I never thought that one of the most common questions I would get asked would be “what are the best unlocked cell phones?” I realize I’m a tech guy, so people generally think I know a lot of about electronics. Luckily for them, I do have a working knowledge of most things tech. I used to own an online electronics company, so electronics kind of run in my blood. Ever since starting this blog, I have been on a mission to bring down the cost of my cell phone bill, yet keep quality service. We left Verizon some time ago and haven’t looked back. Since then, we have tried a number of cell phone services, all of which I have reviewed on this blog. The reason I’ve been able to try so many is because I purchased an unlocked cell phone, which enables me to move from carrier to carrier with little restriction. This is how reducing your cell phone bill really works! None of this really would be possible for me unless I had an unlocked phone, of course it’s a smartphone though!
What’s the Purpose of an Unlocked Cell Phone?
Before I get into some of the best selling unlocked phones out there, I figured I would describe the purpose of them. For the longest time, people would normally just go to their local Verizon, AT&T, or T-Mobile store and buy a new phone and get a contract for cell service. This was the status quo. I used to be that kind of person as well. It felt normal and right. You could get a brand new, shiny phone for little money upfront and get service to go with it. Boy, have I learned the error of my ways!
I know you might want to say that you save money by getting a phone with the big carriers. Well, you really don’t! You don’t save anything with them. The problem with going unlocked is most people don’t want to pay full price for a phone. They are expensive and way more than free or $50. This is how cell phone companies incentivize you. They give you a phone, then lock you in a contract for years. The problem is that math shows us it’s better to buy the phone upfront, then go with a lower cost carrier. If you calculate the payback period (break-even point), then you can have your phone paid off within a year of making the switch. All with no contracts and saving money each month! That’s what it’s all about!
Before jumping ship from Verizon, I noticed so many different options out there for cell phone service. The companies are called mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) because they don’t own the network the use. They lease it from the big companies, like Verizon and AT&T. This is how they are able to offer service at a lower price. They don’t have to build or upkeep the network. They just get to sell service off it. It’s a pretty good business model and one that is growing. There are so many MVNOs that I can’t keep up anymore. I do list a number of them that are recommended by others.
Along with these MVNOs come the notion that you can just bring your phone with you and join their network. It’s a great notion, but most of the time (at least in the old days) you could just bring your phone with you. The big carriers had locked them to their specific network. This means you had to get them unlocked. Many new phones already come unlocked, so you can carrier jump, but there are still quite a few that don’t. You can ask your carrier to unlock your phone or you can buy a new one and do what you want with it. Since I was planning on going to Straight Talk, who didn’t cover Verizon, I needed a new phone that worked on GSM anyway. Enter the unlocked phone!
The Best Selling Unlocked Cell Phones
There are so many unlocked phones out there that it can make your head spin. As noted, many new phones are already unlocked for you, so you can move from carrier to carrier. You should know that carriers run their networks on different frequencies, so you need can only go from carrier to carrier with a phone that supports multiple frequencies. These are noted in descriptions for most phones you will purchase. This gives you the ultimate flexibility.
I’ve been working on coming up with a list of the best selling unlocked phones for some time. I wanted to not only do best selling, but also ones that didn’t cost too much and that came with good reviews. It was a tall order. Luckily for me, I decided to go to my friend, Amazon, and use their wealth of information to create my list. All of these phones are unlocked, some with dual sim capability and others not. You can sort the table by name or price to get what you want to look for. I will be keeping this list updated on a regular basis with price changes and new phones. I’m going to keep it to ten best selling unlocked phones for now as that’s enough to choose from! The main reason these are the best selling unlocked phones is because they are relatively cheap and they work. Some may not be the newest on the block, but they are still good smartphones and rated highly.
Mobile Services Reviewed*
If you want to know of some of the services I have tried and recommend, check out these below. I have provided in-depth reviews on them all. I’ve tried each one of these services ever since cutting ties with Verizon. Some are better than others. Right now, the three I recommend are Republic Wireless (can’t bring your own phone), Straight Talk, and Cricket Wireless.
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- Net10 Wireless
- Virgin Mobile
- Cricket Wireless
- Giv Mobile
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- Straight Talk
- Boost Mobile
- Republic Wireless
- Walmart Family Mobile
*Please note that both Republic Wireless (one of my recommended carriers) and Virgin Mobile don’t allow you to bring your own phone. You have to buy their phones to work with their plans.