Best unlocked Android phones (May 2016)

Now that an increasing amount of smartphone manufacturers are selling their phones at cheaper price points, it’s much easier for consumers to afford an off-contract device rather than purchasing one with a two-year contract. At least in the United States, the way smartphones are priced has changed dramatically, and that’s a good thing.

So, what are the best smartphones out there for those who’d like to forgo the standard contract and buy unlocked? We’re here to take you through the best unlocked Android smartphones for under $250, under $500 and over $500. As always, if you have anything you’d like to suggest, be sure to speak up in the comment section at the bottom of the post.

Editor’s note: We’ll be updating this list regularly as new devices launch. It’s also worth noting that this article is written for a U.S.-centric point of view, though (since they are unlocked) pretty much all of these devices are available outside of the U.S., at least in some capacity.

Update, May 2016: We did not make any changes this month.

Best phones under $250

OnePlus X

The OnePlus X is one of the best budget devices you can purchase right now. It’s compact, extremely fast, and boasts many of the same software features that come with its older brother, the OnePlus 2. It has an impressive 5.0-inch AMOLED display, a perfectly capable Snapdragon 801 processor, 3 gigabytes of RAM, microSD card expansion up to 128GB and two SIM card slots.

There are a few things to watch out for, though. If you want to activate the device on AT&T or T-Mobile’s networks, you may not have great 4G LTE coverage, as the device is missing the appropriate bands. It also comes with no NFC on board, so you won’t be able to use mobile payment methods like Android Pay. Oh, and OnePlus has just axed the invite system for the OnePlus X, so you can now buy it from the company whenever you’d like, without waiting in line for an invite!

If you’re looking for a budget-friendly smartphone and don’t mind spending a few extra bucks, get the OnePlus X. You can purchase it from OnePlus’ website for $249.99.

Specs

  • 5.0-inch AMOLED display with 1920 x 1080 resolution, 441 ppi
  • 2.3 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor
  • 3 GB of RAM
  • 16 GB of on-board storage, microSD expansion up to 128 GB
  • 13 MP rear camera, 8 MP front camera
  • Non-removable 2525 mAh battery
  • Android 5.1.1 Lollipop
  • 140 x 69 x 6.9 mm, 138 g

Read more

Buy now from OnePlus


Motorola Moto G (2015)

The Moto G, one of the most beloved budget phones on the market, is now in its third iteration. This time around, the handset offers up a 1.4GHz quad-core Snapdragon 410 processor and either 8 GB storage and 1 GB RAM, or 16GB storage and 2 GB RAM. bother models include microSD support, a 13 MP rear cam, a 5 MP front cam, a 5-inch 720p LCD display, and a hefty 2470 mAh non-removable battery. While the Moto G has never been about flashy extras, this year’s model does introduce waterproofing and LTE to the mix.

For those that lust for customization, the Moto G also includes limited Moto Maker support. While this feature isn’t as robust as you’d find with the Moto X Style (Pure Edition), it’s still a great step in the right direction. As for software? The phone runs Lollipop out of the box, and it is likely only a matter of time before a Marshmallow upgrade makes its way into the hands of consumers.

It should be noted that only the model with 1GB of RAM and 8GB of on-board storage reaches the under-$200 price point. To get the higher end variant, you’ll need to pay around $219 in most regions.

Specs

  • 5.0-inch LCD display with 720 x 1280 resolution, 294 ppi
  • 1.4 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor
  • 1/2 GB of RAM
  • 8/16 GB of on-board storage, microSD expansion up to 32 GB
  • 13 MP rear camera, 5 MP front camera
  • Non-removable 2470 mAh battery
  • Android 6.0 Marshmallow
  • 142.1 x 72.4 x 11.6 mm, 155 g

Read more

Buy now from Amazon


honor 5X

Huawei has finally announced its plans to break into the US market with the honor 5X. The honor 5X was announced a number of months ago, but it was just recently revealed that the dual-SIM budget handset would be coming to the United States for only $200.

Featuring an all-metal build and a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor, the 5X absolutely comes to market with a few features that we don’t normally see on sub-$200 smartphones. It comes with a big 5.5-inch Full HD display, Snapdragon 616 processor, 16 GB of storage and microSD expansion up to 128 GB. It also comes with a 13 MP rear camera, a pretty sizable 3000 mAh battery, and runs Huawei’s EMUI atop Android 5.1 Lollipop out of the box. Huawei says the device will receive its update to Android 6.0 Marshmallow sometime soon, as well.

You can pre-order the honor 5X from Amazon in Dark Grey, Daybreak Silver or Sunset Gold color options for only $199.99.

Specs

  • 5.5-inch IPS LCD display with 1920 x 1080 resolution, 401 ppi
  • 1.5 GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 616 processor
  • 2 GB of RAM
  • 16 GB of on-board storage, microSD expansion up to 128 GB
  • 13 MP rear camera, 5 MP front camera
  • Non-removable 3000 mAh battery
  • Android 5.1 Lollipop
  • 151.3 x 76.3 x 8.2 mm, 158 g

Read more

Buy now from Amazon


Best phones under $500

Nexus 6P

As the successor to last year’s Motorola Nexus 6, Google recently unveiled the Huawei-made Nexus 6P. This device is the higher-end of the two Nexus phones announced at Google’s event, and that’s incredibly apparent when looking at the spec sheet.

It comes with a big 5.7-inch Quad HD AMOLED display, super fast Snapdragon 810 processor, a giant 3450 mAh battery and an impressive 12MP rear-facing camera. Want to get your hands on one? The Nexus 6P is pretty cheap, considering the specs and build quality. You can purchase it from the Google Store starting at just $499!

We’ve just published our full review of this handset, and come to the conclusion that it’s up there with the best of the best.

Specs

  • 5.7-inch AMOLED display with 1440 x 2560 resolution, 518 ppi
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor
  • 3 GB of RAM
  • 32/64/128 GB of on-board storage, no microSD card slot
  • 12 MP rear-facing camera, 8 MP front-facing camera
  • Non-removable 3450 mAh battery
  • Android 6.0 Marshmallow
  • 159.3 x 77.8 x 7.3 mm, 178 g

Read more

Buy now from the Google StoreBuy now from Amazon


Motorola Moto X Style (aka Pure Edition)

With the original Moto X, Motorola proved you don’t need to have the latest specs to get a great user experience. With the second generation, the Lenovo-owned company took no chances and double-downed on the spec side as well, packing the new Moto X (2014) with a dense 5.2-inch AMOLED screen, a beefy processor, and a capable 13 MP camera. But with the Moto X Style, Motorola reaches the perfect balance between performance, simplicity, price and… well, style.

By Style we are mostly referring customization capabilities, a factor which has been an integral part of the Moto X experience since day one. Customers can use Moto Maker to manipulate their devices’ aesthetics to their will. You can change the color of the metal areas, engrave the back and even choose from a plethora of back options, including materials leather, wood, rubber and other materials.

The device is not a bad contender in terms of hardware, either. The larger screen puts the phone up with contenders like the OnePlus 2, Nexus 6, LG G4 and the Galaxy Note series. It may not sport the “best” processor in the market, but the Snapdragon 808 is pretty close to the 810, and Motorola has proven time and again they can make a super fast phone without the greatest chipset. The best part? This phone’s price will start at only $399!

It’s worth noting that the phone will be sold in most markets under the Style branding, though in the United States it will be sold as the Moto X Pure Edition, an unlocked model that will play nice with all U.S. carriers.

Specs

  • 5.7-inch IPS LCD display with 2560 x 1440 resolution, 520 ppi
  • 1.8 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 processor
  • 3 GB of RAM
  • 16/32/64 GB of on-board storage, microSD expansion up to 128 GB
  • 21 MP rear camera, 5 MP front camera
  • Non-removable 3000 mAh battery
  • Android 6.0 Marshmallow
  • 153.9 x 76.2 x 11.06 mm, 179 g

Read more

Buy now from MotorolaBuy now from Amazon


Nexus 5X

Google chose to release two Nexus smartphones in 2015 – the higher-end Nexus 6P made by Huawei and the LG-made Nexus 5X, which is the true sequel to LG’s beloved Nexus 5 from 2013. Both of these devices feature similar specifications, but they still manage to stand out drastically from one another. The Nexus 5X has one of the best processors on the market (the Snapdragon 808), a decent 2700 mAh battery and a really great 12.3 megapixel rear-facing camera. It also boasts a fingerprint scanner on the back Google is calling Nexus Imprint, a front-facing speaker that provides decent audio quality and of course, this phone runs the latest version of Android.

In our full review, we had just a few gripes. While the Snapdragon 808 processor is very capable of performing just about everything you throw at it, the fact that the 5X comes with just 2 GB of RAM makes us nervous for the future. It also only comes with 16 or 32 GB of on-board storage with no microSD card expansion, so folks who are used to 32 or 64 GB variants will need to rely on cloud storage when it comes to keeping media on the phone.

Considering that the Nexus 6P costed only $120 more than the 5X at launch, it was a tad difficult to recommend this smartphone at the start. Now that it’s dropped in price, though, we really think this is one of the better phones you can buy at this price range.

Specs

  • 5.2-inch IPS LCD display with 1920 x 1080 resolution, 423 ppi
  • 1.8 GHz hexa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 processor
  • 2 GB of RAM
  • 16/32 GB of on-board storage, no microSD card expansion
  • 12.3 MP rear camera, 5 MP front camera
  • Non-removable 2700 mAh battery
  • Android 6.0 Marshmallow
  • 147 x 72.6 x 7.9 mm, 136 g

Read more

Buy now from AmazonBuy now from the Google Store


Best phones above $500

Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge

Samsung did a killer job with their 2015 flagship smartphones, the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge. Design-wise, many would say those two phones were close to perfect. The company forwent a plastic design and instead included glass front and back panels with an aluminum frame. They weren’t without their flaws, though. The S6 and S6 Edge didn’t offer expandable storage or removable batteries — two features Samsung has been known to include in all its smartphones for years.

Now the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge have made their way to the masses, and they fix many of the problems the S6 line introduced last year. While they don’t offer removable batteries, Samsung included expandable storage on both handsets in case the 32 GB of on-board storage isn’t enough. Samsung mostly stuck to the same design this time around, though they did shrink down the camera bumps on the back and made the devices a little thicker to make room for larger batteries.

In terms of specs, these are top-of-the-line smartphones. They come with Quad HD Super AMOLED displays, Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processors, 4 GB of RAM, great 12 MP rear-facing cameras and run the latest version of Android. Instead of featuring the same screen sizes this time around though, Samsung kept the S7 at a smaller 5.1 inches, while the S7 Edge has been bumped up to a larger 5.5-inch panel.

Seriously, these are some incredible smartphones. They are a little pricey, but all in all, we think the high asking price is worth it.

Specs

Samsung Galaxy S7

  • 5.1-inch Super AMOLED display with 2560 x 1440 resolution, 577 ppi
  • Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor
  • 4 GB of RAM
  • 32GB of on-board storage, microSD expansion up to 200 GB
  • 12 MP rear camera, 5 MP front camera
  • Non-removable 3000 mAh battery
  • Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow
  • 142.4 x 69.6 x 7.9 mm, 152 g

Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge

  • 5.5-inch Super AMOLED display with 2560 x 1440 resolution, 534 ppi
  • Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor
  • 4 GB of RAM
  • 32 GB of on-board storage, microSD expansion up to 200 GB
  • 12 MP rear camera, 5 MP front camera
  • Non-removable 3600 mAh battery
  • Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow
  • 150.9 x 72.6 x 7.7 mm, 157 g

Read more

Buy the Galaxy S7 from AmazonBuy the Galaxy S7 Edge from Amazon


LG G5

While the Galaxy S7 series is a minor refresh in terms of design, the LG G5 sees a massive departure from the design language used in the G series, ditching the rear volume/power setup that first debuted with the LG G2. The G5 also adopts a unibody metallic design that has a removable cap for access to the removable battery and a port for modules that allow users to expand the phone’s capabilities by adding a camera grip and other special accessories.

The distinctly different design of the LG G5 may not be for everyone, but there’s little denying that LG has went out of its way to try and innovate in a market where big changes like this aren’t all that common.

Spec wise, we’re looking at a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 with 4 GB RAM, a 5.3-inch display, and 32 GB storage with microSD for expansion. The specs here are certainly impressive all across the board. It’s also worth mentioning that LG has revamped its software, making it faster and less bloated. One controversial move with the software, however, is the removal of the app drawer in favor of what LG says is a “simplified experience.”

Specs

  • 5.3-inch IPS LCD display with 2560 x 1440 resolution, 554 ppi
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor
  • 4 GB of RAM
  • 32 GB of on-board storage, microSD expansion up to 200 GB
  • 16 and 8 MP dual rear cameras, 8 MP front camera
  • Removable 2800 mAh battery
  • Android 6.0 Marshmallow
  • 149.4 x 73.9 x 7.7 mm, 159 g

Read more

Buy now from Amazon


Samsung Galaxy Note 5

It’s hard denying that Samsung has always been the king of large-screened smartphones, and that still holds true today. With its crystal clear 5.7-inch display, powerful Exynos 7420 CPU and killer 16 MP rear-facing camera, the Galaxy Note 5 is one of the best Android phones available on the market right now.

It’s an all-around solid device, boasting an all-glass chassis that’s similar to that of the Galaxy S7. It comes with an improved S Pen and some great multitasking features that will make it easy to get work done. The software is much more clean and simple than we’ve seen from the company in the past, too.

With all of that said, though, this device doesn’t come without its caveats. Samsung’s decision to omit the microSD card slot and removable battery has been a controversial one over the past few weeks, especially among Samsung die-hards. Even with these notable omissions, the Note 5 can still be considered one of the best out there.

If you’re looking for a big smartphone and money is no object, you should definitely consider picking up the Galaxy Note 5.

Specs

  • 5.7-inch Super AMOLED display with 1440 x 2560 resolution, 518 ppi
  • Samsung Exynos 7420 processor
  • 4 GB of RAM
  • 32/64 GB of on-board storage, no microSD card expansion
  • 16 MP rear camera, 5 MP front camera
  • Non-removable 3000 mAh battery
  • Android 6.0 Marshmallow
  • 153.2 x 76.1 x 7.6 mm, 171 g

Read more

Buy now from Amazon


LG V10

If you aren’t completely satisfied with the LG G4, perhaps the V10 will suit your needs. It has the same powerful Snapdragon 808 processor and 16 MP rear-facing camera as the G4, but with a few extra features included. Most notably, the V10 sports a secondary “ticker” display LG calls the Second Screen. This extra display aims to provide its users useful information without the need to turn on the main screen. It will display app shortcuts, notifications, and even weather and battery percentage information. Although the placement is a bit wonky, we’re sure you’ll be pretty happy with the added benefit of having a secondary display.

The V10 also has two front-facing cameras for wide-angle selfies, a fingerprint scanner that’s actually really reliable, a MIL-STD-810G Transit Drop Compliant rating for shock absorption, and a 32-bit Hi-Fi DAC electronic processor with support for Qualcomm’s QFE2550 closed-loop antenna tuning solution. It’s also the first smartphone ever to come with a manual mode for taking video.

Both the V10 and the G4 are great smartphones. If you aren’t concerned with spending a bit more money, though, you should buy the V10.

Specs

  • Main display: 5.7-inch IPS Quantum Display with 2560 x 1440 resolution, 513 ppi
    • Secondary display: 2.1-inch IPS Quantum Display with 160 x 1040 resolution, 513 ppi
  • Hexa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 processor
  • 4 GB of RAM
  • 64 GB of on-board storage, microSD expansion up to 2 TB
  • 16 MP rear-facing camera, 5 MP Dual Lens front-facing camera
  • Removable 3000 mAh battery
  • Android 5.1 Lollipop
  • 159.6 x 79.3 x 8.6 mm, 192 g

Read more

Buy now from Amazon


There you have it – our picks of the best unlocked Android phones you can buy right now. Missed anything? Tell us in the comments!

Check out our related best lists:

By | 2016-05-01T11:00:11+00:00 May 1st, 2016|Android Related, Just the Tablets|0 Comments

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