It’s all fine and dandy to be able to walk into a store and pick out the best smartphone available. What’s not as easy is what to do if you don’t want a phone from a carrier or someone like Samsung.
Well, we’re here to help as we have compiled a list of the best “unlocked” phones you can buy today. Just a reminder, all of these are devices that are not available in from your carrier of choice.
Our Pick: OnePlus 6
OnePlus continues to deliver flagship devices at unbelievable prices. The OnePlus 6 starts off at $529 and offers excellent specs, build quality, and a second-to-none software experience.
The OnePlus 6 features a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 SoC. The octa-core chip is clocked at 2.8 GHz and is fast as hell. Backing up the SoC is either 6 or 8 GB of RAM and 64, 128, or 256 GB of storage. While there’s no expandable storage here, OnePlus offers a ton of storage standard and it’s only about $50 to purchase a model with higher capacity.
On the back of the phone, we find a dual 16 + 20 MP camera setup. Both of the sensors have a f/1.7 aperture, while the main sensor has both EIS and OIS for extra stability. The front-facing camera is a 16 MP f/2.0 sensor that promises excellent selfies.
One of the biggest changes for OnePlus is going to a glass back. Previous iterations normally had metal backs, but this year we’re seeing a gorgeous black or white glass that gives the OP6 an even more premium look.
Unfortunately, we still don’t have wireless charging, but OnePlus does include its excellent DASH charging that promises a day’s worth of battery in just an hour of charging.
Huawei P20 Pro
Despite not being readily available here in the States, Huawei has created another head-turner with the P20 Pro. The handset sports a unique design, along with some powerful specs.
On the front, there is a 6.1-inch OLED display with a resolution of 2240 x 1080. This may seem like a bit of a bummer, but opting for the FHD display definitely helps with battery life.
We would also be remiss if we failed to mention the notch found at the top, which houses the front-facing cameras. However, Huawei has included a way for users to hide the notch through the software.
Under the hood, the P20 Pro is packing just a little bit of heat (/s). Powering this beast is the Kirin 970 chipset, with a total of 8 cores. This has been combined with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of onboard storage.
As for the cameras, the front of the P20 Pro sport a single 24MP lens with a f/2.0 aperture. On the rear, we have an 8MP telephoto lens, 20MP monochrome sensor, and a 40MP RGB sensor with a f/1.8 aperture.
All of this combines for an extremely appealing package for just about anyone interested. Since you can’t just walk into Best Buy and pick one of these up, you’ll have to resort to online ordering.
Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium
The days of Sony providing a real presence in the US are long gone (if they ever were really relevant). Instead, the company has focused on providing its new flagships to other regions of the world.
Sony’s latest offering, the Xperia XZ2 Premium, is what the company thinks a flagship smartphone in 2018 should be. The handset launched earlier this year and sports a new, curved, design compared to previous iterations.
Under the hood, you’ll find the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 SoC, which has become the standard. Additionally, there are 6GB of RAM and 64GB of base storage, which can be expanded.
On the front, Sony has packed a gorgeous 5.8-inch 4K display with a 16:9 aspect ratio. More importantly, there are no notches to be found here.
As for the cameras, there is a single 13MP front-facing sensor. On the rear, there is a primary 19MP sensor and a secondary 12MP lens.
All of this has been packaged into a rather interesting, yet gorgeous, design. However, you’ll have to swallow the pill of paying $999 outright for this one.
Best Under $500
Our Pick: Honor View 10
Huawei’s sub-brand Honor released one of the best phones of the year in the Honor View 10 (also called the Honor V10 in some markets). The $499 device combines high-end specs, simple yet elegant design, and a great camera to offer great value to customers.
One of the most impressive aspects of the Honor View 10 is the display. The display itself won’t blow anyone away, but Honor somehow managed to get a 6-inch 18:9 display on the device and keep the front-facing fingerprint scanner too. The button sits just below the screen and can also go back and open the multitasking menu via swipes and taps. We’ve seen this tech in phones from Motorola, but never on a phone with this aspect ratio.
Just because you’re spending a little bit less on a device doesn’t mean you should miss out on the best processor available. Honor included the Hisilicon Kirin 970 chip, Huawei’s in-house flagship processor, in the Honor View 10. The chip also includes a dedicated Neural Processing Unit (NPU) that helps the phone process AI-related tasks. Not bad for $500.
Not only do you get a great processor, but the rest of the specs are impressive too. There’s 6 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage standard. A 3750 mAh battery keeps the show running all day, and a dual 16 MP + 20 MP camera provides great pictures even in low light.
So, what’s the biggest problem with the Honor View 10? Availability. Right now it’s next to impossible to get the phone in the United States without importing it. The best you can do is finding a unit on third-party sites like eBay or AliExpress. Honor says the View 10 is launching “this year” in the US, but we don’t have any specifics yet.
Runner-up: Huawei Mate 10 Pro
Despite the controversy that surrounds the company, Huawei churns out great devices every year. This year is no different with the Mate 10 Pro. The device is Huawei’s best phone ever and offers customers blistering speed, fantastic looks, and quality build quality.
Like most flagships released in 2017, Huawei opted for a glass and metal sandwich for the Mate 10 Pro. This gives the device an ultra-premium feel in the hand. When you pick it up, you instantly remember why you dropped $800 on the device. It feels like something that would cost that much.
Read more: Huawei Mate 10 Pro review
Between the glass on the front and back of the device sits an absolutely gigantic battery. The battery measures in at 4,000 mAh making it one of the largest on the market today. It tops battery champs like the Pixel 2 XL and OnePlus 6, equaled only by the Razer Phone and Samsung Galaxy Note 9. Combining that big of a battery with strong background restrictions in software means that the Mate 10 Pro ranks near the top of the charts in battery life.
The Mate 10 Pro ships with the Kirin 970 chips that boasts enhanced A.I. capabilities. What exactly does that mean? Huawei says that the chip has an on-board NPU (Neural Processing Unit) that allows it to process A.I.-related tasks faster than ever. This lets the Mate 10 Pro provide contextually aware smart tips, offer better noise cancelation in calls, and scene recognition in the camera application. This is one seriously smart phone.
Best Under $300
Our Pick: Moto G6
Motorola is back with another installment in its fabulous G lineup and we’re in love. While it doesn’t quite have the specs of the Pocophone F1, it does have more than adequate specs for the price.
Inside the device, we find a Qualcomm Snapdragon 450 processor, 4 GB of RAM, and 64 GB of storage standard. The plentiful RAM stands out to us as most flagships have the same amount of RAM but cost far, far more that the $250 Moto G6. We also love the 64 GB of internal storage that can easily be expanded via micro SD card.
Read more: Moto G6 vs Moto G5, worth the upgrade?
Motorola decided to class its G lineup a bit and use some more premium materials. Both the front and the back of the G6 are coated in Gorilla Glass. The back looks and feels outstanding and reminds us of phones that cost far, far more.
But, one of the big draws of picking up a Motorola device has always been its adherence to stock Android. The Moto G6 is no different. It comes with a clean build of Android Oreo with a few smart additions thrown in by Motorola.
This phone is fast, clean, and fun to use and you can pick one up by clicking one of the links below.
Although owned by HMD Global, the Nokia brand is making a rather surprising return to stardom. Instead of trying to take down the flagship brands, Nokia is focusing on the budget market.
The “new” Nokia 6.1 features a 5.5-inch display with a resolution of 1920 x 1080. No notch can be found here, as you’ll be looking at the Nokia 6.1 Plus if you want to be special.
The Snapdragon 630 chipset acts as the brains of the operation, which works with up to 4GB of RAM and up to 64GB of storage. This can be expanded to up to 256GB with the help of a microSD card.
On the front, there is a serviceable 8MP selfie camera capable of taking 1080p videos at 30fps. Moving to the rear, there’s a single 16MP sensor with an f/2.0 aperture and dual-LED flash.
The more intriguing aspect of the Nokia 6.1 is the fact that it runs Android One. This provides a near-stock experience without dealing with any extra bloatware, which is something that should be coming to more handsets
Huawei Mate SE
Huawei might have suffered some setbacks recently with the Mate 10 Pro, but it hasn’t stopped the China-based company from selling its phones in the US. One of the most compelling devices it offers is the $230 Mate SE.
The Mate SE features some high-end features like a 1080p 18:9 display, a dual rear camera setup, 4 GB of RAM, and 64 GB of storage.
The display is a 5.93-inch 1080p panel that reaches from edge to edge. You’ll have to get out your microscope to find the bezels here (okay, maybe we’re exaggerating a bit) and it makes the phone feel all that more premium. When you combine the power-efficient 1080p display with the generous 3,340 mAh battery, you’re in for some amazing battery life too!
Read more: Huawei Mate SE review
The standard loadout for most flagship phones in 2017 and early 2018 has been 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage. That’s pretty generous and leads to some happy customers. But, Huawei went one step further and included these specs on the budget Mate SE. Not only do you get a ton of RAM and storage, but there’s a micro SD card slot to boot so you can add even more storage.
All-in-all, the Huawei Mate SE is one of, if not the best, cheap phone on the market today.