Turns out you don't need to be on Verizon to buy Google Pixel

Google describes its upcoming Pixel phones as a Verizon exclusive in the US. But it doesn't mean what you think it means. Here's how to get it unlocked.

Patrick Holland Managing Editor
Patrick Holland has been a phone reviewer for CNET since 2016. He is a former theater director who occasionally makes short films. Patrick has an eye for photography and a passion for everything mobile. He is a colorful raconteur who will guide you through the ever-changing, fast-paced world of phones, especially the iPhone and iOS. He used to co-host CNET's I'm So Obsessed podcast and interviewed guests like Jeff Goldblum, Alfre Woodard, Stephen Merchant, Sam Jay, Edgar Wright and Roy Wood Jr.
Expertise Apple, iPhone, iOS, Android, Samsung, Sony, Google, Motorola, interviews, coffee equipment, cats Credentials
  • Patrick's play The Cowboy is included in the Best American Short Plays 2011-12 anthology. He co-wrote and starred in the short film Baden Krunk that won the Best Wisconsin Short Film award at the Milwaukee Short Film Festival.
Patrick Holland
2 min read

You saw pictures this week of the new Google Pixel and Pixel XL. You want to buy one, but you read somewhere it's only available on Verizon. Is that true?

To quote Walter Sobchak from "The Big Lebowski," "You're like a child who wanders into the middle of a movie."

You're not sure what's going on.

Let's start by clearing up this Verizon exclusive business. In the United States, the Google Pixel phones are available as exclusives through Verizon, both online and in its stores. However, that doesn't mean the Pixels will only work on Verizon's network.

Usually, the word exclusive means "restricted or limited to." In this case, Verizon is the exclusive carrier selling the phone -- meaning, you can't buy one at an AT&T or Sprint store. However, you can buy a Pixel online through Verizon or the Google Store and use it on any major carrier. Just slap in another carrier's SIM card and you're good to go.

Whether bought through Google or Verizon, "the phones are already unlocked," confirmed George Koroneos, who is on Verizon's corporate communications team. But if you try to preorder a Pixel on the Verizon website, it forces you to add a plan. So this would not be the best way to get a Pixel if you're not going to use it on Verizon.

So here's my recommendation: If you're already on Verizon, buy the Pixel from Verizon. The company offers its customers up to $300 savings (in the form of account credit) for trading in an old device. If you're not on Verizon, buy the phone through the Google Store and choose whichever major carrier (AT&T, Sprint or T-Mobile) you want. It's a simple decision, really.

The Pixel starts at $649 outright for the 32GB model (£599, AU$1,079). Both Google and Verizon offer financing for the Pixel. Verizon's financing is $24.08/month for 24 months and Google's is $24.04/month for 24 months. If you preorder the Pixel, both Verizon and Google will throw in the $79 Daydream View virtual reality headset for free.

The Google Pixel and Pixel XL are currently available for preorder and will be available in stores and online starting October 20.


The Pixel and Pixel XL have what Google touts as the best phone camera.

James Martin/CNET