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Best Overall: Samsung Galaxy S10+ at Amazon
"Not for budget-conscious consumers, but it tops our list of the best unlocked Android phones because no others can match the sum of all its parts."
Runner-Up, Best Overall: Samsung Galaxy S10e at Amazon
"This cheaper alternative may be inferior to the company’s flagship offerings, but just slightly."
Best Budget: Moto G7 at Amazon
"A device that's hard to beat from a perspective of pure value."
Best Camera: Pixel 3 XL at Amazon
"Google defiantly boasts the best picture quality available in a smartphone."
Best Mid-Range: Pixel 3a at Amazon
"There’s not a ton separating the Pixel 3a from its stronger, older sibling."
Best for Productivity: Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ at Amazon
"The S-Pen on the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ adds immeasurable value to the software experience."
Best for Gaming: Razer Phone 2 at Amazon
"Folks who take their mobile gaming seriously have to consider going with the Razer Phone 2."
Best for Music: LG G8 ThinQ at Amazon
"Whether it’s music, video games, or movies, you’ll enjoy upgraded audio that fills the soundstage."
Courtesy of Amazon
Excellent build quality
Among the myriad reasons someone considers buying an unlocked smartphone, the most common is usually cost. The Samsung Galaxy S10+ is not for budget-conscious consumers but still tops our list of the best unlocked Android phones because no others can match its features. You’ll pay handsomely for it, but the Samsung Galaxy S10+ features a smorgasbord of innovative technology that’s hard to find in any other single package.
Consider the roomy 6.4-inch Quad HD+ AMOLED display with an in-screen fingerprint scanner, or perhaps the excellent five-camera optics system. It uses Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855 and up to 12GB of RAM, offering some of the fastest processing internals available on the market. There’s fast wireless charging that can share the phone’s power to keep accessories like wireless earbuds topped up throughout the day.
All of the typical features are present as well, like a 3.5mm headphone jack and expandable storage. Samsung packed it all into a beautiful glass design mastered by years of modern refinement. And lately, the electronics giant continues to elevate its software by making it's custom Android installation leaner, easier to use, and much more pleasing to the eye. The Galaxy S10+ is the phone for those who want the best of everything.
Fingerprint sensor is hit-or-miss
If you can't swing the cost of the Galaxy S10+ your next best option is the Galaxy S10e. This cheaper alternative may be inferior to the company’s flagship offerings, but just slightly. The smaller 5.8-inch display still uses AMOLED technology at a lowered Full HD+ resolution, and some might appreciate the reduced footprint. The glass isn’t curved, however, and the fingerprint sensor lives within the power button instead of beneath the screen. But an unintended bonus of the lower resolution is the 3,100mAh battery inside the Samsung Galaxy S10e lasts a little longer than the base model.
Samsung also removes one camera each for both the front and rear, leaving a single 10MP selfie camera and a 12MP + 16MP tag team as your primary shooters. The powerful Snapdragon 855 chipset is still running the show, and neat features like Wireless PowerShare and Samsung Pay sweeten the deal. This is an easy decision if you’re looking to save a few hundred dollars for the latest in Samsung technology.
Tons of Value
Long battery life
Motorola has played the role of budget benefactor for as long as it has been around Android, and with standout devices like the Moto G7, that’s truer now than ever. You wouldn’t know that it costs less than $300 if you held it with your eyes closed. You can thank a contoured glass design strengthened by Gorilla Glass for that.
The Moto G7 is a remarkably balanced device. The 6.2-inch Full HD+ display offers a window to an efficient Android 9.0 Pie software experience. A highly optimized 1.8GHz octa-core Snapdragon 632 chipset combined with 4GB of RAM, keeps the lag and hiccups at bay with great power efficiency. That combo helps the 3,000mAh battery last all day, and with USB-C, it takes just minutes of charging to add hours of uptime. The Moto G7 also boasts a very respectable camera system, using a 12MP + 5MP duo joined by an 8MP sensor on the front. The Moto G7 does almost everything promised by pricier phones, providing you with a device that's hard to beat from a perspective of pure value.
Priority updates from google
Might be too big for some
The Pixel 3 XL may not have a multitude of cameras, but Google defiantly boasts the best picture quality available in a smartphone. The lone 12.2MP ultra-pixel sensor — with its phase detection autofocus and optical image stabilization — is surprisingly good, offering superior lowlight performance, plus overall clarity and color accuracy. The Pixel 3 XL’s portrait mode seems to blur backgrounds almost perfectly despite the lack of a depth-sensing secondary camera. Such is the power of computational AI-powered photography, which factors heavily into the exquisite final results you’ll enjoy. It even helps with shaky camera videos, which you can record at resolutions up to 4K.
The Pixel 3 XL is a solid smartphone in other regards as well, with a 6.3-inch Quad HD+ OLED always-on display, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 chipset with 4GB of RAM, up to 128GB of storage, IP68 water resistance, and your choice between fast USB-C and Qi wireless charging. The biggest benefit of going with a Pixel is having its software under Google’s care, meaning quick updates with all the latest features long after purchase.
Affordable entry point into Google architechture
Snapdragon 670 caps performance
There’s not a ton separating the Pixel 3a from its more powerful, older sibling, much like the relationship between the Samsung Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10e. The Pixel 3a packs the essentials for the trademark Pixel experience, such as the same 12.2MP camera widely regarded as the best in smartphone photography. It may not feature water resistance, wireless charging, or a glass-backed design, but you still get something of an exclusive feature with the 3.5mm headphone jack.
Stereo speakers return to the Pixel 3a, but unlike the front-facing drivers on the Pixel 3, they both sit on the bottom to bookend a USB-C port. Internally, the Snapdragon 670 hits a ceiling that the Pixel 3 smashes through, but don’t mistake that for weakness. Especially with Google’s lightweight Android OS in tow, the Pixel 3a feels every bit as snappy as a flagship phone, but you should curb expectations for high-fidelity gaming performance. Backed by 36 months of software and security updates straight from Google, the Pixel 3a can serve you well for years to come.
Wacom powered stylus
Functionally, there isn’t much differentiating the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ from other modern Galaxy iterations. The largest model has a 6.8-inch Quad HD+ AMOLED display with an in-screen fingerprint scanner, a Snapdragon 855 chipset, 12GB of RAM, four total cameras on the rear, and a massive 4,300mAh battery with 15W wireless charging.
However, the S-Pen on the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ adds immeasurable value to the software experience. More than just an ordinary capacitive stylus, the S-Pen is a digitized pen enhanced by Wacom technology. This gives you advanced features like pressure sensitivity and faster response times. Creatives of the world will appreciate this package more than most. The Note 10+ is a mobile digital canvas that responds to the weight of your virtual ink strokes to simulate writing or drawing with an actual pen, pencil, or brush on paper.
The S-Pen is also a boon for productivity buffs with its advanced note-taking and screenshotting capabilities, as well as the ability to use deep app functions without having to switch back and forth by hovering over icons and menus. The price tag isn’t easy to swallow, but the Galaxy Note 10+ is one of the few devices that costs exactly what it should.
Excellent gaming capability
Super-fast refresh rate
Gamer aesthetic isn't for everyone
Folks who take their mobile gaming seriously have to consider going with the Razer Phone 2. On its own, the Snapdragon 845 chipset and 8GB of RAM are right in line with flagships of its time, but none can claim the unique pieces that make the Razer Phone 2 perfect for gamers. The biggest is a 5.72-inch Quad HD display featuring a 120Hz refresh rate. It nearly eliminates the delay between you tapping the screen and the response that action gives, a sure necessity for those into competitive play.
This technology also helps make overall Android operation feel smoother. Razer went with the classic 16:9 aspect ratio in a world that now favors skinny and tall, but games will fill the screen more naturally than it can in other form factors. There is even a unique vapor chamber that keeps the chipset running cool, dual front-facing speakers with Dolby Atmos and a THX-certified DAC, and a large 4,000mAh battery to support those marathon gaming sessions. Just in case you ever get confused that the Razer Phone 2 is a gamer’s best friend the Razer logo on the rear gets illumination via customizable RGB LEDs embedded beneath.
Excellent sound quality
A bit pricey
LG may not dominate the smartphone supremacy debate like Apple and Samsung, but the LG G8 ThinQ proves LG is every bit as capable of producing a quality smartphone. Featuring a big 6.1-inch Quad HD+ OLED display, a Snapdragon 855 chipset, 6GB of RAM with 128GB of expandable storage, dual 16MP + 12MP cameras with optical image stabilization and phase detection autofocus, a 3,500mAh battery with wireless charging, and more.
However, the calling card of the LG G8 is its audio, with a 32-bit Quad DAC enhancing any piece of entertainment you consume. Although its main speaker is small, the phone also projects sound against the display, using the natural vibrations of its own construction to amplify the output. Whether it’s music, video games, or movies, you’ll enjoy upgraded audio that fills the soundstage with accurate detail at all points of the spectrum. Add tricks like built-in Amazon Alexa and hands-free motion gestures, and the LG G8 ThinQ is one of the most fun smartphones on avail.