Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Best Unlocked Smartphones

The Best Unlocked, Off-Contract Smartphones Available

The Best Unlocked, Off-Contract Smartphones Available

By Mihir Patkar
Phones can be purchased in two ways. You can buy it from a carrier, which means you get it for a lower price, but you are tied to using that mobile service provider alone for the full length of your contract, and usually end up paying more for your service.
Or you can buy an unlocked phone, which means it’s yours to do with as you please. Unless you’re super happy with your mobile carrier and are willing to pay more for that service, it almost always makes more sense to buy an unlocked phone.

Why Buy Unlocked?

There are a few advantages to buying unlocked, off-contract smartphones:
  1. You can change your carrier whenever you want. No restrictions.
  2. You can change your phone without worry, without needing to activate your SIM card in a new phone.
  3. You can sell your old phone with zero hassles. Locked phones need to be unlocked before being sold.
  4. You can travel internationally without worry. Locked phones need to be unlocked to use outside your country, with local SIM cards.
  5. Your phone won’t have any bloatware installed by your carrier.
  6. You usually get lower monthly costs with carriers like Straight Talk
So with that in mind, what are the best unlocked phones you can purchase right now? We rounded up a few of your best options, although this is not an exhaustive list.

HTC One M8 Google Play Edition

The HTC One M8 is a fine smartphone, and arguably the best Android phone around. One thing’s for sure: none of the other phones match up when it comes to design. Well, HTC made it just a little bit better by offering a Google Play Edition of the handset, which means it comes with stock Android and not Sense UI, a custom Android skin. Apart from its ravishing looks, the One M8 also has two cameras on the back (the second one is used for image depth), and two grills above and below the screen on the front to make for the best speakers in a smartphone today.
Price: $699 for 32GB (microSD card slot available)
Main specifications:
  • 5-inch 1920 x 1080 Super LCD3 display (441 ppi) with Corning Gorilla Glass 3
  • Snapdragon 801, 2.3GHz quad-core CPU; Adreno 330 GPU
  • 2 GB of RAM
  • Dual 4 megapixel rear camera; 5MP front camera
  • 2600 mAh battery
  • Android 4.4 KitKat

Google Nexus 5

The Nexus 5, made by LG in partnership with Google, is still the Android maker’s flagship device. Our Nexus 5 review is adamant that this is among the best smartphones you can buy today, with a fantastic screen and superb build quality (but which you should still protect with a case). Plus, Google pushes latest versions of Android first to this phone. All of it comes together in an affordable package.
Price: $349 for 16GB | $399 for 32GB
Main specifications:
  • 4.95-inch 1920 x 1080 HD IPS display (445 ppi) with Corning Gorilla Glass 3
  • Snapdragon 800, 2.26GHz quad-core CPU; Adreno 330 GPU
  • 2 GB of RAM
  • 8 megapixel rear camera; 1.3MP front camera
  • 2300 mAh battery
  • Android 4.4 KitKat

OnePlus One

Perhaps you haven’t heard about this company called OnePlus, and that’s understandable. It’s new, has only one phone on the market, and it requires an invitation to buy it. But boy, it has some awesome features that outclass phones twice its price. In fact, the price is what makes this such a cool purchase. At the same $349 as the 16GB Nexus 5, you can get a 64GB OnePlus One—and it’s got better hardware overall too. To top it off, it comes with Cyanogenmod 11S installed, a third-party fork of Android that allows you to customize the OS to your liking. Sure, you can install Cyanogenmod on most phones, but that voids your warranty, unlike with the OnePlus One which keeps its warranty intact even if you choose to root it and flash a custom ROM.
Price: $299 for 16GB | $349 for 64GB
Main specifications:
  • 5.5-inch 1920 x 1080 LTPS LCD display (401 ppi) with Corning Gorilla Glass 3
  • Snapdragon 801, 2.5GHz quad-core CPU; Adreno 330 GPU
  • 3 GB of RAM
  • 13 megapixel rear camera; 5MP front camera
  • 3100 mAh battery
  • Cyanogenmod 11S (Android 4.4 KitKat)
Runner-up: In case you don’t have an invitation for the OnePlus One but want a similar smartphone, check out the Blu Life Pure XL. At $380 for 32GB, it’s not as good a deal, but it’s the one that comes closest.

Motorola Moto G

Both the OnePlus One and the Google Nexus 5 aren’t budget phones, although they are far cheaper than most unlocked handsets with such good hardware. Still, what if you’re looking for something less than $200? Well, the Motorola Moto G would like to make your acquaintance. This is the perfect smartphone for someone who isn’t a phone geek. It’s got 16GB of storage, long battery life, a screen that actually can be used with a single hand, and good enough performance for most tasks. There’s an 8GB version for $179, but we recommend the 16GB version just so you don’t run out of space. Plus, those removable back covers let you choose a colour of your liking to snazz it up.
Price: $179 for 8GB | $199 for 16GB
Main specifications:
  • 4.5-inch 1280 x 720 IPS LCD display (326 ppi) with Corning Gorilla Glass 3
  • Snapdragon 400, 1.2GHz quad-core CPU; Adreno 305 GPU
  • 1 GB of RAM
  • 5 megapixel rear camera; 1.3MP front camera
  • 2070 mAh battery
  • Android 4.4 KitKat

Motorola Moto E

If even the Moto G is out of your budget, get the Moto E and don’t buy something cheaper. The Moto E has the bare essentials that go into making an Android smartphone “good enough”—a decent screen with scratch-resistant glass, a decent processor, and big battery life. It misses out on some important things, like a front-facing camera (no selfies!), no HD video recording, and only 4GB of memory (which makes app installations difficult). Still, it works well enough for that luddite friend or family member who just cares about a working smartphone that lets them play Angry Birds and talk with friends on Whatsapp.
Price: $129.99 for 4GB (microSD card slot available)
Main specifications:
  • 4.3-inch 960 x 540 display (256 ppi) with Corning Gorilla Glass 3
  • Snapdragon 200, 1.2GHz dual-core CPU; Adreno 302 GPU
  • 1 GB of RAM
  • 5 megapixel rear camera; no front camera
  • 1980 mAh battery
  • Android 4.4 KitKat

Any Phone You Want

Most smartphones have an unlocked version available for purchase, including the Apple iPhone 5s, Samsung Galaxy S5, HTC One M8 (regular, non-Google Play Edition) and more. However, they are quite expensive, going as high as $800. But if that’s what you want, yup, you can get it. Head to Amazon or your local Best Buy and grab one.
With that in mind, which unlocked smartphone are you likely to pick up? Why? Like we already noted, this isn’t an exhaustive list, so if you have a better option, drop a line in the comments below!
Image credits: icevikingLoboStudioHamburg Source:

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