Best unlocked phones that work on Verizon, Sprint and all other US carriers out of the box
The vast majority of the US still gets their phones directly from the carriers, be it online or in their stores, but there is a growing trend to source them in a different way, with the latest reports pegging that slice of the market at 20% now. The reason is pretty simple - while previously it was near impossible to find a phone that will work with Verizon's voice and data services unless you got it from the carrier itself, approved for that network usage, times have changed.
Nowadays, Qualcomm and other cellular modem makers have gotten so good in stuffing tens of LTE bands and filtering them without interference in a single chip, that more and more phone makers are offering unlocked phones that can work with any US carrier out of the box, Verizon and Sprint included. We won't bore you with LTE bands and CDMA support details, but will just list the best of those unlocked phones you can get right now, pop a SIM card, no matter which one that is, and hop between carriers with it like Bambi in the woods.
Yep, even the "Verizon version" of those two comes fully unlocked, and can be used on any carrier; Verizon's Pixels only have their bootloader locked down. As long as you see those two model versions written on the back - G-2PW4100 or G-2PW2100 - you are golden. The phones are no slouches, either - you get a 5" or 5.5" high-res display, fast Snapdragon 821 chipset, and 12 MP cameras with large pixels.
The other big selling point is, of course, stock Android and fast updates, plus the tightest integration with Google's services you can currently get, including some exclusives like Google's artificially intelligent Assistant bot. So, no matter if you get the Pixel or Pixel XL from Verizon, the Google Store, Project Fi or Best Buy, they all come unlocked and loaded for action.
At its website, Apple writes: "models A1660 and A1661 also support LTE networks listed for Models A1778 and A1784." The first two are none other than the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus versions for Verizon and Sprint, and the other two are listed for AT&T and T-Mobile. Guess what, the unlocked SIM-free versions of the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus that Apple is selling, are precisely those A1660 and A1661 model numbers whose LTE bands cover all US carriers.
Apple started this trend by providing a record number of LTE band support with each and every iPhone iteration since the 5s, and we are now at the 23-band mark with the unlocked iPhone 7 models, which the globetrotter or carrier hopper in you will surely appreciate. We don't need to extol the iPhone 7 virtues to you - wide color screen and camera, water-tight body, and ultrafast A10 chipset, while the 7 Plus adds optical zoom and artsy portraits to the mix.
The Galaxy S7 and S7 edge model numbers denoted with "U" at the end, for unlocked, would work on all US carriers, and are prime for the taking over at Samsung's USA store. They are currently discounted at that - the S7 edge goes for $650, while the S7 is $550. Don't take our word for it, though, it's Samsung which tips that "wireless voice, data and messaging services compatible with GSM networks such as AT&T and T-Mobile and CDMA networks such as Verizon, Sprint and US Cellular." The phones are made with a premium glass and metal chassis, sport cameras with ultrafast Dual Pixel focusing technology, and are waterproof to boot.