level of polish we normally expect from top-tier smartphones nowadays. The phone would have been more widely accepted if it nailed the modular implementation, but unfortunately the whole module-swapping process was wonky and the three “Friends” that launched with the G5 weren’t all that appealing. With the G6, LG has gone back to the basics.

Certainly the most standout feature on the G6 is its 5.7-inch Quad HD LCD display, with its interesting aspect ratio of 18:9 and rounded corners. It also comes with a Snapdragon 821 processor, 4 GB of RAM, plenty of on-board storage, an IP68 rating for dust and water resistance and dual 13 MP rear cameras. It’s worth noting that not all LG G6s are created equal. For example, the G6 that’s coming to the U.S. is the only variant that supports wireless charging, while the Hi-Fi Quad DAC is exclusive to South Korea and certain markets in Asia. What’s more, the G6 with 64 GB of storage is only available in a handful of markets.

This isn’t a phone that introduces a bunch of gimmicky features that you’ll never use. It’s simply a solid, well-built smartphone that nails the main areas users care most about.

Specs

  • 5.7-inch IPS LCD display with 2880 x 1440 resolution, 564 ppi
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor
  • 4 GB of RAM
  • 32/64 GB of on-board storage, microSD expansion up to 256 GB
  • Dual 13 MP rear cameras, 5 MP front camera
  • Non-removable 3,300 mAh battery
  • Android 7.0 Nougat
  • 148.9 x 71.9 x 7.9 mm, 163 g

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HTC U11

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The HTC 10 was one of our favorite Android phones of 2016, and for good reason. The Taiwanese company absolutely nailed the design of the 10, and it worked hard at scaling back the software to make it feel like the bare-bones Android experience we all know and love. And while it didn’t have a bunch of gimmicky extras, that was okay. The HTC 10 was a solid Android phone that nailed the basics.

Now HTC is back with the 10’s successor, the HTC U11. With an eye-catching, glossy design, all-day battery life, and a smooth and snappy software experience, the U11 competes toe-to-toe with the Galaxy S8 and LG G6 when it comes to performance. It also has one of the best smartphone cameras on the market, according to DxOMark.

The standout feature on the U11 is something HTC calls Edge Sense. The sides of the phone are pressure sensitive, and this allows you to physically squeeze the phone to activate a specific function or open an app like the camera or web browser. Having to squeeze your phone to make it do something does sound a bit odd, but we’ve really found this feature to come in handy.

Before you go out and spend $650 on this baby, there are a few things you should know. For starters, this phone doesn’t have a 3.5 mm headphone jack, meaning you’ll either need to use Bluetooth headphones or carry around the included headphone adapter everywhere you go. Also, while HTC’s Sense is one of our favorite Android skins out there, it is feeling a bit dated at this point.

If you can get past those few caveats, though, the U11 will certainly not disappoint.

Specs

  • 5.5-inch IPS LCD display with 2560 x 1440 resolution, 534 ppi
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor
  • 4/6 GB of RAM
  • 64/128 GB of on-board storage, microSD expansion up to 256 GB
  • 12 MP rear camera, 16 MP front camera
  • 3,000 mAh battery
  • Android 7.1.1 Nougat
  • 153.9 x 75.9 x 7.9 mm, 169 g

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Google Pixel and Pixel XL

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Google’s Pixel and Pixel XL are here, and they truly are some amazing smartphones.

Not only are they the first phones to ship with the Google Assistant on board, they also come with plenty of exclusive software features and some of the best smartphone cameras in existence.

Under the hood, they sport some killer specs, too. Both devices have an AMOLED display, a Snapdragon 821 processor, 4 GB of RAM, plenty of on-board storage and long-lasting batteries. The overall design of these phones may not be the most unique, but they do feel like premium phones through and through.

There are a few things about these phones that will turn some people away, though. For starters, they only sport an IP53 rating for dust and water resistance, meaning they’re not nearly as waterproof as the Galaxy S7 or S7 Edge. There are ways around that, but none that will make the devices truly waterproof. Plus, if you buy the Verizon model, you’ll have to deal with a small amount of bloatware (though you will be able to uninstall it), you won’t be able to unlock the bootloader, and Verizon will be handling all Pixel and Pixel XL software updates (though the company swears it won’t delay them).

If you’re in the market for a new flagship Android phone and don’t mind spending over $650, you should buy the Pixel or Pixel XL… these are two of the best Android phones out there.

Specs

Google Pixel

  • 5.0-inch AMOLED display with 1920 x 1080 resolution, 441 ppi
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor
  • 4 GB of RAM
  • 32/128 GB of on-board storage, no microSD expansion
  • 12.3 MP rear camera, 8 MP front camera
  • Non-removable 2,770 mAh battery
  • Android 7.1 Nougat
  • 143.8 x 69.5 x 8.6 mm, 143 g

Google Pixel XL

  • 5.5-inch AMOLED display with 2560 x 1440 resolution, 534 ppi
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor
  • 4 GB of RAM
  • 32/128 GB of on-board storage, no microSD expansion
  • 12.3 MP rear camera, 8 MP front camera
  • Non-removable 3,450 mAh battery
  • Android 7.1 Nougat
  • 154.7 x 75.7 x 8.6 mm, 168 g

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Essential Phone

 
 
This phone has received a ton of media attention, thanks in large part to the fact that Andy Rubin, the co-creator of the Android OS, founded the company that created the Essential Phone.  It alos helps that the phone itself has some solid hardware inside. The first thing people notice about it is the near bezel-free display, with a small amount on the bottom and nothing on top; the screen wraps around its front-facing camera. The screen itself is 5.7 inches and is a QHD display with a 19:10 aspect ratio.
 
Inside, the Essential Phone has the fast Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, with 4 GB of RAM and 128 GB of onboard storage. It also contains dual 13 MP rear cameras, an 8 MP front facing camera and a 3,040 mAh battery. The phone also has some magnetic connectors on the back that are designed to connect to extra accessories, such as an upcoming 360 degree camera and a charging station. Even the chassis of the phone is made of premium materials, with a titanium main body and a ceramic back.
 
You can get the unlocked version of the Essential phone from Amazon right now for $699.99. It will work with all four major US wireless carriers.

Specs

  • 5.7-inch display with 2,560 x 1,312 resolution, 19:10 ratio
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 mobile platform
  • 4 GB of RAM
  • 128 GB of on-board storage, no microSD expansion
  • Dual 13 MP rear cameras, 8 MP front camera
  • Non-removable 3,040 mAh battery
  • Android 7.1.1 Nougat
  • 2.8 x 0.3 x 5.6 inches, 6.6 ounces

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There you have it – our picks of the best unlocked Android phones you can buy right now. Missed anything? Tell us in the comments!

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