Prime Day is always the best time to buy an unlocked smartphone — here's why

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Vs S21 Plus
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Vs S21 Plus (Image credit: Android Central)

Sure, most people in the U.S. buy their phones on contract. But if you're anything like us, you probably prefer the freedom of an unlocked handset. An unlocked phone gives you immunity from carrier bloatware, the ability to bring it to just about any network operator of your choice, and easier connectivity when you're overseas. But the best unlocked phones often aren't cheap -- you're buying the phone outright, after all. Which is why big sales events like Amazon Prime Day are a great opportunity to pick up that shiny new handset you've had your heart set on without breaking the bank.

So if you're on the fence this summer, here are a few reasons why the festival of rampant consumerism that is Amazon Prime Day is the right time to take the plunge on a brand new unlocked Android phone.

2021's best Android phones are (mostly) already here

This year's Prime Day kicks off on Monday, June 21, right at the mid-year mark when most of 2021's best Android flagships are already on sale. That means there should be little risk of FOMO — fear of missing out — on any new devices dropping right after Prime Day.

Essentially, unless you're holding out for a Google Pixel 6 or a Galaxy Z Fold 3, the best that 2021 has to offer, in terms of Android phones, are mostly already on the market. That applies to the most expensive no-holds-barred handsets like the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, more affordable flagships like the OnePlus 9 series and mid-tier offerings like the Pixel 5. And all three of those fan-favorite brands have gotten in on the Prime Day action in years past.

With no Note 21 on the way and the S21 FE in doubt, the best Android phones are mostly models already on sale.

We're not expecting to see a Galaxy Note 21 this year, and there are already rumors that the Galaxy S21 FE may be canceled too, amid the ongoing global chip shortage. That means your best option for scratching that big-screened, premium Android phone itch is the S21 Ultra, which already comes with S Pen support. At the same time, the vanilla Galaxy S21 already has plenty of "Fan Edition" DNA in it, so potential deals on this model might be the closest we end up getting to a true S21 FE.

Guaranteed bargains on Samsung phones

Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus Review

Source: Android Central (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

Samsung always goes big with unlocked phone deals at major sales events like Amazon Prime Day. Last year around Black Friday gave us the best deals of the year on 2020 staples like the Galaxy S20 FE and S20 Ultra, with savings of hundreds of dollars compared to the standard prices. And while it's true that Samsung often significantly discounts its phones within a couple of months of their initial launch, there's usually little movement after this early discount. Amazon Prime Day is likely to see the biggest savings yet on the company's 2021 flagships; the next big opportunity to bag an S21 on the cheap likely won't come until late November.

That means if you've got your eye on anything in the Galaxy S21 series, or perhaps even one of the company's 2020 staples like the S20 FE or Note 20 Plus, now's the time to jump in.

Bag a 2020 flagship for next to nothing

Pixel 5 screen

Source: Hayato Huseman / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Hayato Huseman / Android Central)

While Prime Day is sure to have some great deals on Android phones released in 2021, some biggest bargains to be found often involve year-old models. As we saw last year around Prime Day and Black Friday, the best value Android phone for the price-conscious might not be a mid-ranger from last year.

This particularly applies to Google and Samsung phones, where both companies offer impressive software support lifespans. Pick up a Galaxy S20 FE, for instance, and you're still in line for three more years of security updates, and two of platform updates. Similarly, Google's current flagship is guaranteed support until at least 2023.

Whether you're in the market for the latest big-name, all-singing, all-dancing Android flagship or you're looking to get the biggest bang for your buck with one of last year's major handsets, you'll want to keep an eye on our Amazon Prime Day coverage for all the best Android deals.

Alex Dobie
Executive Editor

Alex was with Android Central for over a decade, producing written and video content for the site, and served as global Executive Editor from 2016 to 2022.