Apr 10 AT 1:05 PM Taylor Wimberly 56 Comments

Best unlocked Android phone for any budget: April 2013

unlocked-phone-630

Last year I made the jump to using unlocked Android phones on no-contract wireless plans, and I couldn’t be happier with the results. I saved a ton of money on my monthly bill, I can choose any Android phone I want, and I no longer have to rely on carriers to deliver my software updates.

If unlocked phones with no-contract plans are so great, then why aren’t more people shredding their contracts and switching? T-Mobile is leading the way with their new Simple Choice plans, and we expect the selection of unlocked devices will continue to grow.

For consumers on a tight budget, switcing to the unlocked world can be challenging at first. The cost of leaving your carrier during the middle of a contract and 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) and then to Solavei (T-Mobile), 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 unlocked Android phones, 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 shipping 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 already 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.
  • Unlocked phones give consumers more control of plans and pricing. No contracts, no commitments, no hidden fees.
  • Unlocked phones have a higher resale value.

Check out 7 Things you should know about no-contract smartphone service before you switch for more info.

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:

  • 4G LTE access is limited. T-Mobile finally has no-contract plans that support unlocked LTE devices, but their LTE network only covers seven cities. In the future we will see pre-paid service plans with 4G LTE from more MVNOs, but right now you are limited to T-Mobile.
  • Large families might be better off with a post-paid plan that has shared data. Rates vary from carrier to carrier, but a family plan with shared minutes and data might be cheaper than a bunch of individual no-contract plans.
  • No in-store support for most plans (T-Mobile Simple Choice is the exception). 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,  but they are currently refarming their network to support more phones.

T-Mobile is rolling out HSPA+ service on the 1900 MHz band, so they are starting to support many unlocked devices at faster data speeds in select markets. Currently, T-Mobile covers over 50 markets and 142 million people with their new 1900 MHz network. For areas that have not been upgraded, unlocked phones will still operate on T-Mobile’s 2G Edge network.

  • AT&T HSPA+ bands: 850/1900 MHz
  • T-Mobile HSPA+ bands: 1700/2100 MHz, 1900 MHz is 50+ markets (See airportal.de for 1900mhz coverage map)

Some devices like the Nexus 4 support up to five bands (850, 900, 1700, 1900, 2100 MHz) and will operate on both AT&T and T-Mobile with no problems. 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. You can also go with a reseller like Straight Talk SIM, Simple Mobile, or Solavei for additional savings.

I initially chose Straight Talk SIM because they let you choose between AT&T’s or T-Mobile’s network. Eventually, I ended up with Solavei (T-Mobile) since they offer the most data (4 GB) and a referral program.

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, so keep an eye on the sale prices. One seller might offer a device for $30 cheaper than the competition, but 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: Sony Xperia Z

sony-xperia-z-630

Original Release Date: February 2013

The Good: Full 1080p HD on a large 5” display, 13 megapixel camera with Sony Exmor RS sensor and HDR video capture, fast quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro processor, NFC, water-resistant, frame is made from glass fiber polyamide.

The Not-so-good: High price, some say the viewing angles on the display are not the best.

Networks supported: AT&T 4G HSPA+, T-Mobile 4G HSPA+ (in select cities)

Last Amazon price$668, down $120 from last month

Final Words: This is Sony’s best smartphone, but the price is hard to justify when you compare it with other devices. It did drop over $100 from last month, but we think the new HTC One or upcoming Samsung Galaxy S 4 are better picks.

Best unlocked phone for $500-599: HTC One

htc-one-silver-630

Original Release Date: April 2013

The Good: 4.7 inch 1080p display, dual front-facing speakers, amazing camera experience, latest Snapdragon 600 CPU, beautiful design, works with LTE on AT&T and T-Mobile.

The Not-so-good: No expandable storage, no removable battery.

Networks supported: AT&T 4G HSPA+/LTE, T-Mobile 4G HSPA+/LTE (in select cities)

Last HTC price: $574  for 32 GB, $649 for 64 GB

Final Words: The HTC One is our current favorite phone and it’s good to see HTC selling these devices unlocked from their online store. Quantities might be limited, so it could be hard to grab one for awhile.

Best unlocked phone for $400-499: Samsung Galaxy S III

Original Release Date: May 2012

The Good: Large HD display, fast Exynos 4 Quad processor, 1 GB RAM, Android 4.1, great camera experience, NFC, hacker friendly, removable battery, microSD slot.

The Not-so-good: After extended use, I prefer the camera experience on the HTC One X.

Networks supported: AT&T 4G HSPA+, T-Mobile 4G HSPA+ (in select cities)

Last Amazon price$449, prices are down $50 from December

Final Words: The Galaxy S III is still one of the best Android phones, but it will soon be replaced by the new Galaxy S 4. This would explain why the price has dropped $50 from last month and over $100 from a couple months ago.

Best unlocked phone for $300-399: Sony Xperia SL

sony-xperia-sl-630

Original Release Date: September 2012

The Good: 4.3 inch Reality Display with Mobile BRAVIA Engine, 12 megapixel camera with Exmor R sensor, fast dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor, NFC, 32 GB of internal storage, Android 4.1.

The not-so-good: No expandable storage.

Networks supported: AT&T 4G HSPA+, T-Mobile 4G HSPA+ (in select cities)

Last Amazon Price: $365, down $25 from last month

Final Words: The Sony Xperia SL is a great device, but it is kind of stuck in the middle. I would suggest getting the LG Nexus 4 or spending the extra cash and get the Samsung Galaxy S III or HTC One.

Best unlocked phone for $200-299: LG Nexus 4

Original Release Date: November 2012

The Good: Pure Android experience, updates straight from Google, NFC, wireless charging, beautiful display, fast Snapdragon S4 Pro processor.

The not-so-good: No expandable storage, no removable battery, camera is not as good as SGS3 or HTC One, glass back can crack.

Networks supported: AT&T 4G HSPA+, T-Mobile 4G HSPA+

Last Google Price: $299 for 8 GB, $349 for 16 GB, prices are unchanged from December

Final Words: This is the best unlocked Android phone for the price. It doesn’t have expandable storage and a removable battery like the Galaxy S III, but this device is selling for a lot less.

Best unlocked phone for $100-199: Sony Xperia E Dual

sony-xperia-e-dual

Original Release Date: April 2013

The Good: 3.5-inch display, 1 GHz Snapdragon CPU, 3.1 MP camera, expandable storage, dual-SIM slots, ships with Jelly Bean Android 4.1.

The not-so-good: Limited internal storage (4GB), no NFC.

Networks supported: AT&T 4G HSPA+, T-Mobile 4G HSPA+ (in select cities)

Last Amazon Price: $159, new to the list this month

Final Words: The new Xperia E Dual replaces the older Xperia U for the $100-199 price point. Sony stopped updating the Xperia U at Android 4.0, and the new Xperia E Dual ships with Android 4.1. The hardware specs are not super impressive, but it’s a good value for the current price.

Best unlocked phone for $0-99: Huawei Ideos

huawei-ideos-630

Original Release Date: September 2010

The Good: Low price point, stock Android UI.

The not-so-good: Stuck on Android 2.2, small 2.8 inch display, limited internal storage.

Networks supported: AT&T 4G HSPA+, T-Mobile 4G HSPA+

Last Amazon Price: $79, new to the list this month

Final Words: You get what you pay for, but the Huawei Ideos is a decent disposable phone for only $79.

Wrapping Things Up

When it comes to unlocked phones, the LG Nexus 4 is still the king when you consider the bang for the buck. It provides one of the best overall experiences and Google is selling it for half the price of competing phones. This would explain why the device has been extremely hard to get.

Our other top pick is the new HTC One. It tops the LG Nexus 4 in almost every way possible, but you are going to pay extra for the premium camera experience and aluminum unibody design.

The other thing to keep an eye on is the rumored Motorola X Phone, which could debut around Google IO in May. There is a good chance that this device might be sold through the Google Play Store, so it could be priced lower than the top high-end unlocked phones.

Looking down the list, it is pretty impressive that you can get an Android 4.1 device for under $200. Once you dip below $100 you start to see the choices drop off, but that should improve later this year. Amazon doesn’t sell too many phones from the Chinese manufacturers like Huawei and ZTE, but those companies are helping to drive down prices of the entry-level 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 list 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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  • http://www.jaxidian.org/update/ jaxidian

    I always like these articles for the low-end phones that my family and friends so often are interested in. Me, on the other hand, tend to go towards the other end of the spectrum (my N4 being an obvious exception).

    Thanks, Taylor!!

    • http://androidandme.com Taylor Wimberly

      I keep waiting for the ultimate Android phone under $100. The Huawei Ideos is decent at $79 but that phone is 3 years old!

      • redraider133

        I think within the next few years we will be able to have that. I mean like with tablets there is starting to get a lot more competition for high spec phones with cheap prices and google started the ball rolling with the pricing of their nexus devices.

      • kazahani

        It’s actually already happening with some of the prepaid carriers. Net10 just got the Galaxy Discover, which runs 4.0 and has a 3.5″ screen for $99.99. I don’t think this phone is unlocked out of the box, but it proves that decent GSM phones running a more up to date OS are feasible at the sub $100 price.

    • Arthur

      I also being a N4 owner typically never look at phones priced under $500 to $600 unlocked since that is usually what you have to spend to get anything higher than mid-range or flagship territory.

      The N4 though if not heavily subsidized by Google would easily be a $600+ phone as is the case in Europe where LG sells it for over $600+ unlocked.

      The HTC One Developer Edition for $649 with 64GB is a really hard phone to beat right now. It is the only phone aside from my N4 that I would currently consider and aside from the N5 and Motorola X phone or any significant Nexus or Motorola announcements we might see at I/O, no other phone captures my attention like the HTC One.

  • Adam Adams

    I like reading these articles, and they almost always make me want to get a new phone. The only problem is that I’m on Verizon in the US; there are no unlocked phones I know of that work on their network.

    But as all carriers continue transitioning to LTE, the old CDMA frequencies will be converted to LTE as well. LTE is technically a GSM technology, so I’m hoping that one day in the not too distant future Verizon will no longer be considered a CDMA carrier, but a true GSM carrier.

    Then I might be able to pick up a sweet unlocked phone that Verizon hasn’t hosed up with all their f-ing bloatware. And I’d be able to keep my truly unlimited data by staying away from Verizon’s subsidized phones.

    I can only hope…

    • Arthur

      I can’t imagine a day that Verizon will give up all the bloatware they load onto phones. With Android being a open OS and Apple not allowing any bloatware to be loaded onto their phones, Verizon has no options for putting their trampstamp on a device and load it up with useless apps.

      I also can’t see them adopting a similar T-Mobile like strategy anytime soon, they also want you to buy your phones from them so BYOD won’t work with them as far as unlocked phones go for the foreseeable future. Verizon and AT&T are neck and neck for the greediest carrier in the US and I don’t believe neither are wanting to give up that title anytime soon to help the consumer in any way.

      • redraider133

        they could still sell their bloated phones, but like currently with att and tmo you would be able to buy the international version unlocked with no bloat. One can dream anyway

      • Someone

        Correction:
        There is bloatware on I devices. The bloatware is preinstalled by APL and not the carriers.

        See stocks application by YAHOO! I don’t check stocks, and have no intention of ever using a stock checker on any platform or device (and if I needed to, I’d just Google it)

    • http://androidandme.com Taylor Wimberly

      Rumors suggest that VZW will start to shut down the CDMA network sometime in 2014-2015. Can’t wait for that to happen haha.

  • co.ag.2005

    Taylor, have you had any experience with the Blu branded phones? seem like good deals, but I don’t know much about the manufacturer

    http://bluproducts.com/

    http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=blu%20phones

  • Co1e

    This is one of my favorite running articles on the siteand its a great place to point friends when looking for an unlocked phone. Can’t wait to see where the x phone fits into this list later in the year. Good read as always. Thanks Taylor.

  • MC_Android

    I really wish Canada wouldn’t be excluded from these articles. If a staff is going to do the research for the US, they might as well do it for your northern neighbour as well.
    From what I can tell, there really is not much reason to get an unlocked phone in Canada because the prepaid plan are so limited in features and price. I really hope you guys will release an article proving me wrong

    • pjamies

      Agreed, but Canada is run by the 3 large telecom companies who dominate the landscape.
      Like all big business, large powerful companies like Rogers/Bell and Telus control what our government body does, and so controls only what they want to do/allow.
      They do not want cheap mobile phone service, it does not make them enough $$ and they lose control of you the enduser (aka. cash-cow). They want to lock you into long 3yr term agreements, and suck you dry, so they make pre-paid plans worthless and stupid.
      I hate big business, they stifle and kill small business, and destroy what is supposed to be good and pure in the world!
      Ok… I better stop there .. this is turing into a Rant!! .. lol

  • GBT

    Taylor, are you going to publish your comprehensive HTC One review soon? Many thanks.

    • http://androidandme.com Taylor Wimberly

      Yes I will publish my review before it hits the retail stores. Here is the best technical review to check out if you want to read something good – http://www.anandtech.com/show/6747/htc-one-review

      • GBT

        Thanks Taylor. The Anandtech review by Brian Klug on the HTC One is really good, though may be a bit technical for me other than the picture comparisons, which are really good and handy. I am definitely going to buy HTC One although I want to hear from you too. Could you tell me when you plan to publish yours? .

  • HeadDoc

    I am thinking Google will put out an LTE-capable Nexus 5 and/or Motorola will sell a solid mid-range X phone, that – along with T-Mobile’s new plans, could put a meaningful dent in Galaxy S4 sales (and save me hundreds of dollars a year, too!). We might be entering the era of of the $300 no-contract flagship phone…

    • http://androidandme.com Taylor Wimberly

      We already have a $300 no-contract flagship phone. The only feature it was missing was LTE, and the device actually supported it before Google turned it off hah.

      I’m more excited about a $199 no-contract Nexus phone.

  • donger

    Seems like the same phones every month.

  • Monk

    I think that the $199/249 Google phone after I/O will be the nexus 4.
    The same for the nexus 7, the current versions will go lower to $150/199.
    I hope that new improved versions will appear at the same price they are now.

  • pinyin_samu

    This is what is standard here in a lot of countries in Europe, like where I live in Belgium. Here it isn’t allowed at all to sell locked devices, they are all unlocked. So, you always have the freedom to choose your network for your device or switch to another if it fits you more in a cheap way.
    I’ve always found it strange devices locked to one carrier and you don’t have the choice of another. In my opinion when you want a phone, you buy a device, not a package or something else. I find locked devices more a dictatorial trade: “the consumer have to take all this, if he wants that”.

  • wildkarrde21

    I would add one more scenario to your “Why should I not buy an unlocked phone”: Corporate discounts. Those of us who have sold our soul to the Man do get pretty decent discounts off our post-paid plans and it has never made financial sense to go unlocked.

  • Daniel

    You guys forgot to add the LG Optimus G if you think the Galaxy S3 is that good. You won’t regret.

  • rauelius

    While it would have been a bit shorter list, anything between the Nexus 4 and the HTC One should be eliminated, as both are less potent than the Nexus 4, yet cost more. Also the Sony Phone should be eliminated. Not everyone is retarded like Apple’s customers…just because it’s more expensive doesn’t mean it’s better. In reality, it take one with a limited mindset to pay more for far less. Is the Sony Xperia Z better than either the HTC One or Nexus 4? No. Absolutley not in any case what-so-ever. However if you cut the fluff about the HTC One and between it and the Nexus 4 you actually have a pretty logical list.

  • ONO

    Thanks for them article. Was looking around for a budget smartphone since I’m leaving Republic Wireless for TMobile 2.0 and stumbled upon this article. Ended up buying the Xperia U over the E dual because of the specs

  • Robert

    What are the best Android smartphones to run on a Verizon MVNO, like PagePlus Cellular?

    Can any 4G phones, with JellyBean, be easily modified to run on a Verizon MVNO?

    A lot of us live in places where T-Mobile or AT&T doesn’t have good coverage, but Verizon does, so finding a good Android phone that can run on their network would be important. Any suggestions would be much appreciated.

  • Brian

    Do you happen to know if the LG Nexus 4 or the Sony Xperia E Dual would work in Europe? I am traveling abroad for several months and would rather buy an unlocked phone here and just get my SIMs in each country.

  • Verizon_Girl

    Wow… I can switch from my current state-of-the-art phone… to a low-end phone? And switch from an excellent nationwide carrier to an extremely limited coverage, local carrier? And switch from a free phone, to having to spend $600 for each phone in my family?

    What a great bargain! Thanks, AndroidAndMe for the great info!

    Not.

    • slater

      Wow. I would be embarrassed to post such a condescending comment with so much bad information.

      You do realize that you are paying for those “free” phones with higher monthly charges, right? Did you think Verizon just liked giving away high end phones to lose money? Do you think that the major providers tie you into 2-year contracts because its better for you?

      Those “limited coverage, local carriers” are often the same network many people currently use (ATT, Tmobile).

      What unlocked phones and no-contract plans allow is the freedom to choose what you want and have some transparency about costs. And I’m glad that Androidandme is providing this information for those of us that don’t want to be sheep.

  • naypalm

    The Xperia E Duel has a very good price and the bigger battery is awesome! But the lacking camera and slower HSDPA speeds has me a bit concerned. I think I’ll keep my U.

  • Joel

    As usual very informative Mr.Wimberly :-) its timely as well, I’m making the move to tmo myself. I wanted to ask if since you were a Verizon customer if you’ve ever had cases where your data speeds were just abysmal? I’ve been going into both tmo and Verizon stores n seeing tmo spank them speedwise.

  • Molly

    Hi, Taylor:

    Thank you for sharing the information on unlocked phones. It is very helpful. My question is: which one has the capability to be operated when traveling outside of the States.
    Do you have any idea?

    Aloha!

  • Joan

    Hi Taylor,

    First of all than you very for sharing this informations,I found them very useful!

    I am thinking about buying the HTC One 34gb version from the USA online store. My concern is: will it work in Europe?
    I travel frequently from Italy to Croatia but in neither of this two countries Htc One is yet available on the market (in Italy they told me it should come soon, but it will cost much more then in America!).
    I would be thankful if you could help me; can I buy the phone online from the USA and be sure it will work in Italy and in Croatia?

    Thank you very much!

  • Greg Draven

    I think there are some false positives here.

    In the UK, I’m paying £34 a month for my HTC One, on ThreeUKs One plan
    £816 over the two years.
    that included the phone for free.

    If I were to but the phone “unlocked” and outright from Expansys
    £529

    Then the ThreeUK SIM only One plan is £25 a month
    £600

    Total, with an “Unlocked” phone and a sim only plan that suits me is
    £1129

    That’s considerably more than the £816 I’ll be paying!

    Cheers.
    Greg.

  • CC

    I am looking at an unlocked Galaxy S4 and am new to unlocked territory. First, what is your opinion of this phone as compared to the others on your site?
    Second, these are the specs for connectivity. Does this mean that this phone will not work with ATT or TMobile’s 4G network? Also, it sounds like you really prefer ATT’s network. I really don’t like them but right now it is hard to beat some of their programs. Thoughts?

    SPECIFICATIONS:
    GENERAL 2G Network GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
    3G Network HSDPA 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100

  • Nathan

    Does anyone offer a phone that comes unlocked and rooted?

  • Crazylorzy

    Brian-Do you happen to know if the LG Nexus 4 or the Sony Xperia E Dual would work in Europe? I am traveling abroad for several months and would rather buy an unlocked phone here and just get my SIMs in each country.

    >>>>>>>

    Instead of buying another phone,You can simply unlock your own Sony Xperia E to use other country’s carrier…You can purchase unlock codes from any commercial vendors onlline like http://www.prounlocking.com/sony-xperia-e-dual/rs16wp9 .once unllocke dyou can acrry to any places and can shift carriers..

  • Eric Torres

    Hey Taylor, I have AT&T with no Internet plan. I’d like a phone with wifi I currently have the HTC Aria in mind would you recommend it? I’m not looking to spend over $100 neither.

  • Andrew Sheng

    Can the BLU Dash 3.5 be in the list for the $0-$99 range? The Huawei Ideos is $99.99 now and the BLU Dash 3.5 is just $79.99. It runs, Android 2.3, has a Dual-Core Snapdragon processor clocked at 1 gHz and has a 3.5 inch display.It has 4 GB storage with 512 MB RAM with a micro-SD slot. It supports Dual-SIM. Here is the link: http://amzn.to/19Ly73w

  • okcnaline

    co.ag.2005 was right about BLU. I’ve seen a 79 USD one; it runs GB, and a developer group to back it all up to ICS.

  • okcnaline

    And also, for the $600-$639, IT’S OF COURSE THE SAMSUNG GALAXY S4!!!

  • Elizabeth Russ

    I purchased an unlocked smartphone from http://www.flumongu7s.com and have it on Straight Talk. The phone itself was under 100 dollars and is really nice. I glad I didn’t have to pay a lot for a good phone!

  • Johnny

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  • Tiffany

    I’m curious about what you think about the Pantech Burst? The Sony Xperia U sounds attractive for the price point. I wish I could get an HTC One but it’s too expensive for me right now.

  • Daniel

    This thread needs an August or September update! And I’d like to know the 2nd place phones for each range, it can help people decide better.

  • bob

    I have also found a lot of good information on http://www.unlcokedandroidphones.net

  • Catherine

    I bought the Sony Xperia e dual based on this article and am disappointed. did Taylor talk with anyone who actually used this phone before giving it a positive review? Doesn’t feel like it. I’m on a budget. For anyone else in the same boat may I make a suggestion. Save up for the Google nexus phone. Or if you can’t swing the $350 then get a blu phone. Amazon reviewers seem to likeboy and they cost about $80.

  • Catherine

    I bought the Sony Xperia e dual based on this article and am disappointed. did Taylor talk with anyone who actually used this phone before giving it a positive review? Doesn’t feel like it. I’m on a budget. For anyone else in the same boat may I make a suggestion. Save up for the Google nexus phone. Or if you can’t swing the $350 then get a blu phone. Amazon reviewers seem to like blu and they cost about $80.

  • Robert E Sherman

    To the author, isn’t time to update this?
    The absolutely stellar moto G is out now and can be had for under $200 US…

  • Tariq Azam

    These Android Smartphones are unlocked and really cheap check out http://www.cheapandroid.info available in the UK and
    worldwide shipping, great value and great specifications!

  • sknigh

    Thanks for the helpful discussion, you can read more reviews at UseMyReviews too.

  1. I always like these articles for the low-end phones that my family and friends so often are interested in. Me, on the other hand, tend to go towards the other end of the spectrum (my N4 being an obvious exception).

    Thanks, Taylor!!

    • I keep waiting for the ultimate Android phone under $100. The Huawei Ideos is decent at $79 but that phone is 3 years old!

      • I think within the next few years we will be able to have that. I mean like with tablets there is starting to get a lot more competition for high spec phones with cheap prices and google started the ball rolling with the pricing of their nexus devices.

      • It’s actually already happening with some of the prepaid carriers. Net10 just got the Galaxy Discover, which runs 4.0 and has a 3.5″ screen for $99.99. I don’t think this phone is unlocked out of the box, but it proves that decent GSM phones running a more up to date OS are feasible at the sub $100 price.

    • ArthurGuest 2 years ago

      I also being a N4 owner typically never look at phones priced under $500 to $600 unlocked since that is usually what you have to spend to get anything higher than mid-range or flagship territory.

      The N4 though if not heavily subsidized by Google would easily be a $600+ phone as is the case in Europe where LG sells it for over $600+ unlocked.

      The HTC One Developer Edition for $649 with 64GB is a really hard phone to beat right now. It is the only phone aside from my N4 that I would currently consider and aside from the N5 and Motorola X phone or any significant Nexus or Motorola announcements we might see at I/O, no other phone captures my attention like the HTC One.

  2. Adam AdamsGuest 2 years ago

    I like reading these articles, and they almost always make me want to get a new phone. The only problem is that I’m on Verizon in the US; there are no unlocked phones I know of that work on their network.

    But as all carriers continue transitioning to LTE, the old CDMA frequencies will be converted to LTE as well. LTE is technically a GSM technology, so I’m hoping that one day in the not too distant future Verizon will no longer be considered a CDMA carrier, but a true GSM carrier.

    Then I might be able to pick up a sweet unlocked phone that Verizon hasn’t hosed up with all their f-ing bloatware. And I’d be able to keep my truly unlimited data by staying away from Verizon’s subsidized phones.

    I can only hope…

    • ArthurGuest 2 years ago

      I can’t imagine a day that Verizon will give up all the bloatware they load onto phones. With Android being a open OS and Apple not allowing any bloatware to be loaded onto their phones, Verizon has no options for putting their trampstamp on a device and load it up with useless apps.

      I also can’t see them adopting a similar T-Mobile like strategy anytime soon, they also want you to buy your phones from them so BYOD won’t work with them as far as unlocked phones go for the foreseeable future. Verizon and AT&T are neck and neck for the greediest carrier in the US and I don’t believe neither are wanting to give up that title anytime soon to help the consumer in any way.

      • they could still sell their bloated phones, but like currently with att and tmo you would be able to buy the international version unlocked with no bloat. One can dream anyway

      • SomeoneGuest 2 years ago

        Correction:
        There is bloatware on I devices. The bloatware is preinstalled by APL and not the carriers.

        See stocks application by YAHOO! I don’t check stocks, and have no intention of ever using a stock checker on any platform or device (and if I needed to, I’d just Google it)

    • Rumors suggest that VZW will start to shut down the CDMA network sometime in 2014-2015. Can’t wait for that to happen haha.

  3. Taylor, have you had any experience with the Blu branded phones? seem like good deals, but I don’t know much about the manufacturer

    http://bluproducts.com/

    http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=blu%20phones

  4. This is one of my favorite running articles on the siteand its a great place to point friends when looking for an unlocked phone. Can’t wait to see where the x phone fits into this list later in the year. Good read as always. Thanks Taylor.

  5. I really wish Canada wouldn’t be excluded from these articles. If a staff is going to do the research for the US, they might as well do it for your northern neighbour as well.
    From what I can tell, there really is not much reason to get an unlocked phone in Canada because the prepaid plan are so limited in features and price. I really hope you guys will release an article proving me wrong

    • Agreed, but Canada is run by the 3 large telecom companies who dominate the landscape.
      Like all big business, large powerful companies like Rogers/Bell and Telus control what our government body does, and so controls only what they want to do/allow.
      They do not want cheap mobile phone service, it does not make them enough $$ and they lose control of you the enduser (aka. cash-cow). They want to lock you into long 3yr term agreements, and suck you dry, so they make pre-paid plans worthless and stupid.
      I hate big business, they stifle and kill small business, and destroy what is supposed to be good and pure in the world!
      Ok… I better stop there .. this is turing into a Rant!! .. lol

  6. GBTGuest 2 years ago

    Taylor, are you going to publish your comprehensive HTC One review soon? Many thanks.

  7. I am thinking Google will put out an LTE-capable Nexus 5 and/or Motorola will sell a solid mid-range X phone, that – along with T-Mobile’s new plans, could put a meaningful dent in Galaxy S4 sales (and save me hundreds of dollars a year, too!). We might be entering the era of of the $300 no-contract flagship phone…

    • We already have a $300 no-contract flagship phone. The only feature it was missing was LTE, and the device actually supported it before Google turned it off hah.

      I’m more excited about a $199 no-contract Nexus phone.

  8. Seems like the same phones every month.

  9. MonkGuest 2 years ago

    I think that the $199/249 Google phone after I/O will be the nexus 4.
    The same for the nexus 7, the current versions will go lower to $150/199.
    I hope that new improved versions will appear at the same price they are now.

  10. This is what is standard here in a lot of countries in Europe, like where I live in Belgium. Here it isn’t allowed at all to sell locked devices, they are all unlocked. So, you always have the freedom to choose your network for your device or switch to another if it fits you more in a cheap way.
    I’ve always found it strange devices locked to one carrier and you don’t have the choice of another. In my opinion when you want a phone, you buy a device, not a package or something else. I find locked devices more a dictatorial trade: “the consumer have to take all this, if he wants that”.

  11. I would add one more scenario to your “Why should I not buy an unlocked phone”: Corporate discounts. Those of us who have sold our soul to the Man do get pretty decent discounts off our post-paid plans and it has never made financial sense to go unlocked.

  12. DanielGuest 2 years ago

    You guys forgot to add the LG Optimus G if you think the Galaxy S3 is that good. You won’t regret.

  13. While it would have been a bit shorter list, anything between the Nexus 4 and the HTC One should be eliminated, as both are less potent than the Nexus 4, yet cost more. Also the Sony Phone should be eliminated. Not everyone is retarded like Apple’s customers…just because it’s more expensive doesn’t mean it’s better. In reality, it take one with a limited mindset to pay more for far less. Is the Sony Xperia Z better than either the HTC One or Nexus 4? No. Absolutley not in any case what-so-ever. However if you cut the fluff about the HTC One and between it and the Nexus 4 you actually have a pretty logical list.

  14. ONOGuest 2 years ago

    Thanks for them article. Was looking around for a budget smartphone since I’m leaving Republic Wireless for TMobile 2.0 and stumbled upon this article. Ended up buying the Xperia U over the E dual because of the specs

  15. RobertGuest 2 years ago

    What are the best Android smartphones to run on a Verizon MVNO, like PagePlus Cellular?

    Can any 4G phones, with JellyBean, be easily modified to run on a Verizon MVNO?

    A lot of us live in places where T-Mobile or AT&T doesn’t have good coverage, but Verizon does, so finding a good Android phone that can run on their network would be important. Any suggestions would be much appreciated.

  16. BrianGuest 2 years ago

    Do you happen to know if the LG Nexus 4 or the Sony Xperia E Dual would work in Europe? I am traveling abroad for several months and would rather buy an unlocked phone here and just get my SIMs in each country.

  17. Verizon_GirlGuest 2 years ago

    Wow… I can switch from my current state-of-the-art phone… to a low-end phone? And switch from an excellent nationwide carrier to an extremely limited coverage, local carrier? And switch from a free phone, to having to spend $600 for each phone in my family?

    What a great bargain! Thanks, AndroidAndMe for the great info!

    Not.

    • slaterGuest 2 years ago

      Wow. I would be embarrassed to post such a condescending comment with so much bad information.

      You do realize that you are paying for those “free” phones with higher monthly charges, right? Did you think Verizon just liked giving away high end phones to lose money? Do you think that the major providers tie you into 2-year contracts because its better for you?

      Those “limited coverage, local carriers” are often the same network many people currently use (ATT, Tmobile).

      What unlocked phones and no-contract plans allow is the freedom to choose what you want and have some transparency about costs. And I’m glad that Androidandme is providing this information for those of us that don’t want to be sheep.

  18. The Xperia E Duel has a very good price and the bigger battery is awesome! But the lacking camera and slower HSDPA speeds has me a bit concerned. I think I’ll keep my U.

  19. As usual very informative Mr.Wimberly :-) its timely as well, I’m making the move to tmo myself. I wanted to ask if since you were a Verizon customer if you’ve ever had cases where your data speeds were just abysmal? I’ve been going into both tmo and Verizon stores n seeing tmo spank them speedwise.

  20. MollyGuest 2 years ago

    Hi, Taylor:

    Thank you for sharing the information on unlocked phones. It is very helpful. My question is: which one has the capability to be operated when traveling outside of the States.
    Do you have any idea?

    Aloha!

  21. JoanGuest 2 years ago

    Hi Taylor,

    First of all than you very for sharing this informations,I found them very useful!

    I am thinking about buying the HTC One 34gb version from the USA online store. My concern is: will it work in Europe?
    I travel frequently from Italy to Croatia but in neither of this two countries Htc One is yet available on the market (in Italy they told me it should come soon, but it will cost much more then in America!).
    I would be thankful if you could help me; can I buy the phone online from the USA and be sure it will work in Italy and in Croatia?

    Thank you very much!

  22. Greg DravenGuest 2 years ago

    I think there are some false positives here.

    In the UK, I’m paying £34 a month for my HTC One, on ThreeUKs One plan
    £816 over the two years.
    that included the phone for free.

    If I were to but the phone “unlocked” and outright from Expansys
    £529

    Then the ThreeUK SIM only One plan is £25 a month
    £600

    Total, with an “Unlocked” phone and a sim only plan that suits me is
    £1129

    That’s considerably more than the £816 I’ll be paying!

    Cheers.
    Greg.

  23. CCGuest 2 years ago

    I am looking at an unlocked Galaxy S4 and am new to unlocked territory. First, what is your opinion of this phone as compared to the others on your site?
    Second, these are the specs for connectivity. Does this mean that this phone will not work with ATT or TMobile’s 4G network? Also, it sounds like you really prefer ATT’s network. I really don’t like them but right now it is hard to beat some of their programs. Thoughts?

    SPECIFICATIONS:
    GENERAL 2G Network GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
    3G Network HSDPA 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100

  24. NathanGuest 2 years ago

    Does anyone offer a phone that comes unlocked and rooted?

  25. CrazylorzyGuest 2 years ago

    Brian-Do you happen to know if the LG Nexus 4 or the Sony Xperia E Dual would work in Europe? I am traveling abroad for several months and would rather buy an unlocked phone here and just get my SIMs in each country.

    >>>>>>>

    Instead of buying another phone,You can simply unlock your own Sony Xperia E to use other country’s carrier…You can purchase unlock codes from any commercial vendors onlline like http://www.prounlocking.com/sony-xperia-e-dual/rs16wp9 .once unllocke dyou can acrry to any places and can shift carriers..

  26. Eric TorresGuest 2 years ago

    Hey Taylor, I have AT&T with no Internet plan. I’d like a phone with wifi I currently have the HTC Aria in mind would you recommend it? I’m not looking to spend over $100 neither.

  27. Andrew ShengGuest 2 years ago

    Can the BLU Dash 3.5 be in the list for the $0-$99 range? The Huawei Ideos is $99.99 now and the BLU Dash 3.5 is just $79.99. It runs, Android 2.3, has a Dual-Core Snapdragon processor clocked at 1 gHz and has a 3.5 inch display.It has 4 GB storage with 512 MB RAM with a micro-SD slot. It supports Dual-SIM. Here is the link: http://amzn.to/19Ly73w

  28. okcnalineGuest 2 years ago

    co.ag.2005 was right about BLU. I’ve seen a 79 USD one; it runs GB, and a developer group to back it all up to ICS.

  29. okcnalineGuest 2 years ago

    And also, for the $600-$639, IT’S OF COURSE THE SAMSUNG GALAXY S4!!!

  30. Elizabeth RussGuest 2 years ago

    I purchased an unlocked smartphone from http://www.flumongu7s.com and have it on Straight Talk. The phone itself was under 100 dollars and is really nice. I glad I didn’t have to pay a lot for a good phone!

  31. JohnnyGuest 2 years ago

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  32. TiffanyGuest 2 years ago

    I’m curious about what you think about the Pantech Burst? The Sony Xperia U sounds attractive for the price point. I wish I could get an HTC One but it’s too expensive for me right now.

  33. DanielGuest 2 years ago

    This thread needs an August or September update! And I’d like to know the 2nd place phones for each range, it can help people decide better.

  34. bobGuest 2 years ago

    I have also found a lot of good information on http://www.unlcokedandroidphones.net

  35. CatherineGuest 2 years ago

    I bought the Sony Xperia e dual based on this article and am disappointed. did Taylor talk with anyone who actually used this phone before giving it a positive review? Doesn’t feel like it. I’m on a budget. For anyone else in the same boat may I make a suggestion. Save up for the Google nexus phone. Or if you can’t swing the $350 then get a blu phone. Amazon reviewers seem to likeboy and they cost about $80.

  36. CatherineGuest 2 years ago

    I bought the Sony Xperia e dual based on this article and am disappointed. did Taylor talk with anyone who actually used this phone before giving it a positive review? Doesn’t feel like it. I’m on a budget. For anyone else in the same boat may I make a suggestion. Save up for the Google nexus phone. Or if you can’t swing the $350 then get a blu phone. Amazon reviewers seem to like blu and they cost about $80.

  37. Robert E ShermanGuest 1 year ago

    To the author, isn’t time to update this?
    The absolutely stellar moto G is out now and can be had for under $200 US…

  38. Tariq AzamGuest 10 months ago

    These Android Smartphones are unlocked and really cheap check out http://www.cheapandroid.info available in the UK and
    worldwide shipping, great value and great specifications!

  39. sknighGuest 9 months ago

    Thanks for the helpful discussion, you can read more reviews at UseMyReviews too.