In a world where most people in the United States buy smartphones through carriers like Verizon and AT&T, it’s important to highlight the market of unlocked phones. When you buy a phone unlocked, you have the freedom to use it on any carrier you want (so long as it’s supported) and often save money in the long haul compared to purchasing it on a contract or installment plan. The Pixel 3a is the best unlocked Android phone you can buy in 2019, but it’s not the only one we recommend checking out. Here’s a list of our favorites!
Best Overall: Pixel 3a
Released in May 2019, the Pixel 3a is the first mid-range phone to be sold under Google’s “Pixel” brand. And, you know what? It’s pretty darn great.
What helps the 3a stand out the most is its impressive 12.2-megapixel single rear camera. That may not sound very impressive in a world with multi-camera phones reaching 40 megapixels and beyond, but the Pixel 3a captures some of the most consistently-great pictures of any handset you can buy in 2019 regardless of price. Photos taken with the 3a are crisp, colorful, and even look fantastic when taken at night. It’s sort of impossible to take a bad picture with this phone, and that’s about all you need to know.
The Pixel 3a also benefits from a fantastic software package. It’s currently running Android 10, and being a Pixel device, is first-in-line for any new software updates and security patches that are released. It’s also guaranteed to keep getting those updates through May 2022, meaning you can rest assured you’ll continue to get the best of what Android has to offer for a while to come.
There are plenty of other strong suits for the Pixel 3a, such as a solid AMOLED display, durable polycarbonate design, a fast fingerprint sensor, and NFC for Google Pay. As for the 3a’s carrier compatibility, you can use it on AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon with full LTE access.
- It takes phenomenal photos
- Three years of guaranteed software updates
- Crisp AMOLED display
- Works on every major carrier
- Very affordable
- Boring design
- No wireless charging
- $399 at Amazon
The best unlocked Android phone.
The Pixel 3a is the best unlocked Android phone you can buy in 2019 — mainly due to its exceptional camera performance and reliable software.
Best Value: Nokia 7.2
2018’s Nokia 7.1 was one of the best mid-rangers of that year, and following it up is the aptly-named Nokia 7.2.
The Nokia 7.2 is a beautiful phone, with a striking glass back, aluminum frame, and a large 6.3-inch LCD display that supports native HDR content and converts non-HDR content for a more colorful and vibrant picture no matter what you’re doing.
This is another phone that puts a big emphasis on its cameras, with the Nokia 7.2 touting a primary 48-megapixel camera and an 8-megapixel ultra-wide camera This allows for incredible flexibility with the types of pictures you can take, and while it’s a different approach compared to the Pixel 3a’s single camera, it’ll likely be a preference for a lot of people.
Elsewhere, the Nokia 7.2 checks just about every box you could ask for. It has a dedicated Google Assistant button for quickly prompting the AI, a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor, and is estimated to get two days of battery life on one charge. The phone also ships as part of Google’s Android One program, meaning it has a clean UI right out of the box and is guaranteed to get two years of monthly security patches and at least two major Android updates.
With that said, there are a couple of factors to keep in mind. The Snapdragon 660 processor and 4GB of RAM isn’t the most powerful combo out there, but for daily use, it should be perfectly fine for most people. Lastly, the phone only works on AT&T and T-Mobile in the U.S.
- Large HDR display
- Incredible design
- Two rear cameras
- Expandable storage
- Clean software
- OK processor and RAM combo
- Doesn’t work on Sprint or Verizon
- $349 at Amazon
The best value unlocked Android phone.
If you want to get a lot of bang for your buck, the Nokia 7.2 is the way to go. It looks great, has two rear cameras, and a gorgeous HDR display.
Best for $300: Moto G7
Motorola’s G-series of phones has long been one of the go-to options for quality handsets on a budget, and six years after the first Moto G was released, the Moto G7 continues that legacy better than ever before.
Right off the bat, the G7 makes a great first impression with its 6.2-inch Full HD+ display. The screen itself looks fantastic, has a tall 19:9 aspect ratio, and has very minimal bezels surrounding it along with a simple waterdrop notch at the top to house the 8-megapixel selfie camera.
The glass design gives the G7 a nice sense of elegance despite its ultra-low price tag, and having the fingerprint sensor built into the Motorola “M” logo on the back is an incredible touch. You’ll also find dual 12 and 5-megapixel rear cameras, a 3,000 mAh battery that “lasts all day,” and deep Alexa integration allowing you to say “Alexa” at any time to ask a question or issue a command.
The biggest downside to the G7 is Motorola’s track record for software updates. It’s likely the phone will be updated to Android 10 at some point in the future, but it’s bound to take a while for that to happen. Thankfully, the out-of-the-box software experience is pretty fantastic, with features like Moto Display and Moto Actions being great additions to Android that you won’t find anywhere else.
Finally, the G7 absolutely rocks it for carrier support, as the phone fully works on AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon’s LTE networks.
- Big, crisp display
- Dual rear cameras
- All-day battery life
- Alexa built-in
- Motorola’s software is excellent
- Uncertain update roadmap
Best for $300
- $300 at Amazon
The best unlocked Android phone for $300.
It’s incredible how much you get with the Moto G7. Its display, cameras, software, and battery are all better than you’d expect for a phone of this price.
Best Compact Phone: Galaxy S10e
Whether you regularly or occasionally keep up with the smartphone market, you’ll likely have noticed a trend over the last few years in which companies have been on an endless mission to make phones as big as possible. This is great for media consumption and content creation, but if you enjoy using your phone with one hand, it can be a pain in the butt. That’s where the Galaxy S10e comes to the rescue.
The S10e offers a very similar experience compared to its siblings, the S10 and S10+, but does so in a much smaller form factor with a similarly-sized price tag.
This is a flagship phone through and through, meaning everything about the S10e is as about as good as it gets. The 5.8-inch AMOLED display is bright, colorful, and easy to use one-handed, the Snapdragon 855 processor paired with 6 or 8GB of RAM is tremendously powerful, and you can expand the 128GB of internal storage if you find yourself needing more room.
Other highlights include a nearly bezel-less screen, wireless charging, and Samsung Pay which allows you to use the S10e to pay for things at virtually any store using a combination of NFC and MST. You also don’t have to worry about which carrier you’re on, as the S10e works with every major wireless provider in the U.S.
- Wonderfully compact
- The AMOLED display looks incredible
- Blazing fast performance
- 3.5mm headphone jack and expandable storage
- Samsung Pay
- Works on every major wireless provider
- The screen is only 1080p
Best Compact Phone
- From $650 at Amazon
The best compact unlocked Android phone.
Compact phones are a rarity in 2019, but the S10e is one of the very best. Despite its small size, the S10e has a flagship display, processor, and more.
Best Premium Choice: OnePlus 7 Pro
For those of you reading this that want a truly premium smartphone, the OnePlus 7 Pro is the way to go — hands down. This is my personal phone of choice, and is even the device I gravitate towards despite a Galaxy Note 10 also sitting on my desk.
Upon picking up the 7 Pro for the first time, it’s readily apparent that you’re in for something special. There’s a nice heft to the device, allowing it to feel substantial, and an array of gorgeous colors for the back glass and aluminum frame. You also get three rear cameras, a huge 4,000 mAh battery, OnePlus’s stupendously fast Warp Charge system, and ultra-snappy performance with a Snapdragon 855 and 6-12GB of RAM.
The feature that stands out the most, however, is the OnePlus 7 Pro’s 90Hz AMOLED display. Most phones have a refresh rate of 60Hz, meaning that everything from web browsing, playing games, writing emails, and more all look and feel considerably faster on the 7 Pro. It’s something you can’t truly appreciate unless you see it in person, but trust us when we say that it’s worth it.
Powring the OnePlus 7 Pro is OxygenOS, a.k.a. one of the best Android interfaces ever created. OxygenOS is smooth, has a clean UI, extra features that are genuinely helpful, and is regularly updated thanks to OnePlus’s great after-market support.
- Outstanding design
- That 90Hz display 😍
- Performance is top-notch
- Warp Charge is stupidly fast
- OxygenOS is clean and filled with features
- Works with AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon
- No wireless charging
- Doesn’t have a headphone jack or expandable storage
Best Premium Choice
OnePlus 7 Pro
- From $669 at OnePlus
The best premium unlocked Android phone.
When it comes to premium unlocked Android phones, it’s tough to beat the OnePlus 7 Pro. Between its 90Hz display and OxygenOS, this is one killer package.
Best Battery Life: Moto G7 Power
Battery life is one of those smartphone features that affects everyone. You may not take a lot of pictures or care about headphone jacks, but everyone wants a battery that lasts as long as possible. If that’s one of your top priorities when buying a phone, the Moto G7 Power is a really compelling option.
The Moto G7 Power is equipped with a downright massive 5,000 mAh battery, and according to Motorola, is enough to get you through 2.5 days of regular usage before needing to charge up. That level of endurance is a rarity in the smartphone space, and for people that are on the road a lot or frequently go camping/hiking, is an absolute game-changer.
Along with great battery life, the Moto G7 Power has a 6.2-inch HD+ display, a single 12-megapixel rear camera, an 8-megapixel selfie camera, and the same great Motorola software found on the regular Moto G7. The G7 Power also has Alexa built-in, this time in the form of double-pressing the power button at any time to talk to the assistant. Carrier compatibility is a non-issue here as well, with the Moto G7 working on every U.S. carrier.
With the G7 Power, you’re not going to get great performance or an outstanding camera, as you can see above, but when you only want your phone to last as long as possible, this is the choice.
- 2.5 days of battery life on a single charge
- Big display
- Modern design
- Rear-mounted fingerprint sensor
- Motorola’s software
- Barebones camera
- Only average performance
Best Battery Life
Moto G7 Power
- $250 at Amazon
The best unlocked Android phone for battery life.
Battery life is the name of the game for the Moto G7 Power. With an advertised rating of 2.5 days of use per charge, the G7 Power keeps going and going.
Best Budget Pick: Galaxy A20
Last but certainly not least, we have the Galaxy A20. This shares the same price as the Moto G7 Power, but offers a more complete all-around package.
Right off the bat, the Galaxy A20 grabs your attention with its 6.4-inch AMOLED display. Samsung makes the best AMOLED screens in the business, meaning the display on the A20 is one of the best you’ll find in this price range. Also noteworthy is the 4,000 mAh, which isn’t quite as impressive as the G7 Power’s, but still a force to be reckoned with.
The 32GB of internal storage is on the small side of things, but you can expand it up to a whopping 512GB. There are also dual rear cameras, a snappy fingerprint sensor, and Samsung’s own Exynos 7904 processor.
Samsung notes that the A20 works with “most major U.S. GSM and CDMA networks,” meaning you shouldn’t have a problem using the phone no matter which wireless provider you rely on.
- AMOLED display
- Small bezels
- Dual rear cameras
- 4,000 mAh battery
- Expandable storage up to 512GB
- Boring, plastic design
- Small internal storage
Best Budget Pick
- $250 at Amazon
The best budget unlocked Android phone.
The Galaxy A20 is a super compelling phone for anyone that’s on a budget. You get an AMOLED display and dual rear cameras without breaking the bank.
There you have it — the best unlocked Android phones you can buy in 2019. We’re confident you’ll be happy with any of the choices on this list, but if we could only pick one, we’d have to go with the Pixel 3a.
Google did an amazing job with the 3a and basically redefined what to expect from mid-range smartphone cameras. The Pixel 3a takes photos that look just as good — if not better — than devices that cost hundreds of dollars more. That’s something that did not go unnoticed by anyone, and it’ll be exciting to see how the market responds to what Google was able to pull off here.
What’s even crazier is that Google didn’t just stop with the camera. The rest of the Pixel 3a is equally impressive. The AMOLED display is a joy to look at, performance is more than adequate for general use, and the software is among the best you’ll find.
Even if you can afford something more expensive than the Pixel 3a, it’s still the unlocked Android phone we’d recommend looking at first. Once you do, we think you’ll have a hard time saying no to it.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Joe Maring is Android Central’s News Editor and has had a love for anything with a screen and CPU since he can remember. He’s been talking/writing about Android in one form or another since 2012, and often does so while camping out at the nearest coffee shop. Have a tip? Send an email to [email protected]!