You may be a globe-trotter or just don't like to be tied down; at any rate, unlocked smartphones offer a sense of freedom and convenience we can all appreciate.
Because unlocked handsets aren't limited to working on any one specific carrier, you can simply buy a SIM card and stick it in your device, and you're good to go. There's no need to wait for activation or to get permission from your network provider. And better yet, you can keep your phone around as long or short a time as you'd like without any repercussions.
Here in the US, you can get GSM carriers like AT&T and T-Mobile to unlock your phone after your contract is up, but we've picked some of our favorite handsets that you can purchase and use wherever you go.
Google Nexus 5
At just $349 for the 16GB version and $399 for the 32GB model, Google's Nexus 5 (actually made by LG) isn't just the best-value Nexus yet, it's also the best Nexus ever made. It helps that the smartphone folds in top-notch specs, like an ultrafast quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor, a 1080p HD screen, and all-important LTE connectivity. The phone's crazy-affordable off-contract price (hundreds less than the , for instance) makes the good-not-great 8-megapixel camera a more than reasonable trade-off. Read the full Nexus 5 review.
When Google announced during its annual I/O conference that it would offer its own, pure-Jelly Bean version of the immensely popular , it seemed like the best had just gotten better for Android enthusiasts. However, if you're a TouchWiz fan, you'll lose a lot of those UI features in this unlocked version. Read the full Galaxy S4 Google Edition review.
Style for style, the HTC One already has it in the bag with its all-aluminum construction. In addition, as a Google Edition handset, the One will be able to get Android updates as they roll out (helloooo, !). However, similarly to Google's S4, the One won't carry any of HTC's special software goodies, like the camera's Zoe Share and the BlinkFeed news feed.
US customers can buy the Sony Xperia Z through T-Mobile, but you can also pick it up unlocked, directly from Sony. Slim, subtle, and sleek, the Xperia Z is one of the we've seen in recent memory. But while it gets points for being able to survive a dip in the pool, be mindful that it's not the fastest handset we've come across.
LG Nexus 4
The wildly popular Nexus 4 still rates on this list. Its skinless Android experience, quad-core CPU, and solid construction will suit those looking for a midrange phone at a deal, now that the Nexus 5 has taken its place at the top of the line. Read the full Nexus 4 review.
Looking for specs and pricing? Compare these unlocked phones head-to-head.