Google Pixel 3aSource: Android Central

Best Unlocked Phones Android Central 2020

In a world where most people in the United States buy smartphones through carriers like Verizon and AT&T, it's important to highlight the market of unlocked phones. When you buy a phone unlocked, you have the freedom to use it on any carrier you want (so long as it's supported) and often save money in the long haul compared to purchasing it on a contract or installment plan. The Pixel 3a is the best unlocked Android phone you can buy in 2020, but it's not the only one we recommend checking out. Here's a list of our favorites!

Best Overall: Pixel 3a

Google Pixel 3a XLSource: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central

Released in May 2019, the Pixel 3a is the first mid-range phone to be sold under Google's "Pixel" brand. And, you know what? It's pretty darn great.

What helps the 3a stand out the most is its impressive 12.2-megapixel single rear camera. That may not sound very impressive in a world with multi-camera phones reaching 40 megapixels and beyond, but the Pixel 3a captures some of the most consistently-great pictures of any handset you can buy in 2020 regardless of price. Photos taken with the 3a are crisp, colorful, and even look fantastic when taken at night. It's sort of impossible to take a bad picture with this phone, and that's about all you need to know.

The Pixel 3a also benefits from a fantastic software package. It's currently running Android 10, and being a Pixel device, is first-in-line for any new software updates and security patches that are released. It's also guaranteed to keep getting those updates through May 2022, meaning you can rest assured you'll continue to get the best of what Android has to offer for a while to come.

There are plenty of other strong suits for the Pixel 3a, such as a solid AMOLED display, durable polycarbonate design, a fast fingerprint sensor, and NFC for Google Pay. As for the 3a's carrier compatibility, you can use it on AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon with full LTE access.

Pros:

  • It takes phenomenal photos
  • Three years of guaranteed software updates
  • Crisp AMOLED display
  • Works on every major carrier
  • Very affordable

Cons:

  • Boring design
  • No wireless charging

Best Overall

Pixel 3a

The best of the best

The Pixel 3a is the best unlocked Android phone you can buy in 2020 — offering great camera performance and reliable software.

Best Alternative: Samsung Galaxy A50

Samsung Galaxy A50Source: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central

There's no denying the greatness of the Pixel 3a, but at the same time, there's no such thing as a one-size-fits-all smartphone. If you like the idea of the 3a but it's just not clicking for you, check out the Samsung Galaxy A50.

All-in-all, the A50 a fantastic phone for the money. Some of its highlights include a 6.4-inch AMOLED display, triple rear cameras, a huge 4,000 mAh battery, 64GB of storage, and a rare 3.5mm headphone jack. If you still have a pair of wired headphones that are near and dear to your heart, the A50 is the phone for you. A big benefit the A50 has over the Pixel 3a is its offering of expandable storage, allowing you to pop in a microSD card and instantly get more room for all of your digital files. The A50 also has a much more interesting design than the Pixel 3a, for those of you that care about that sort of thing.

Similar to the 3a, you can use the Galaxy A50 on virtually any carrier in the United States. Thanks to its support for GSM and CDMA networks, it'll work on AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon.

Pros

  • Design and display are top-notch
  • Flagship specs
  • In-display fingerprint sensor is actually good
  • Headphone jack and expandable storage
  • 4,000 mAh battery allows for long endurance

Cons

  • No wireless charging

Best Alternative

Samsung Galaxy A50

Another great option in the unlocked space

You can't go wrong with the Galaxy A50, offering an AMOLED display, triple rear cameras, and a gorgeous design.

Best Value: Nokia 7.2

Nokia 7.2Source: Android Central

2018's Nokia 7.1 was one of the best mid-rangers of that year, and following it up is the aptly-named Nokia 7.2.

The Nokia 7.2 is a beautiful phone, with a striking glass back, aluminum frame, and a large 6.3-inch LCD display that supports native HDR content and converts non-HDR content for a more colorful and vibrant picture no matter what you're doing.

This is another phone that puts a big emphasis on its cameras, with the Nokia 7.2 touting a primary 48-megapixel camera and an 8-megapixel ultra-wide camera This allows for incredible flexibility with the types of pictures you can take, and while it's a different approach compared to the Pixel 3a's single camera, it'll likely be a preference for a lot of people.

Elsewhere, the Nokia 7.2 checks just about every box you could ask for. It has a dedicated Google Assistant button for quickly prompting the AI, a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor, and is estimated to get two days of battery life on one charge. The phone also ships as part of Google's Android One program, meaning it has a clean UI right out of the box and is guaranteed to get two years of monthly security patches and at least two major Android updates.

With that said, there are a couple of factors to keep in mind. The Snapdragon 660 processor and 4GB of RAM isn't the most powerful combo out there, but for daily use, it should be perfectly fine for most people. Lastly, the phone only works on AT&T and T-Mobile in the U.S.

Pros:

  • Large HDR display
  • Incredible design
  • Two rear cameras
  • Expandable storage
  • Clean software

Cons:

  • OK processor and RAM combo
  • Doesn't work on Sprint or Verizon

Best Value

Nokia 7.2

Unmatched value

Want a lot of bang for your buck? The Nokia 7.2 looks great, has two rear cameras, and a gorgeous HDR display.

Best Premium Choice: Samsung Galaxy S20

Galaxy S20 Cloud Blue BackSource: Android Central

The majority of this list is focused on Android phones that keep costs relatively low, but if price isn't a concern for you and you'd just like to purchase one of the best devices out there, you can't go wrong with the Samsung Galaxy S20.

Samsung's Galaxy S phones are always among the best we see every year, and the S20 is one of the biggest year-over-year improvements in a while. Perhaps the most notable upgrade is its display, which now refreshes at 120Hz. This means everything on the S20's screen refreshes at twice the speed of most phones with a 60Hz rate, resulting in an incredible user experience. On top of that, you also get deep colors with Samsung's AMOLED tech and a crispy 3200x1440 resolution.

Speaking of big upgrades, the S20's cameras are also worth talking about. With 12MP wide, 64MP telephoto, and 12MP ultra-wide sensors, you have a ton of flexibility with the types of photos you can take. The telephoto lens is especially impressive, offering 3x hybrid optical zoom and 30x digital zoom.

Rounding out the list, the S20 continues to pack the punches with Qualcomm's Snapdragon 865 processor, 12GB of RAM, a 4,000 mAh battery, expandable storage, reverse wireless charging, and even support for 5G networks. When we say this phone has it all, we mean it.

Pros

  • Phenomenal 120Hz AMOLED display
  • Qualcomm's latest Snapdragon 865 processor
  • Triple rear cameras
  • Huge 4,000 mAh battery
  • Supports 5G networks

Cons

  • No getting around that price tag

Best Premium Choice

Samsung Galaxy S20

Best of the best

Its high price may keep some buyers at bay, but if you can afford it, the Galaxy S20 is an outstanding Android handset.

Best Underdog: Samsung Galaxy A71

Samsung Galaxy A71 hands-on previewSource: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central

While the Galaxy S20 may be the 2020 Samsung phone that everyone is talking about, there's another one out there that isn't getting nearly as much attention but deserves it. It's the Samsung Galaxy A71, and when you look at everything it's packing, you might be tempted to go out and buy one this very second.

Right off the bat, the Galaxy A71 catches your attention with its design. It's technically made out of plastic, but there's a laminated finish that feels like glass. We're also digging the prism pattern on the back, which gives the A71 an instantly distinct aesthetic. On the front of the phone, you'll find a 6.7-inch Super AMOLED display with a crisp resolution of 2400x1080. Camera-wise, you have four sensors to choose from — a 64MP primary lens, 12MP ultra-wide lens, 5MP macro lens, and 5MP portrait lens.

Taking a look inside of the Galaxy A71, there's just as much to get excited about. You'll find a Qualcomm Snapdragon 730 processor, 6GB of RAM, 128GB of expandable storage, and a massive 4,500 mAh battery. Samsung also kept the 3.5mm headphone jack, not to mention this particular variant of the phone comes with a free 64GB microSD card.

The Galaxy A71 is an international phone, meaning it's not officially sold in the U.S. The biggest issue this brings up is the fact that it doesn't come with a U.S. warranty, but that's about it. The A71 has every band you need for reliable coverage on AT&T and T-Mobile, but it will not work on Sprint or Verizon.

Pros

  • 6.7-inch AMOLED display
  • Four cameras on the back
  • Gorgeous design
  • Headphone jack and expandable storage
  • Ample performance

Cons

  • Doesn't come with a U.S. warranty
  • Not compatible with Sprint or Verizon

Best Underdog

Samsung Galaxy A71

One of the best international phones you can get

You may not have previously heard about the Galaxy A71, but everything about the phone makes it well worth considering.

Best Alexa Built-in: Moto G7

Moto G7Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central

Motorola's G-series of phones has long been one of the go-to options for quality handsets on a budget, and six years after the first Moto G was released, the Moto G7 continues that legacy better than ever before.

Right off the bat, the G7 makes a great first impression with its 6.2-inch Full HD+ display. The screen itself looks fantastic, has a tall 19:9 aspect ratio, and has very minimal bezels surrounding it along with a simple waterdrop notch at the top to house the 8-megapixel selfie camera.

The glass design gives the G7 a nice sense of elegance despite its ultra-low price tag, and having the fingerprint sensor built into the Motorola "M" logo on the back is an incredible touch. You'll also find dual 12 and 5-megapixel rear cameras, a 3,000 mAh battery that "lasts all day," and deep Alexa integration allowing you to say "Alexa" at any time to ask a question or issue a command.

The biggest downside to the G7 is Motorola's track record for software updates. It's likely the phone will be updated to Android 10 at some point in the future, but it's bound to take a while for that to happen. Thankfully, the out-of-the-box software experience is pretty fantastic, with features like Moto Display and Moto Actions being great additions to Android that you won't find anywhere else.

Finally, the G7 absolutely rocks it for carrier support, as the phone fully works on AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon's LTE networks.

Pros:

  • Big, crisp display
  • Dual rear cameras
  • All-day battery life
  • Alexa built-in
  • Motorola's software is excellent

Cons:

  • Uncertain update roadmap

Best Alexa Built-in

Moto G7

So many features, such a small price

The Moto G7's display, cameras, software, and battery are all better than you'd expect for a phone of this price.

Best Action Camera: Motorola One Action

Motorola One ActionSource: Android Central

If there's one thing we hate, it's vertical video. Not only are the black bars on either side incredibly annoying, but it also greatly limits how much of a scene you can capture. With the Motorola One Action, recording vertical video is literally impossible.

Thanks to an ultra-wide action camera in the phone, you can hold the One Action vertically and still record horizontal video. Whether you're making a home movie or just trying to record your favorite song at a concert, this is a feature that you can probably get a lot of use out of. Speaking of unique features, the One Action is also equipped with a 6.3-inch 21:9 CinemaVision display. This means it's taller and narrower than most 18:9 phone screens, with the biggest benefit being that it gives you an immersive and cinematic viewing experience when watching movies or other video content filmed in that aspect ratio.

The action camera and 21:9 display are the biggest draws to the One Action, but those aren't the only reasons to pick it up. The phone has 128GB of internal storage that can be expanded with a microSD card, you get a 3.5mm headphone jack, and Motorola's custom software goodies like Moto Display and Moto Actions continue to be among the best out there. Even better, the Motorola One Action works on all carriers in the U.S. — including Sprint and Verizon.

Just like the Moto G7, however, the One Action faces the harsh reality of Motorola's poor track record for software updates. While the One Action has been updated to Android 10, future updates beyond that are unlikely.

Pros

  • Action camera makes it impossible to record vertical video
  • Unique 21:9 display
  • Expandable storage + headphone jack
  • Stock Android with Moto customizations
  • Works on all U.S. carriers

Cons

  • Motorola has a bad track record for software updates

Best Action Camera

Motorola One Action

Say goodbye to vertical video

Vertical video is the worst, but with the One Action, it's literally impossible to record it. Thank you, Motorola.

Best Compact Phone: Samsung Galaxy S10e

Samsung Galaxy S10eSource: Andrew Martonik / Android Central

Whether you regularly or occasionally keep up with the smartphone market, you'll likely have noticed a trend over the last few years in which companies have been on an endless mission to make phones as big as possible. This is great for media consumption and content creation, but if you enjoy using your phone with one hand, it can be a pain in the butt. That's where the Galaxy S10e comes to the rescue.

The S10e offers a very similar experience compared to its siblings, the S10 and S10+, but does so in a much smaller form factor with a similarly-sized price tag.

This is a flagship phone through and through, meaning everything about the S10e is as about as good as it gets. The 5.8-inch AMOLED display is bright, colorful, and easy to use one-handed, the Snapdragon 855 processor paired with 6 or 8GB of RAM is tremendously powerful, and you can expand the 128GB of internal storage if you find yourself needing more room.

Other highlights include a nearly bezel-less screen, wireless charging, and Samsung Pay which allows you to use the S10e to pay for things at virtually any store using a combination of NFC and MST. You also don't have to worry about which carrier you're on, as the S10e works with every major wireless provider in the U.S.

Pros:

  • Wonderfully compact
  • The AMOLED display looks incredible
  • Blazing fast performance
  • 3.5mm headphone jack and expandable storage
  • Samsung Pay
  • Works on every major wireless provider

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • The screen is only 1080p

Best Compact Phone

Samsung Galaxy S10e

Compact is cool

Compact phones are a rarity in 2020, but the S10e is one of the very best — offering flagship specs in a small footprint.

Best Value Flagship: OnePlus 7T

OnePlus 7TSource: Android Central

Ever since the original OnePlus One debuted in 2014, OnePlus has become synonymous with high-end Android phones sold at competitive prices. That's an ideology OnePlus has continued with year after year, with its latest offering being the OnePlus 7T.

While the price of the OnePlus 7T would lead you to believe that it had to cut a lot of corners, that couldn't be further from the truth. You're getting the incredibly powerful Snapdragon 855+ processor, 8GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, a 3,800 mAh battery, and triple rear cameras. The 6.55-inch AMOLED display is also really impressive; it features a 90Hz refresh rate for buttery smooth animations.

Another strong suit of the 7T is its software. OxygenOS powers the OnePlus 7T, which is OnePlus's in-house Android interface. It's based on Android 10 and comes with all of the features you'd expect from Google's latest operating system, but it also adds a ton of extra things that are genuinely awesome. Some of the highlights include a robust customization suite, Zen Mode to help you curb your phone addiction, and a bunch of other smaller tweaks that help to enhance stock Android. A lot of people would gladly call this their favorite version of Android that exists, and we'd have to agree with them.

The lack of wireless charging is a bummer, as is the omission of expandable storage, but those are two small prices to pay considering everything the OnePlus 7T brings to the table for such a small price.

Pros:

  • Clean design
  • That 90Hz display
  • Performance is top-notch
  • Warp Charge is stupidly fast
  • OxygenOS is clean and filled with features
  • Works with AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon

Cons:

  • No wireless charging
  • Doesn't have a headphone jack
  • No expandable storage

Best Value Flagship

OnePlus 7T

High-end doesn't have to be expensive

Between its 90Hz display and OxygenOS, the OnePlus 7T is one of the best unlocked Android phones out there.

Best Battery Life: Moto G7 Power

Moto G7 PowerSource: Android Central

Battery life is one of those smartphone features that affects everyone. You may not take a lot of pictures or care about headphone jacks, but everyone wants a battery that lasts as long as possible. If that's one of your top priorities when buying a phone, the Moto G7 Power is a really compelling option.

The Moto G7 Power is equipped with a downright massive 5,000 mAh battery, and according to Motorola, is enough to get you through 3 days of regular usage before needing to charge up. That level of endurance is a rarity in the smartphone space, and for people that are on the road a lot or frequently go camping/hiking, it is an absolute game-changer.

Along with great battery life, the Moto G7 Power has a 6.2-inch HD+ display, a single 12-megapixel rear camera, an 8-megapixel selfie camera, and the same great Motorola software found on the regular Moto G7. The G7 Power also has Alexa built-in, this time in the form of double-pressing the power button at any time to talk to the assistant. Carrier compatibility is a non-issue here as well, with the Moto G7 working on every U.S. carrier.

With the G7 Power, you're not going to get great performance or an outstanding camera, as you can see above, but when you only want your phone to last as long as possible, this is the choice.

Pros:

  • 3 days of battery life on a single charge
  • Big display
  • Modern design
  • Rear-mounted fingerprint sensor
  • Motorola's software

Cons:

  • Barebones camera
  • Only average performance

Best Battery Life

Moto G7 Power

Perfect for road warriors

With an advertised rating of 3 days of use per charge, the Moto G7 Power is the phone to get if battery life is a top priority.

Best Budget Pick: Samsung Galaxy A20

Samsung Galaxy A20 Source: Samsung

Next, we have the Galaxy A20. This shares the same price as the Moto G7 Power, but offers a more complete all-around package.

Right off the bat, the Galaxy A20 grabs your attention with its 6.4-inch AMOLED display. Samsung makes the best AMOLED screens in the business, meaning the display on the A20 is one of the best you'll find in this price range. Also noteworthy is the 4,000 mAh, which isn't quite as impressive as the G7 Power's, but still a force to be reckoned with.

The 32GB of internal storage is on the small side of things, but you can expand it up to a whopping 512GB. There are also dual rear cameras, a snappy fingerprint sensor, and Samsung's own Exynos 7904 processor.

Samsung notes that the A20 works with "most major U.S. GSM and CDMA networks," meaning you shouldn't have a problem using the phone no matter which wireless provider you rely on.

Pros:

  • AMOLED display
  • Small bezels
  • Dual rear cameras
  • 4,000 mAh battery
  • Expandable storage up to 512GB

Cons:

  • Boring, plastic design
  • Small internal storage

Best Budget Pick

Samsung Galaxy A20

Save some coin

The Galaxy A20 is a compelling phone for anyone that's on a budget. You get an AMOLED display and dual rear cameras.

Best Dirt Cheap: Nokia 4.2

Nokia 4.2Source: Ara Wagoner / Android Central

There are a lot of affordable phones on this list, but what if you're really trying to keep costs low? That's when you turn to the Nokia 4.2. This is the most affordable phone we're featuring here, and it's impressive just how much Nokia is able to offer at such a minimal price.

Hardware-wise, there's lots to like. The Nokia 4.2 is packing dual rear cameras, a 5.71-inch HD+ display, and a fast rear-mounted fingerprint sensor. There's also a 3,000 mAh battery, NFC for Google Pay, and 32GB of internal storage that can be expanded up to 400GB if you have a microSD card. The Nokia 4.2 has an excellent software experience, too, coming equipped with guaranteed software updates since it's part of Google's Android One program.

We aren't a fan of having to use Micro-USB to charge the phone, and when it comes to performance, the Nokia 4.2 isn't the fastest phone around. Then again, when you're spending this little, some compromises are to be expected.

Pros

  • Insanely low price
  • Two rear cameras
  • Expandable storage up to 400GB
  • Google Pay support
  • Software updates are guaranteed

Cons

  • Micro-USB charging
  • Performance is so-so

Best Dirt Cheap

Nokia 4.2

Spending lots of cash is so overrated

Spending this little on a new phone typically doesn't buy you much, but with the Nokia 4.2, you get a well-rounded handset.

Bottom line

There you have it — the best unlocked Android phones you can buy in 2020. We're confident you'll be happy with any of the choices on this list, but if we could only pick one, we'd have to go with the Pixel 3a.

Google did an amazing job with the 3a and basically redefined what to expect from mid-range smartphone cameras. The Pixel 3a takes photos that look just as good — if not better — than devices that cost hundreds of dollars more. That's something that did not go unnoticed by anyone, and it'll be exciting to see how the market responds to what Google was able to pull off here.

What's even crazier is that Google didn't just stop with the camera. The rest of the Pixel 3a is equally impressive. The AMOLED display is a joy to look at, performance is more than adequate for general use, and the software is among the best you'll find.

Even if you can afford something more expensive than the Pixel 3a, it's still the unlocked Android phone we'd recommend looking at first. Once you do, we think you'll have a hard time saying no to it.

Credits — The team that worked on this guide

Joe Maring is Android Central's News Editor and has had a love for anything with a screen and CPU since he can remember. He's been talking/writing about Android in one form or another since 2012, and often does so while camping out at the nearest coffee shop. Have a tip? Send an email to joe.maring@futurenet.com!

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