13 great phones your carrier doesn't carry

Want one of these smartphones? You won't find them at Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile or Sprint.

Jessica Dolcourt Senior Director, Commerce & Content Operations
Jessica Dolcourt is a passionate content strategist and veteran leader of CNET coverage. As Senior Director of Commerce & Content Operations, she leads a number of teams, including Commerce, How-To and Performance Optimization. Her CNET career began in 2006, testing desktop and mobile software for Download.com and CNET, including the first iPhone and Android apps and operating systems. She continued to review, report on and write a wide range of commentary and analysis on all things phones, with an emphasis on iPhone and Samsung. Jessica was one of the first people in the world to test, review and report on foldable phones and 5G wireless speeds. Jessica began leading CNET's How-To section for tips and FAQs in 2019, guiding coverage of topics ranging from personal finance to phones and home. She holds an MA with Distinction from the University of Warwick (UK).
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Despite the dozens of phones to choose from every time you walk into a carrier store, there are still plenty of great phones you can't buy there. Some never make it to the US (though we wish they would), but others can be had from online stores like Amazon, Best Buy or the manufacturer's own website.

Just two things to remember:

  • You'll need to confirm that any phone you buy online will work with your carrier choice (your carrier's website will have a compatibility tool).

  • If the phone isn't locked to a carrier network, you may not be able to use features like Wi-Fi calling or HD Voice.

OnePlus 3T

Our Editors' Choice for best midprice phone, you can pick up the OnePlus 3T directly from OnePlus' site. The 64GB version will cost you $440.

Watch this: OnePlus 3T ups the ante on an already great phone

Xiaomi Mi Mix

This ceramic-backed beauty is one of the first phones to feature a nearly bezel-less design. Unfortunately, it sells in China only, in limited quantities.

Watch this: The futuristic Xiaomi Mi Mix is amazing

HTC U Play

The U Play brings a cheaper version of HTC's shiny, new glass U Ultra to the UK.

Watch this: HTC U Ultra, U Play get into AI

Huawei Honor Magic

The Honor Magic is a beaut of a build and is stuffed with AI software that only works with services in China.

Watch this: This phone 'magically' knows your face

Huawei Mate 9

Sold at retailers like Best Buy, B&H and Huawei's own website, the $600 Mate 9's two rear cameras were co-engineered with Leica, a photography great.

Watch this: The Huawei Mate 9 boasts a big screen and burly specs

ZTE Axon 7

$400 and an internet connection are all it takes to make the fifth -- and cheapest -- Google Daydream-compatible phone yours. It sells on sites like Amazon, Best Buy and ZTEUSA.com. The same goes for the ZTE Blade V8 Pro.

Watch this: ZTE gets luxe with Axon 7 phone

Huawei Honor 6X

A lot of good features are wedged into this budget bundle, like dual-rear cameras to create an artful effect, the promise of two-day battery life, and an 8-megapixel selfie cam. You'll find it for $250 on HiHonor.com, as well as the usual online retailers.

Watch this: Huawei's Honor 6X doubles the camera fun

Oppo R9s

If you do some digging, you can get the really good midrange performer online for about $400. We loved its 16-megapixel front and rear cameras and days-long battery life.

Watch this: The Oppo R9s is a solid midrange performer

Vertu Constellation

Look no further than Vertu for a handmade aluminum-and-leather handset that comes with its own concierge service. Buy it from Vertu's site or drop by one of its Beverly Hills, Las Vegas or New York boutiques.

Watch this: The Vertu Constellation: a $6,000 Android phone

ZTE Hawkeye

Head to Kickstarter if you want to lay hands on this $200 crowdsourced phone with a self-adhesive case and web pages that scroll when you look at them. It'll ship September 2017.


Another mockup of ZTE's upcoming Hawkeye phone.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Asus ZenFone 3 Deluxe

Fantastic battery life and a massive 6GB of RAM are two things that make this all-metal phone interesting. Don't feel bad, though. Bloatware and lagginess hold it back from being a great buy.

Watch this: All-metal Asus ZenFone 3 Deluxe falls short

Lenovo Phab 2 Pro

Lenovo gets credit for building the world's first phone with Google's Tango software onboard. The phone itself is a clunky mess, but it gets the ball rolling for integrated AR. Developers can buy it here for $500. (The Asus ZenFone AR comes in a sleeker package.)

Watch this: A peek at a weird, wonderful future -- but not the phone to get us there

Sony Xperia X Compact

It's adorably cute with a tiny screen and body small enough to use one-handed. Small-phone lovers don't have too many choices, especially if they're fond of Android software. Head to Amazon, B&H, Best Buy and Fry's Electronics for the $400 phone.

Watch this: Sony Xperia X Compact -- a small phone with a great camera

See next: CNET's top phones

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