Aug 08 AT 8:01 PM Taylor Wimberly 90 Comments

Best unlocked Android phones for any budget

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Earlier this year I started writing buyers’ guides for every carrier, and I intended to update them each month. Then I got fed up with the locked phones and service contracts that carriers offered, so I ported my number to Google Voice, paid Verizon my $300 ETF, signed up for a pre-paid plan, and went back to using unlocked devices.

For consumers on a tight budget, switcing to the pre-paid world can be challenging at first. The cost of leaving your carrier during the middle of a contract or the cost of buying an unlocked phone could force you to spend 3-6x times your monthly carrier bill.

Once you get past the initial expenses, your savings could quickly add up. I switched from Verizon to Straight Talk (AT&T), which instantly saved me around $50 per month, or roughly $600 per year. That same $600 is about the cost of most high-end Android phones that are unlocked and sold without a service contract. This means your potential first-year savings could absorb the entire cost of any new Android phone you want.

After making the switch to using an unlocked Android phone on Straight Talk, I see no real reason to return to the land of locked phones and post-paid service plans. I have the freedom to choose the device I want, I can choose what network it operates on, I can decide what software it runs, and I can switch from device to device, and carrier to carrier, without signing another contract.

There are many places to purchase unlocked phones, and I have found that Amazon Wireless offers the largest selection, lowest prices, and fastest service. I’m a member of Amazon Prime so I get free 2-day shipping on most items, but it’s still a good deal even with shipping added in.

If you are considering making the switch to an unlocked phone, here is some advice from someone that just made the journey.

What is an unlocked phone?

Unlocked devices are phones that recognize SIM (Subscriber Identification Module) cards from any carrier. A locked phone will only recognize a SIM card from a particular carrier. The “lock” is a software setting that keeps the cell phone “loyal” to one carrier.

Why should I buy an unlocked phone?

We have already touched on some reasons to shred your wireless contract, but I’ll recap some of the highlights.

  • Unlocked phones cost less in the long run. Do the math.
  • Unlocked phones are not altered by a carrier. No need to worry about crap apps or gimped hardware.
  • Unlocked phones receive Android updates faster directly from the manufacturer vs carrier locked phones.
  • Unlocked phones give consumers more control of plans and pricing. No contracts, no commitments, no hidden fees.

Why should I not buy an unlocked phone?

Unlocked phones are not for everyone. Some reasons you might want to pass on unlocked phones include:

  • No 4G LTE access. In the future we might see pre-paid service plans with 4G LTE, but right now you are limited to HSPA+.
  • Large families might be better off with a post-paid plan. Rates vary from carrier to carrier, but a family plan with shared minutes and data might be cheaper than a bunch of individual pre-paid plans.
  • No in-store support. If you enjoy walking into your local carrier store to get support with your phone, then you might pass on an unlocked device. Most carriers will not provide support for a device they did not sell, so you will have to turn to the manufacturer for help and warranty claims.

What US networks support unlocked phones?

AT&T and T-Mobile both use the GSM standard and support unlocked phones. Verizon and Sprint rely on the CDMA (Code division multiple access) standard and they will not work with unlocked GSM phones.

Most unlocked phones that were designed for the international market will have no problems running on AT&T’s network. T-Mobile USA uses different HSPA+ bands (1700/2100 MHz), which most international phones do not support.

Most unlocked phones will still operate on T-Mobile’s 2G Edge network, but they will not have access to the faster HSPA+ speeds. However, T-Mobile does plan to launch HSPA+ service on the 1900 MHz band by the end of 2012, so they will eventually support many unlocked devices at faster data speeds.

Some devices like the Galaxy Nexus support up to five bands (850, 900, 1700, 1900, 2100 MHz) and will operate on both AT&T and T-Mobile. Check the bands on an unlocked phone before you make your purchase.

What are the best service plans for unlocked phones?

This topic deserves a separate post (coming soon), but here is a quick summary. Unlocked phones can be used on most of AT&T’s and T-Mobile’s service plans, but using those won’t net you any extra savings. The best option is to go prepaid with services such as Straight Talk SIM, Simple Mobile, or T-Mobile Monthly 4G.

I chose Straight Talk SIM because they let you choose between AT&T’s or T-Mobile’s network.

Tips for Buying from Amazon

Check who is selling and fulfilling the product: Amazon uses a number of sellers throughout their site. Each product listing will have a featured merchant, but click through the list of sellers to review all your buying options. Some products are shipped by the seller and others are fulfilled through Amazon’s own warehouses. Amazon provides reviews for each seller, so read up on the recent comments if you have any concerns.

Prices will fluctuate daily: You might notice prices jumping up and down before you buy, because of the number of merchants that Amazon uses. One seller might offer a product for $30 cheaper than the competition and then they will sell out and the price will jump back up.

Amazon guarantee: You can buy with confidence because Amazon offers A-to-z Guarantee Protection. The condition of the item you buy and its timely delivery are guaranteed.

Read the reviews: We are providing our picks for the best unlocked Android phone at every price point, but don’t take us as the final word. I encourage you to read the user reviews to see what people are saying about the product.

Best unlocked phone for $600-699: Samsung Galaxy S III

The Good: Large HD display, Fast CPU (Snapdragon S4 or Exynos 4 Quad), 1-2 GB RAM, Android 4.0 (Android 4.1 coming later), excellent camera experience, hacker friendly.

The Not-so-good: Samsung hasn’t been the fastest to deliver software updates.

Final Words: The Galaxy S III is one of the best unlocked phones that money can buy, in terms of hardware. However, you can get a pretty similar experience from the HTC One X for around $100 less. The Galaxy S III is the only unlocked phone on this list with 2 GB RAM (which bodes well for future Android updates), but I’m not sure that justifies the price.

Full Review: Check out Anthony’s review of the Galaxy S III.

Last Amazon price$609 - Unlocked GSM version with dual-core Snapdragon S4 and 2 GB RAM, $629 - Unlocked international GSM version with quad-core Exynos 4 and 1 GB RAM

Best unlocked phone for $500-599: Samsung Galaxy Note

The Good: Largest HD display on a smartphone, unique S Spen stylus to take notes.

The not-so-good: Some small hands and pockets can’t handle the 5.3 inch display, Galaxy Note 2 is expected to be announced in August, Snapdragon S3 processor is slower than the Snapdragon S4 found in the new Galaxy S III.

Final Words: It might be the best Android phone in this price range, but I’d hold off my purchase until the Galaxy Note 2 is unveiled.

Last Amazon Price: $549

Best unlocked phone for $400-499: HTC One X

The Good: Amazing camera experience, beautiful design, Beats audio, large vibrant display, latest generation CPU, best version of Sense UI yet, hacker friendly, NFC.

The not-so-good: No microSD card, battery is non-removable.

Final Words: The HTC One X offers a premium Android experience  with a price that beats the top competitors. Design stands out above the rest. HTC enables you to unlock the bootloader, and there is a growing development community that supports the device.

Full Review: Check out Taylor’s review of the HTC One X.

Last Amazon Price: $495 for unlocked version with Tegra 3 and 16 GB storage, $555 for the unlocked version with Tegra 3 and 32 GB storage

Best unlocked phone for $300-399: Samsung Galaxy Nexus

The Good: Only smartphone shipping with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, usually one of the first devices to receive new versions of Android, hacker friendly, large display, replaceable battery.

The not-so-good: Camera experience is now lacking compared to newer phones like the One X and Galaxy S III, no expandable storage, OMAP4 processor lags behind Snapdragon S4 and Tegra 3, we expect a new Nexus device to go on sale in Q4.

Final Words: The Samsung Galaxy Nexus delivers the most bang for the buck. The software experience is so good that you sometimes forget this phone is about to be a year old. If you don’t mind the camera does not match up to the One X and Galaxy S III, and the device has no expandable storage.

Last Google Price: Galaxy Nexus HSPA+ – $349

Best unlocked phone for $200-299: HTC One V

The Good: Bright 3.7 inch Super LCD2 display, Android 4.0, mircoSD slot, dedicated imaging chip with same high-end camera experience from One X, Beats audio, and hacker friendly.

The not-so-good: Only 4 GB total storage, display resolution of 800×480 is now considered average, battery is non-user replaceable.

Final Words: Great camera experience for the price you pay. But if you don’t really care about the camera, then I’d still suggest spending the extra $50 and get the Galaxy Nexus.

Last Amazon Price: $298

Best unlocked phone for $100-199: Sony Xperia Mini Pro

The Good: Just upgraded to Android 4.0, slide-out QWERTY keyboard, 1 GHz CPU, 5 MP camera, front-facing camera, FM radio, and microSD expansion slot.

The not-so-good: Low-resolution 480 x 320 display, only 400 MB internal storage space.

Final Words: Finding a phone with Android 4.0 and a 1 GHz CPU is a pretty good deal for under $200. The display is only 3 inches, but having the QWERTY keyboard helps with text input.

Last Amazon Price$199

Best unlocked phone for $0-99: Motorola Sprice XT300

The Good: Price, slide-out QWERTY keyboard, 3 MP camera, and microSD expansion slot.

The not-so-good: Only Android 2.1, low-resolution display, only 400 MB internal storage, and don’t expect it to receive software updates.

Final Words: I can’t believe I’m recommending this phone, but it’s hard to find much else below $99. The LG Optimus One would be a better pic when the price falls, and it’s already down to $114.

Last Amazon Price: $99

Wrapping Things Up

Anyone looking for a high-end device will be happy with the HTC One X or Samsung Galaxy S III. I have been using both devices and you can really tell they are a step ahead of phones from last year.

Even the Samsung Galaxy Nexus offers a premium Android experience at an affordable price of $349. The camera is lacking and the OMAP4 CPU is a year old, but the pure Android 4.1 Jelly bean experience is unmatched.

Looking down the list, it is pretty impressive that you can get an Android 4.0 device for under $200. Once you dip below $100 you start to see the choices drop off, but that should improve as we reach the holiday season. Amazon doesn’t sell many phones from the Chinese manufacturers like Huawei and ZTE, but those companies are also helping drive down prices of the low-end phones.

Let us know if you spot any unlocked devices that might be a better pick at any of the price points. We plan to regularly update this as we search out the best deals for unlocked Android phones.

Taylor is the founder of Android and Me. He resides in Dallas and carries the Samsung Galaxy S 4 and HTC One as his daily devices. Ask him a question on Twitter or Google+ and he is likely to respond. | Ethics statement

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  • Will

    Does Straight Talk limit you to a certain amount of mb on their “4G”?

    • http://htcsource.com Nick Gray

      They do not advertise a hard limit, but I think the general rule of thumb is 2GB.

    • herbivore83

      Based on customer comments I’ve read, Straight Talk will sometimes throttle based on a 2GB monthly limit or a 100MB daily limit. Their terms and conditions are very ambiguous, but they do reserve the right to throttle.

    • Pratap

      I am using Straight Talk on my Galaxy Nexus for the last 3 months and they are pretty descent in their service.

      Last month I got an automated call from the them saying “You are using too much of data and Straight Talk reserves every right to discontinue your service”. I am not sure but I think my usage was above 2 GB then.

      After that I started observing my internet ussge :)

    • co.ag.2005

      read through this thread for more info

      http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1455014

    • jonathan3579

      I’ve been using Straight Talk (T-Mobile compatible sim) for the past two months and I’ve been averaging 3-5gb at the end of my cycle. Speeds are directly on par with what I had on the $30/mo plan so I highly recommend them!

  • YellowDucati

    It is great informative post like this that makes Android and Me so great.

  • http://htcsource.com Nick Gray

    My wife been itching to find a good replacement for her Nexus One. The best option so far is the HTC One V since it has a great camera and it’s nearly the same size as her Nexus.

    • Dave

      Except the One V is more of a sidegrade than an upgrade from the Nexus One, they both have 1 Ghz single core processors, 512 MB of ram, and a 3.7 in 800×480 screen. Unless size and camera quality are your absolute top priorities, the Galaxy Nexus has way more bang for the buck for only $50 more.

    • Jacob

      Wait for the new nexus at the end of this year. It will be the best in my opinion.

  • Nate B.

    I meant to take this route when you mentioned it a while back. I ran into trouble, but once I get back on my feet I will be using Unlocked phones from now on. Mainly the Nexus line. Nexus for carriers are not really a Nexus to me. They are guaranteed an update but not in the same fashion as the GSM. Not worried about LTE. HSPA and + are awesome in my area as I just checked for AT&T.It’ll be even better once they start to adopt LTE to.

  • Saif

    Huawei Ideos u8150 with Android 2.2 & Huawei x3 (updated to ICS)

  • Caleb

    Atrix 4g on Straight Talk is an awesome phone. Especially if you can find one with an unlocked bootloader. Running Cm10 right now is pretty sweet. Not bad for a phone that’s almost two years old. Because they are older phones, they can be bought relatively cheaply second hand. I just picked one up on Craigslist for $150 recently. $150 for a phone with a qHD display, 16GB on board storage, 1Ghz Tegra 2 processor, 1GB of RAM, and an official ICS update coming in the next few months. What more could you ask for? If you can’t tell, I love my Atrix. I think it’s the best Android deal out there right now for budget smartphone power users.

  • droilfade

    wonderful article! I could do this…only if there were similar options in Canada! Even with an unlocked phone I still have to shell out $50 a month if I want a GB of data….such a ripoff!

    • Soul_Est

      What about WIND Mobile or Koodo?

  • Bpear96

    The $499 One X on Amazon, is not the tegra 3 model. The seller is listing it under the wrong model on amazon “16GB UNLOCKED AT&T Version with 4G and dual-core! ”
    The cheapest one on amazon is $539.99 from FGS Trading

    • http://androidandme.com Taylor Wimberly

      Looks like the devices for $530 are the 32 GB, Tegra 3 model. I’ve seen the 16 GB, Tegra 3 and 16 GB Snapdragon S4 for around $499.

      • Bpear96

        Yeah im sure you can find a 16gb model for $499, but just letting you know, that the one you linked to wasnt a tegra 3 model :)

  • Bpear96

    Im personally using a AT&T One X that i got on XDA-Developers market place for $400 (used, good condition) (worth a checking out), on Straight Talk. Works great.
    My mom is using a Xperia Arc S, she got new on newegg.com for $250 (was on sale)
    Newegg openbox is a great place to look BTW, they dont always have good stuff there, but when they do, you can find a great deal, i recently saw a I9300 SGS3 on there for $450 open box.

  • Dave Clary

    I have four unlocked phones on a T-Mobile plan, all with 2GB of data, and it’s only costing me $110 bucks a month. If you own your own phone, T-Mobile has some great deals. I’m the lone family member not on the plan because I’m using an international Galaxy Note that doesn’t work on 3G/HSPA so I’m on the Straight Talk plan as well. I’d love to join the rest of my family on T-Mo but I want an unlocked phone. I’m leaning towards an unlocked GS3 now but I really want to see what the next Nexus phone(s) are gonna bring us.

    • jam

      Tmo prepaid 2GB is 60/mo so 4x=240

      Article doesnt give many prepaid options exc TmoPrepaid & ST, which throttles you & told me they only provide 3G services & Tmo “4g” wouldnt work. (3 reps told me same thing)..SimplyM has never responded to any of my custserv emsils so i gave up..Guess no cdma prepaid with any phone & att wpuld charge same as postpaid but w/o the subsidy

      • Dave Clary

        I’m not talking pre-pay. These are post pay plans listed as “sim card only” plans on their site. We have 1000 shared anytime minutes, 2GB data on each phone, unlimited texting, and free TMO to TMo calling. For four lines, my last bill was $96 with a small military discount. It will go up $15-20 in 2014 after a promotion runs out. I think it’s an outstanding deal if you can live with 2GB data.

  • Matthew Galo

    I am thinking of leaving Verizon in the fall when the next Nexus comes out. I plan on purchasing it from Google Play and using a T-Mo prepaid 4G plan. This way I will get all the latest updates from Google without Verizon having any say.

    • cb2000a

      Hopefully they will have better coverage by then. The one saving grace that T-Mo has is wifi calling, but an unlocked phone will not have this.

      • Josh

        if you utilize T-Mo’s service, Bobsled, yes it is a great feature. But i didn’t want to sign up for it.
        So, i use Google Voice & an app called “Groove IP” which uses my Google Voice # to make calls (free verision=wifi only, paid version=wifi&3g calls).

        running T-MO’s $30/mo (100 min, unlim text, 5gb data) it’s great!

  • John

    If you’re in the UK, looking for a cheap phone then Vodafone have a Huawei G300 for £100.

    4 inch screen (~233 ppi pixel density)
    4 GB ROM , 512 MB RAM
    CPU 1 GHz Cortex-A5
    GPU Adreno 200

    http://shop.vodafone.co.uk/shop/mobile-phone/huawei-ascend-g300-payg

    Would this count as a “mid-range” phone still?
    All I know is that its pretty good value and would serve many customers well, especially now that the ICS update is rolling out!!!

    (I swear i don’t work for Vodafone)

  • Charlesbrown79

    I use at least 5gb a month in data. Sadly post paid has to be for me.

    • http://www.infotainmentempire.com pekosROB

      My last month (the first with my GS3) was a record in data usage – 9.43 GB. The record for me before that was several years ago around 5 GB when I could tether with my Nokia N86.

      Last month I wasn’t even trying to be a data hog. It just happened.

      • http://androidandme.com Taylor Wimberly

        How did you consume almost 10 GB of data?

        • http://www.infotainmentempire.com pekosROB

          Mostly Spotify, I had it download some tracks locally, as well as stream a ton of radio. A little bit of video here and there, but it was almost all music.

          Also updates and apps since I just got the GS3 I had to redownload a lot. I’m on the fourth day of my billing cycle and at 636 MB, so we’ll see if I use that much again.

  • gene

    Agree entirely except for the suggestion that with an unlocked phone you’re among the first to receive the latest Android update – mine is a Galaxy S2 and we were among the very last to receive the ICS update.

  • Simon

    Why did AVG said that this article has infected with Phoenix exploit kit (type 769)?

  • Viet Tran

    I feel like the Samsung Nexus S (i9020 variant) could and should replace the HTC One V at the $200-299 price point. Besides the vastly better camera and Beats audio improvements in the One V, the Nexus S Hummingbird CPU is comparable in performance when it comes to general usage and the PowerVR SGX 540 GPU crushes the Adreno 205 when it comes to 3D performance. Though color correct nerds will object, I’d say more people will prefer the saturated colors and inky blacks Super AMOLED displays are known for on the Nexus S while being even in resolution to the S-LCD 2 in the One V. The One V also doesn’t have NFC built in, whereas the Nexus S does. The biggest advantage though, is that the i9020 variants have been recently updated to Android 4.1, so it’s going to be able to take advantage of the Project Butter improvements. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Nexus S sees Key Lime Pie before it’s officially EOL’d. To me, it’s easily the best value when it comes to entry-mid-level handsets.

  • ——–

    The Dell Venue Pro is a big windows phone, but only $150 on eBay. That’s what I’m getting. And soon it’ll have 4g on tmobile.

    • Dustin Earley

      Are you actually looking for a Windows Phone?

  • marcus

    Excellent and informative article Taylor, def useful for me. Thank you.

  • Pjamies

    No continuing comment about Google Voice, and the fact that you moved your number to it.
    Also, the fact that it does not exist in Canada yet, pisses me off big time!

  • Tojen

    Seen an article yesterday about walmart selling the t-mobile galaxy note off contract for $349. I assume it also has the 3g at&t bands and would be sweet deal if it’s true.

    • http://androidandme.com Taylor Wimberly

      That was a pricing error, and I don’t think the TMO Note has AT&T 3G bands.

      • Tojen

        Yeah after I typed it, I tried to find the article and it had been pulled.

  • Mix

    Unlocked is the next route I take as Bell offers you 10% of your monthly bill if you bring in an unlocked phone so that would be a nice little chunk of savings each month.

  • Nathan D.

    Nice article, my mom and I been looking at pre-paid plans for a while since the phone bill is getting higher and higher for some reason and pre-paid is so much cheaper.

  • http://www.focuszonedevelopment.com Homncruse

    I’ve seen conflicting reports about the international HTC One X and T-Mobile bands — does it work with full speed (3G only, HSPA+ 21 or 42?) or not?

    Secondly, regarding Straight Talk with T-Mobile, assuming a compatible phone and service area, is the service capable of the HSPA+ 21/42, or is it limited to 3G as well?

    • http://androidandme.com Taylor Wimberly

      The international HTC One X only does HSPA+ 21 Mbps, and I don’t think it has T-Mobile 3G bands.

      In my testing, I have found that I get HSPA+ speeds on Straight Talk with AT&T.

      • Dave Clary

        The same is true for the Note and the S3. It’s a damn shame because I would by the S3 for the quad core processor. As it is, I’ll probably wait to see what the next Nexus phone is (but this decision changes hourly). :-)

      • http://www.focuszonedevelopment.com Homncruse

        Thanks Taylor. Just to verify, that means that if I’m traveling around and I go from an HSPA+ area to a 2G/3G area (no HSPA+), I’ll get the 2G speeds, but the HSPA+ band isn’t a problem?

        If so, that’s okay with me, since I live in western Washington with T-Mobile HQ in Bellevue only a few miles from where I work, so I don’t really experience the “3G coverage only”. It’s almost always all-or-nothing (usually all, since I don’t go out to the middle of nowhere often).

  • Bpear96

    Sony Xperia Sola looks like a nice alternative for the one v at $275 on amazon, and if found it for $250 new on other sites. Almost same specs as One V, but a bump to a 1ghz dual core processor, Novathor with Mali 400 GPU. Sony screens and cameras, are usually pretty nice as well.
    http://www.amazon.com/Sony-MT27i-WHT-Dual-Core-Processor-Touchscreen–U-S/dp/B008DSBTAG/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1344538709&sr=8-2&keywords=xperia+sola

    Comes in red, black and white

    Still you might as well spend a little more and get a Gnexus lol

    • Bpear96
    • http://androidandme.com Taylor Wimberly

      Yeah it’s a nice phone, but still ships with Android 2.3. I’m sure Sony will update it soon.

      • Bpear96

        Yeah it looks nice. Sony said Q3 for ICS release. The recently updated the Xperia P to ICS, so im sure the Xperia sola isnt to far down the line. They updated 2011, so id say they have a pretty good track record of updating there devices, so far.

        • Bpear96

          They updated pretty much all of there 2011 devices* is what i meant.

  • MoSDeeb

    I always recommend to my friends to get the latest Nexus phone if they are going Android. I personally do which to me is the best decision to make when purchasing an Android phone.

    • rafaelrossi

      waiting for the next nexus…

  • Orion78

    Great article. I have the Sprint Galaxy Nexus and I love this device. But once fall comes around, I’m going to get the new Nexus straight from the play store. I have wifi at home so data usage wont be a problem for me. Going the way of the Nexus from year to year from now on.

  • Jpone

    You might want to change that list again, next month you can look forward to this pretty badass phone, and its only at 250$ off contract

    http://www.bluproducts.com/pro-detail/vivo43

  • txbluesman

    I think I will be going this route right after the first of the year.

  • Jackie

    This is all so exciting, I just purchased the GNex from the Play Store, I’m ready to split with Sprint and their contracts! I’m planning to use Straight Talk and I’m hoping all will go well. Did I tell you I’ll be 70 on my next birthday? I’m an old lady that loves Android, I might need help though, everyone in my family uses dumb phones. I’ve had Android phones since the Samsung Moment came out. This is gonna be a HUGE Step for me!! But I’m really excited!!

    • leganzish

      Jackie I’m so excited for you! I just left Sprint 2 weeks ago for the GNex on Straight Talk (T-Mobile). I hope you will be as happy as I am with my decision. I doubt you’ll regret it!

  • Max.Steel

    One of the best posts on Android and Me. Point blank. Sick of those articles that tell people to go sign shitty contracts for phones when you can get them at fairly good prices off contract. STOP SIGNING CONTRACTS, PEOPLE. Save that money you would use to pay bills and buy a good or decent phone.

    • Kintaeb

      Hell, switching from contract to prepaid saves around $1000, so you are saving even more than just the price bump in your phone.

  • james

    Hello Everyone,

    Firstly a lot thanks for posting this blog. This is one of the very essential blog for Android phone users. Even I was struggling with this LOCK Feature that confined me for particular network. Its now I also got a place to get Unlocked Android Phone. Thanks for all, who contributed for this blog.

  • Ferdie

    Nice too see Samsung Galaxy Note on this list. I can really recommend it. It’s a phablet (phone and tablet in one) with a lower price than SGS III. Plus, the design is very good at it’s price tag.
    Take a look at the Galaxy SIII and the Samsung Galaxy Note right next to each othe rin this video:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_63686VIMU

    This proves it all for me. :)

  • theviper21

    Thanks for this article! My wife is currently stuck with Sprint and I didn’t realize there were any options out there for plans w/ unlimited data, txt, and minutes quite so low. Unlocked is definitely the way to go; I hate all of the bloatware they load Android phones up with for branded devices.

  • erktheerk

    Check out Ting. Its a phone service with adjustable talk, text and web. Goes great with unlocked phones. Super cheap

    • ibap

      Ting runs on Sprint which is CDMA, and currently there is not really any such thing as an ‘unlocked’ CDMA phone. This article is aimed at GSM phones. Ting IS a cool option though, but right now you have to buy one of their phones. They will be introducing an option to use any Sprint phone in the 4th quarter.

  • Dick

    Any special concerns in buying an unlocked Android phone in the US (through Google or Amazon) and then using it abroad by buying a local SIM? In this case, the user would be in Israel most of the time. The phone I have in mind in the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. Also on Amazon it is called the Samsung I9250 Galaxy Nexus 16GB (Unlocked), and I want to be sure they are actually the same model. With taxes and shipping the Google price is $390 and on Amazon Prime, $403, but with quicker shipping and easy returns. Any other differences to consider between the two sellers?

  • theviper21

    Thanks for the recommendations! I just bought a Sony Xperia for my wife and she’s going to use the Straight Talk $45 plan; much better deal than she was getting through Sprint and better wireless coverage to boot.

  • Anthony Farrior

    The MTK6577 Chip has made it cheaper to make a dual-core android phone. Look into Bluproducts.com next.

  • nick bandison

    IM LOOKING TO GO THIS ROUTE BUT WHO HAS THE BEST SERVICE IM WITH TMOBILE CURRENTLY BUT I WANT TO LEAVE

  • David

    I have an unlocked Galaxy Nexus and I am very happy with it. Even though it may not be as good as the S3 I already have Andriod Jelly Bean with so really cool features and it runs really fast. I think buying an unlocked phone is the best choice because it gives you the ability to change phones and carriers and you can get a month to month plan instead of a 2 year contract. If you are looking for an unlocked phone but not wanting to spend $600 bucks you might look at the Galaxy Nexus. Here is a review of the phone:

    http://www.davidhagy.com/galaxy-nexus-first-impressions/

  • Benjamin Cardenas

    can you still use an unlocked HTC phone even without any microSD? just a regular sim card for talk and text?

    • Benjamin Cardenas

      for tmobile without any plan just talk and text.

  • Carla

    THANK YOU!!!
    I am getting out of my iPhone contract (family is trying to cut back on bills). When I have gone to different sites to get information on how to work with an unlocked phone and the services provided, I was completely lost. And as I scratch my head in confusion, I’m still getting my iPhone bill.
    I am a bit anxious about severing my contract with AT&T. But with no other options for us (my husband and I) we needed to try a different route.
    We are really looking for a phone to talk/text. But the idea that we could have a data plan for $45?? zoinks!! amazing!!!
    Anywho… This is a great start for me. I’ll update about my adventure!

  • George

    All the prepay plans for an unlocked phones seem to be for GMA….. my phone if I unlock it is CDMA 850 1900 2000 1xEV-DO. (Kyocera Hydro)

    I would like to unlock it cause Boost hassssssss really pissed me off!!

    • George

      AND……. going to a lower cost monthly plan would be GREAT. I rarely get calls and do very little texting. Unlimited web though is a plus…. Look forward to suggestions

  • marvin nubwaxer

    nothing will be able to touch the nexus 4 at $299 new. then you get the T-Mobile $30/month prepaid unlimited data, 100 minutes voice plan and ignore people bitching that it’s not LTE. it’s HSPA+42, meaning speeds UP TO 42 Mb/second. T-Mobile has good coverage all over California and even at 10% max speed it still beats my comcast cable broadband.
    I’m no expert or tech geek, but have looked into this for days and have always used prepaid. T-Mo is the cheapest and most straightforward provider. i wish i could get paid for endorsing them but i don’t.

  • Jerry Windham

    Thanks for the great review. Update: There is a new carrier in the unlocked space offering unlimited 4G Talk, Text and Data for $49 / mo or Less. The less comes by virtue of Solaveiâ„¢ being a new Social Commerce company backed by several of America’s largest retailers, which pays its customers to spread the news. This model helps with the large family issue mentioned because one family member can refer the rest and generate commissions to effectively reducing the individual cost. If they choose to refer a few more, their bill can become free or even pay them more than it costs. Please have a look and expand your review. http://EzClx.Us/s1

  • goku2k

    If only there were good pre-paid MVNO’s on VZW’s network. It’s the only that has good coverage in my area.

  • daveyo

    Sadley, I am in a pickle…Where I live in FL only gets Verizon (CDMA) for reception. I really want to get into the straight talk plan..Here is the problem, I work overseas and require a GSM (sim) phone to communicate…I wonder if straight talk will let me be on there CDMA towers and still be able to use the phone overseas…Phone is a unlocked RAZR HD MAXX..(CDMA and GSM band)

  • Dawn Richards

    Can anyone give me advise about the PAE unlocked phones?

  • melissa simons

    Great Article
    Im looking for a cheap video phone.I would like the new samsung galaxy Slll mini .
    It is to high in cost unlocked. I am checking out Samsung Galaxy Ace 2 i8160 it seems to have the 2 camera an all the supported gsm freq i want to use it on Net10.

    Im willing to spend over $250 – $320 also want a warranty. Im trying to figure out which place to buy it from Newegg or Amazon but the seller im clueless some reviews a good some arent.Im affraid I will get a off brand phone.

    If you know any other good phones let me know.

  • David Linzey

    http://semitech.co/ is a great site for unlocked cell phones. The link bellow is for a really great unlocked android smartphone just $227.99. It has a 4.5 inch screen, dual core processor and 8MP back 3MP front camera.
    http://semitech.co/android-smartphone/3-unlocked-star-b94m-3g-android-41-smartphone-dual-core-1ghz-dual-sim.html

  • Sanil Chawla

    For cheap yet amazingly great Android phones, I recommend Blu brand phones. They are very affordable (a 5.3-inch unlocked is only $199) and are packed with amazing power for the price, almost competing with high-status phones like Samsung’s Galaxy line and other Android flagships. Overall, they’re great phones for a great price, and I’d recommend them to anyone looking for a budget-friendly unlocked phone.

  • techhsvvy

    I got my unlocked iPhone 5 from a site that sells directly from China. Alot cheaper without the domestic mark-ups, trust me. Highly recommended. http://www.iphonedirect.mybigcommerce.com

  • Jay C

    I actually found a online store that has good pricing on unlocked android phones I am sure there are many more but I purchased my Note N7000 unlocked at a great price eelectronicsunlockedphones.com

  • miss.meme

    This website is cool. I got a lot of info and sites to buy a phone. I also shop on this site negrielectronics.com they have legit top brand phones but the prices are pretty high. Good luck !

  • TechSavvy

    I got an awesome deal on my htc one. Anyone looking for cheap unlocked phones I strongly recommend these guys: smartphonedirect.mybigcommerce.com. Really low prices and free worldwide shipping.

  • Bob t

    Very good information on this page, however http://WWW.unlockedandroidphones.net seems to help me out a little more.

  • Steven

    I recently purchased a SIM card from Straight Talk to put in an unlocked phone I bought at http://www.flumongu7s.com. The SIM uses AT&T towers and I get awesome service. I have dealt with customer service before and I have to say they are the smartest group of people, no technical knowledge what so ever.