Best unlocked Android smartphones you can get today (roundup)

These unlocked handsets bypass the carrier overlords to let you talk, text, and browse nearly anywhere.

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Editors' Note: This piece was originally published on June 12, 2012 and is updated regularly.

Whatever your reasons for side-stepping your carrier, unlocked smartphones offer a sense of freedom and convenience we can all appreciate. Simply buy a SIM card, stick it in your device, and you're good to go. There's no need to wait for activation, and best yet, you can keep your phone around for as long or as short a time as you'd like without paying any surprise fees. Here are some of our favorite handsets that you can purchase and use wherever you go, contract-free.


Want an unlocked "phablet" with no carrier bloatware? The Nexus 6 has you covered. Josh Miller/CNET

Google Nexus 6

With its expansive 5.96-inch quad-HD display, exceptional Snapdragon 805 processor, and Android 5.0 Lollipop OS right out of the box, the Nexus 6 is the most advanced Android handset on the market (and one of the biggest, too). Without a carrier agreement, the 32GB model will cost you $649 (£499, AU$869). Read the full review.


The waterproof Sony Xperia Z3 Compact shaves down the Z3's price and specs. Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Sony Xperia Z3, Z3 Compact

A proliferation of Sony retail stores means that the unlocked versions of either water-resistant Xperia Z3 is waiting for you in yet another brick and mortar store in addition to online marketplaces like Amazon or eBay. The specs-stuffed Z3 will run you about $600, £500, and AU$850. Meanwhile, the Z3 Compact, with its scaled-back size and hardware features, is better for budget-seekers looking to shed $100. In the UK and Australia, the Compact costs about £430 and AU$700. Look out for holiday sales promotions as well for these phones (and all phones!) Read the full Xperia Z3 and Xperia Z3 Compact reviews.


Users can also choose the look of their own Moto X. Sarah Tew/CNET

Motorola Moto X (second-gen)

The Moto X (2014) offers users a lot more freedom than other handsets. In the US, not only can you purchase it unlocked directly from either Motorola (known as the "pure" edition) or from Net10 Wireless, you can also choose from several different colors and finishes (including wood and leather). With a 16GB on-board memory capacity, the device starts at $500 in the US and £420 in the UK. (Unfortunately, it isn't available in Australia yet.) Read the full review.


The second-generation Motorola Moto G scores big as a budget Android device. Josh Miller/CNET

Motorola Moto G (2014)

Moto G means three different things, depending on which of the three versions you're talking about. The 2014 version tops the original in hardware, while still making it one of the best budget phones we've seen in any market. Still, speed-seekers will want to opt for the LTE version from earlier this year, or wait for the next model. At any rate, this version is definitely a charmer. Read the full review.


htc-one-m8-google-play-edition-product-photos15.jpg
The One M8 serves up top specs in an opulent design. Sarah Tew/CNET

HTC One M8 Google Play Edition

With its enduring and stylish aluminum look and no carrier subsidy, expect to pay a pretty penny (a really, really pretty penny) for the One M8 (GPE) variant. It's available only in the US for $700 (but that converts to £443 in the UK and AU$819 in Australia), but for Android purists, the device may be worth it. Especially since it has a gorgeous 1080p screen, an ultra-fast Snapdragon 801 processor, and its front-facing dual speakers deliver ultra-crisp sound. It's the ultimate luxury Android phone. Read the full review.


Nexus 5 (red)
Did we mention that the Nexus 5 comes in blazing-hot red too? Josh Miller/CNET

Google Nexus 5

The Nexus 5 may not be this year's flagship, but with its more pocketable design (compared to its phablet successor), bright 1080p display, and Snapdragon 800 processor, it's still a top-notch and affordable handset. As such, it's in high demand and often out of stock at the Google Play Store, but the company has confirmed plans to keep restocking the item. It starts at $349 (£299, AU$399). Read the full review.

About the author

Jessica Dolcourt reviews smartphones and cell phones, covers handset news, and pens the monthly column Smartphones Unlocked. A senior editor, she started at CNET in 2006 and spent four years reviewing mobile and desktop software before taking on devices.

Lynn La

Lynn La is CNET's associate editor for cell phone and smartphone news and reviews. Prior to coming to CNET, she wrote for the Sacramento Bee and was a staff editor at Macworld. In addition to covering technology, she has reported on health, science, and politics. See full bio

 

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