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.

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Apple iPhone 7 or 7 Plus

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.

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Samsung Galaxy S7 or S7 edge

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.



1. Landon

Posts: 1248; Member since: May 07, 2015

Is there any way one can get an unlocked Galaxy S7 Active and use it on Verizon?

2. Scott93274

Posts: 6040; Member since: Aug 06, 2013

I think the Active line of Galaxy S phones are exclusive to AT&T.

4. uzbek-mobile-man

Posts: 118; Member since: Sep 27, 2014

Samsung Galaxy S5 Active, Samsung Galaxy S6 Active and Samsung Galaxy S7 Active are the best of the best IP certified (IP 68), Water, Dust, Shock, Temperature resistant, reliable smartphones. Unfortunately, none of them work on CDMA 800 MHz network, on Verizon Wireless, Sprint and U.S. cellular in the United States of America and on Perfectum in Uzbekistan. They work only on GSM networks, exclusively on AT&T in the United States of America. If it worked on CDMA network, I would buy and use S7 Active on Perfectum in Uzbekistan. Note: CDMA - Code division multiple access; GSM - Global system for mobile communications. CDMA is not only twice or thrice, but 20 times harmless than GSM.

7. Landon

Posts: 1248; Member since: May 07, 2015

Wow. Thank you for the detailed answer. It's really a shame that the Active phones don't work on more networks considering how great they are. With the shatterproof display, fingerprint scanner, and awesome battery life, the S7 Active is the best phone of 2016 in my opinion.

9. uzbek-mobile-man

Posts: 118; Member since: Sep 27, 2014

Landon, my friend, you are right, Samsung Galaxy S7 Active is the best smartphone of 2016. But, if you are in the United States, you can not use it on Verizon, Sprint and U.S. cellular.

12. Mxyzptlk unregistered

I really like the Activity phones but they are tied to AT&T.

10. ibap

Posts: 871; Member since: Sep 09, 2009

What do you mean by "CDMA is not only twice or thrice, but 20 times harmless than GSM."? Thanks.

3. palmguy

Posts: 987; Member since: Mar 22, 2011

I'm gonna get last year's Moto X. It worked out the box on all US carriers. Water resistant with an Ok 21MP camera.

17. uzimafioso

Posts: 469; Member since: Jul 15, 2014

You'll be getting a screen better than the iPhone 7 Plus and speakers louder than M8, what more can you want xD

5. ThE_fLaSh

Posts: 26; Member since: Dec 10, 2016

OnePlus 3T!!!!

6. jimjam unregistered

You list the top 3 phones and that is it? What about the moto g4 line - G4 play/g4 and g4 plus or the nexus 5x/6P.

8. uzbek-mobile-man

Posts: 118; Member since: Sep 27, 2014

I am surprised at phone manufacturer companies: WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF THEY MAKE THEIR BOTH FEATURE PHONES AND SMARTPHONES GSM+CDMA? Am I right? For example, Microsoft Lumia 950/950 XL, HP Elite X3, Samsung Galaxy S7 Active, Sony X5 Premium and etc are best smartphones, but, unfortunately, they work only and only on GSM networks!!! Please, PHONE MANUFACTURER COMPANIES: make your both mid-range phones and flagship smartphones GSM+CDMA!!! CDMA 800 MHz.

11. Mxyzptlk unregistered

This article is proof that universally unlocked phones are superior to GSM unlocked ones.

13. ProblemSolver15

Posts: 372; Member since: Jun 14, 2010

I wish Verizon would put same amount of money that they put into their network into developing a conversion process to GSM. That's the global standard and would allow a multitude of devices to be compatible with them. It sucks I can't get a 3T and operate it on Verizon. CDMA technology is so outdated, it's limiting their reach even if they do have subsidiaries outside of the US that are GSM networks.

14. meanestgenius

Posts: 22503; Member since: May 28, 2014

Totally agree. CDMA is a dying, outdated platform, and even though Verizon is transitioning away from CDMA as we speak, they need to make it happen faster and get fully onboard with GSM networks. There's a reason why it's the world standard.

18. uzbek-mobile-man

Posts: 118; Member since: Sep 27, 2014

CDMA will never die! contact with me, my email is iamuzbekman at gmail.

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