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Best Unlocked iPhones

The best-unlocked iPhones provide the optimal Apple experience independent of a carrier payment plan. You can purchase the iPhone that has caught your eye, whether it is one of Apple’s ultra-powerful flagships or a discounted older model. 

This gives you greater flexibility regarding the cost of a phone, the length of time you sign up for wireless service, the carrier you choose, and other factors. If you’re in the market for a new smartphone, the best-unlocked iPhones are the obvious choice, especially when paired with one of the best cell phone plans. 

Since Apple only releases a handful of new phones each year, you have fewer options than with the best unlocked Android phones. Suppose you want to avoid signing a contract with a carrier. In that case, you still have a variety of Apple devices to choose from, especially now that Apple has introduced a new version of the iPhone SE that includes 5G connectivity. 

Our Top Picks

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What is an iPhone unlocked? 

You may wonder what we mean when referring to “unlocked” iPhones. This indicates that your device needs to be connected to a carrier, allowing you to choose your preferred provider. 

This could be your current carrier or one you believe would work well with your chosen phone. Whether it is Verizon(opens in new tab), Mint Mobile, T-Mobile, or another provider. 

The benefit of this is that you have complete control over who you end up with. And while you can usually purchase a phone directly from a carrier, selecting an unlocked model is often less expensive and gives you more options. Apple’s unlocked iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12 cost $30 more than their carrier-locked counterparts when purchased directly from Apple. Apple charges the same $30 premium for unlocked iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini models. There are no additional fees associated with the unlocked iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max. 

Apple is an excellent place to purchase the best-unlocked iPhones, as its trade-in program allows you to save money on a new phone. You can save $100 to $600 on any new iPhone 13 model by trading in an iPhone 8 or later. More significant discounts are available for the most recent phones. 

Unlocked iPhone advantages 

You’ll find the same phones as with the three major carriers, from the most recent Apple iPhones to the budget-friendly iPhone SE. 

If flexibility is essential, unlocked iPhones allow you to switch carriers or networks without incurring additional fees. 

There are numerous advantages to buying iPhones 

  • Low-cost carriers such as Mint Mobile offer the cheapest unlocked iPhones and can save you up to $600 per year per line. 
  • Latest cell phones: The same iPhones as the three major carriers, but without the three-year contract. 
  • No long-term obligation: With an unlocked iPhone, you are not bound to a single network or carrier, allowing you to switch whenever your needs change. 
  • Affordable monthly payments: Numerous low-cost carriers offer interest-free payment plans on their phones and cell phone plans beginning at $10 per month. 
  • There are still options for unlimited data phone plans; however, ultimately does not always mean unlimited, so be sure to read the fine print. 
  • There are a variety of 5G iPhones available if you desire access to the speedy 5G network. 
  • Find a variety of unlocked iPhones suitable for seniors at affordable prices. 
  • If your child desires an iPhone, you can save you hundreds of dollars, and they also offer the most affordable family phone plans with multi-line discounts. 

How do we test the best iPhones that are unlocked? 

We have ensured that each iPhone on this list has been subjected to multiple tests to determine its position. This involves us using each Apple phone for a set period and running tests. 

Regarding performance, we rely on synthetic benchmarks like Geekbench 5 and 3DMark to measure graphics performance. These tests allow us to compare iPhone and Android device performance. In addition, we conduct a real-world video transcoding test on each device using the Adobe Premiere Rush application and time the outcome. 

The best unlocked iPhones right now

1. The best unlocked iPhone: iPhone 14

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The iPhone 14 is the best-unlocked iPhone because it offers many features at a reasonable price (around $800). This is crucial when purchasing an unlocked phone, as you’ll likely have to buy the device outright to enjoy the freedom of choosing your carrier. Apple charges $30 more for an unlocked version of the iPhone 14, which begins at $799, compared to the carrier-locked versions. 

Nonetheless, consider what you receive for that cost. The primary and selfie cameras are even better than before, thanks to new sensors and Apple’s Photonic Engine; the A15 chipset (although unchanged from last year) has improved performance, and there are fun new features such as Action Mode video to try out. 

Compared to the iPhone 13, the annual upgrade is more minor than it has been in the past. The iPhone 13 is a vast improvement over its predecessor, even though it lacks some of the more advanced features of the iPhone 13 Pro models. 

Specifications 
  • Display: 6.1-inch OLED 
  • CPU: A15 Bionic 
  • RAM: 6GB 
  • Storage / Expandable: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB / No 
  • Rear cameras: 12MP main (f/1.5), 12MP ultrawide (f/2.4) 
  • Front camera: 12MP (f/1.9) 
  • Weight: 6.07 ounces 
  • Battery life (Hrs:Mins): TBC 
PROS
  • Major internal redesign for easier repairability.
  • Bright OLED screen, HDR10, Dolby Vision and excellent color accuracy.
  • Solid battery life.
  • Loud stereo speakers, excellent output.
  • Great all-around performance from the older but still solid chipset.
  • Great photo and video quality across all three cameras.
  • Autofocus on the selfies camera and Action Mode are great camera additions.
  • Every iPhone comes with at least five years of iOS updates.
CONS
  • Minor upgrade over iPhone 13.
  • Wider feature gap with the 14 Pro: no 120Hz refresh rate, A16 Bionic, zoom camera or AF on the ultrawide.
  • The notch is still a polarizing design element.
  • The fast charging isn't particularly fast, and the charger is not bundled.
  • Apple's iOS restrictions can be off-putting to newcomers to the ecosystem.

2. Your best bet for an unlocked iPhone Pro: iPhone 14 Pro

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The lack of distinction between the two iPhone 14 Pro models is excellent news for unlocked phone enthusiasts. Therefore, you can get all the great additions to the Pro lineup with the $999 iPhone 14 Pro instead of the pricier iPhone 14 Pro Max. 

These enhancements include the Dynamic Island cutout, which adds new notification and update capabilities to the top of the display, a brighter display, a 48MP primary camera, and a new A16 Bionic chip for unparalleled performance. 

Unlocking the iPhone 14Pro requires an upfront payment of $999, which is a significant sum. However, the device you receive in return is well worth the cost. 

Specifications 
  • Display: 6.1-inch OLED 
  • CPU: A16 Bionic 
  • RAM: 6GB 
  • Storage / Expandable: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB / No 
  • Rear cameras: 48MP main (f/1.8), 12MP ultrawide (f/2.2), 12MP telephoto (f/2.8) with 3x 
  • Front camera: 12MP (f/1.9) 
  • Weight: 7.3 ounces 
  • Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 10:13 
PROS
  • Exquisite design and excellent build
  • 48-megapixel camera capable of producing incredible images
  • Dynamic Island is a good notch replacement
  • Finally has an always-on display
CONS
  • No SIM tray may bother some
  • Still just 3x optical zoom
  • Camera enhancements aren't as huge as Apple suggests
  • No USB-C

3. An astonishingly good iPhone: Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max

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The iPhone 13 Pro Max is Apple’s most prominent, fastest, and ‘best’ iPhone in 2021. It is like its predecessor, but significant improvements have been made. 

The exemplary OLED display and advanced camera system, which consists of Telephoto, Wide, and Ultra-Wide cameras, are both advantageous. Compared to the iPhone 12 Pro Max, the Ultra Wide and Wide cameras’ larger apertures allow for improved and faster low-light photography. 

Dolby Vision enables video capture at up to 4K/60fps, and the new Cinematic mode allows in-video depth-of-field adjustments. The 12 Pro Max could last well over a day, but the 13 Pro Max has a battery life of approximately 2.5 hours longer. Convenient if you stream videos on the go. 

If you desire the best unlocked iPhone but cannot afford the iPhone 14 Pro Max, the iPhone 13 Pro Max remains a viable alternative, especially when paired with AirPods Max headphones for the whole Spatial Audio experience. 

Specifications 
  • Screen: 6.7in OLED 
  • Resolution: 2778 x 1284 
  • Operating system: iOS 15 
  • Battery life: 28hrs video, 95hrs audio 
  • Operating system: iOS 15 
  • Dimensions (hwd): 161 x 78 x 7.7mm 
  • Weight: 238g 
PROS
  • ProMotion screen brings 120Hz smoothness
  • Beefy performance
  • 3x optical zoom telephoto
  • Great cameras
CONS
  • It's really big - which won't suit all
  • Lacks on-off setting for macro photography
  • Cinematic mode capped at 1080p
  • Notch feels tired

4. Apple iPhone 13

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The iPhone 13 may have been replaced by the iPhone 14, but it is arguably the most affordable. 

The iPhone 13 is slightly less expensive (at least in the UK) than the iPhone 12 was at launch and significantly cheaper than the iPhone 14. It features the same winning design as the 12, a similarly premium feel, and five stylish hues. 

The A15 Bionic chip enables useful iOS features and speeds up the phone’s startup. The screen is 28% brighter than the 12, but the refresh rate remains at 60Hz. The camera features a new sensor that lets in 47% more light and the same optical image stabilization technology as the iPhone 12 Pro Max. The battery also lasts 2.5 hours longer, which is convenient if you stream video while moving. 

Specifications 
  • Screen: 6.1in OLED 
  • Resolution: 2532 x 1170 
  • Features: Siri assistant, 12MP wide and ultra-wide lenses 
  • Battery: 3227mAh 
  • Operating system: iOS 15 
  • Dimensions (hwd) : 14.7 x 7.2 x 0.7cm 
  • Weight: 173g 
PROS
  • Strong battery life
  • Class-leading performance
  • Excellent cameras
  • Increased base storage
CONS
  • Minimal design changes
  • Smaller notch doesn't add much
  • Slower charging than rivals
  • No 120Hz screen
  • Selfie camera sensor unchanged

5. The most compact unlocked iPhone: iPhone 13 mini

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Apple exerted significant effort to improve the iPhone 13 mini over last year’s model, increasing the battery capacity and incorporating larger camera sensors. The iPhone XS Max has a longer battery life than the iPhone 12 mini, but it is still below average for a smartphone. The camera improvement is more effective, as the iPhone 13 mini takes better low-light photos. 

Apple did increase the brightness of the mini’s 5.4-inch display, but it lacks the advanced features of the iPhone 13 Pro series, such as a fast-refreshing display. Unlocked versions of this compact phone cost an additional $30 on top of the relatively low starting price of $699 for the iPhone mini. 

Specifications 
  • Display: 5.4-inch OLED (2340 x 1080) 
  • CPU: A15 Bionic 
  • RAM: 6GB 
  • Storage / Expandable: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB / No 
  • Rear cameras: 12MP main (f/1.6), 12MP ultrawide (f/2.48) 
  • Front camera: 12MP (f/2.2) 
  • Weight: 4.97 ounces 
  • Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 8:41 
PROS
  • Solid performance - the same power as iPhone 13
  • Beautiful bright display
  • Base model has 128GB of storage
CONS
  • No mask-friendly authentication
  • Still wish the notch was smaller
  • Only 60Hz screen
  • No telephoto zoom lens

6. iPhone 14 Plus

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Apple resurrected its old Plus model with the iPhone 14, allowing users to obtain a 6.7-inch display without losing a fortune for the Pro Max’s advanced features. 

The iPhone lacks a 120Hz refresh rate and telephoto camera, which is standard for non-Pro models. Fortunately, you get an excellent battery life, plenty of power from the A15 Bionic chip, and unique images from the primary, ultrawide, and selfie cameras. The iPhone 14 Plus is an excellent unlocked iPhone for those who cannot afford the iPhone 14 Pro Max but find the 6.1-inch iPhone 14 or iPhone 14 Pro too small. 

Specifications 

  • Display size: 6.7 inch OLED (2778 x 1284) 
  • CPU: A15 Bionic 
  • RAM: 6GB 
  • Storage / Expandable: 128GB,256GB,512GB/No 
  • Rear camera: 12MP main (f/1.5), 12MP ultra wide (f/2.4) 
  • Front camera: 12MP (f/1.9) 
  • Weight: 7.16 ounces 
  • Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 11:57 
PROS
  • Large, vibrant, detailed screen
  • Two-day battery life
  • Easy to use software
  • Great everyday camera
CONS
  • It's a big phone
  • 60Hz refresh rate

7. Apple's most powerful iPhone: iPhone 14 Pro Max

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The unlocked iPhone 14 Pro Max will cost you $1,099 upfront, but you will find it well worth the cost. This is Apple’s most advanced smartphone. 

You get a new display with a Dynamic Island instead of a notch, increased brightness, a 48MP primary camera sensor, and a unique Action mode video setting, similar to the iPhone 14 Pro. Even better, the iPhone 14 Pro Max’s battery life is far superior to its competitors. 

Apple’s giant phone is only for some, but the iPhone 14 Pro Max is the best option for those who want the best Apple offers. 

Specifications 
  • Display: 6.7-inch OLED 
  • CPU: A16 Bionic 
  • RAM: 6GB 
  • Storage / Expandable: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB / No 
  • Rear cameras: 48MP main (f/1.8), 12MP ultrawide (f/1.8), 12MP telephoto (f/2.8) with 3x 
  • Front camera: 12MP (f/1.9) 
  • Weight: 8.5 ounces 
  • Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 14:42 
PROS
  • Class-leading design, water resistance and durability.
  • Class-leading OLED screen, 120Hz, AOD, Dolby Vision, 2000nits.
  • Class-leading performance, very good stability.
  • Class-leading battery life.
  • Outstanding photo and video quality across all four cameras.
  • Best video stabilization available on a smartphone, high-quality action mode.
  • Superb stereo speakers.
  • Every iPhone comes with at least five years of iOS updates.
CONS
  • Dynamic Island is a love-it or hate-it affair.
  • Bigger and heavier than most.
  • No charger in the box, somewhat slow charging.
  • Apple's iOS restrictions can be off-putting to newcomers to the ecosystem.

8. The most affordable unlocked iPhone: iPhone SE (2022)

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If cost is a concern when searching for your next unlocked iPhone, the iPhone SE is your best option. This is the little phone that could, as the iPhone 8 provides a predominantly premium experience despite its diminutive size. It has drawbacks and compromises, but it’s an excellent device overall. 

It has the same A15 Bionic processor as the standard iPhone 13 models but lacks certain essential features, such as Night mode. The new SE needs more support for Verizon’s mmWave 5G network, but for $429, you can only have some things. For this purpose, the iPhone 13 mini or iPhone 12 mini is the superior option. If money is still an issue, but you desire more modern features such as Night mode and an ultrawide camera, the iPhone 11 is the best alternative. 

Nonetheless, the iPhone SE (2022) is an excellent addition to this list and will make many people happy. This is the cheapest 5G iPhone for under $500. 

Specifications 
  • Display: 4.7-inch LCD (1344 x 750) 
  • CPU: A15 Bionic 
  • RAM: 4GB 
  • Storage / Expandable: 64GB, 128GB, 256GB / No 
  • Rear camera: 12MP (f/1.8) 
  • Front camera: 7MP (f/2.2) 
  • Weight: 5 ounces 
  • Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 9:05 
PROS
  • Compact and light
  • Very powerful
  • Touch ID works really well
  • Wireless charging
  • IP67 water resistance
CONS
  • Poor battery life
  • 60Hz screen
  • 64GB won't be enough

9. Still a worthwhile iPhone: iPhone 12

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With the release of the iPhone 13, the iPhone 12 remains at a reduced price. Apple has reduced the cost of the iPhone 12 to $100, with an additional $30 for an unlocked model. The iPhone 12 is $699 when purchased through a carrier and $729 when purchased unlocked. 

The phone is powered by Apple’s A14 Bionic chip, which is less potent than the A15 chip in the iPhone 13 models but is still a high-performing processor. The iPhone 12’s A14 chip provides high-end gaming, the full potential of the phone’s AI camera, 5G connectivity, and more. 

In addition to the processor, you get a dual camera with 12MP wide and ultrawide lenses, 5G capabilities, a 6.1-inch display, and a day’s worth of battery life. 

Specifications 
  • Display: 6.1-inch OLED (2532×1170) 
  • CPU: A14 Bionic 
  • RAM: 4GB 
  • Storage / Expandable: 64GB, 128GB, 256GB / No 
  • Rear camera: 12MP wide (ƒ/1.6), 12MP ultrawide (ƒ/2.4) 
  • Front camera: 12MP (ƒ/2.2) 
  • Weight: 5.78 ounces 
  • Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 8:25 
PROS
  • Powerful A14 Bionic chip
  • Excellent camera
  • Elegant design
  • Solid battery life
  • MagSafe fast charging
  • Phone ships with a USB-C to Lightning cable
CONS
  • Incremental upgrades
  • Only 64GB of base storage
  • 60Hz display
  • No more earbuds in the box

10. 5G, small and very powerful: iPhone 12 mini

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The iPhone 12 mini is a unique device that offers a compact smartphone with industry-leading specifications. The iPhone 13 mini is superior, but the iPhone 12 mini is now available for less money, making it an attractive option if you want the best unlocked iPhone. 

The only significant distinctions between this model and the iPhone 12 are its size and cost. The iPhone mini is the least expensive iPhone 12 device and measures 5.4 inches. 

Even though this screen will be too small for some, it is ideal for using your phone with one hand. In addition to 5G connectivity and a powerful A14 Bionic processor — the same chip as the rest of the iPhone 12 lineup — the iPhone XR features 5G connectivity. Like the iPhone 12, the unlocked iPhone 12 mini costs $30 more than the reduced price of $599. 

Specifications 
  • Display: 5.4-inch LCD (1792×828) 
  • CPU: A14 Bionic 
  • RAM: 4GB 
  • Storage / Expandable: 64GB, 128GB, 256GB / No 
  • Rear camera: 12MP wide (ƒ/1.6); 12MP ultrawide (ƒ/2.4) 
  • Front camera: 12MP (ƒ/2.2) 
  • Weight: 4.76 ounces 
  • Battery life (Hrs:Mins): 8:25 
PROS
  • Small with great build quality
  • Great cameras
  • Fluid performance
  • 5G connectivity
  • Incredible A14 Bionic power
  • Reasonable starting price
  • OLED screen
CONS
  • Battery life is below average
  • No telephoto lens
  • Design catches fingerprints easily
  • Just 60Hz screen
  • Only 64GB storage to start
  • Slower MagSafe charging
  • No charger in box

Considerations Before Purchasing an Unlocked iPhone

There are several factors to consider before purchasing an unlocked iPhone. 

Cost 

First, is it worthwhile to purchase an unlocked iPhone? Unlocking your iPhone or paying more for an unlocked handset may not be worth it if you’re planning to buy a long-term smartphone plan you intend to keep. 

Unlocking Options 

Consider whether purchasing a locked handset and then having it unlocked would be more cost-effective. You can unlock your smartphone by contacting your carrier and paying any applicable fees or having a third party do it. 

eSIMs 

eSIMs, embedded in the iPhone and eliminating the need for a separate SIM card, are supported by some newer iPhone models. If you want to use this type of SIM in your iPhone with a particular carrier and are unlocking your phone, you must ensure that the carrier supports eSIM functionality. 

Warranties 

To unlock a locked iPhone, you must be cautious about how you proceed. It’s important to note that using a third-party unlocking service could void the warranty if your iPhone is still under warranty. In addition, updating the software on your smartphone may relock it and require you to unlock it again. To avoid this, purchasing a smartphone unlocked from the start or contacting your carrier to unlock the device is preferable. 

Increasing numbers of smartphones, including iPhones, are unlocked today. As the phone is no longer locked to a specific carrier, it can be used with various providers. 

FAQs

It comes with every feature Apple offers, including the most capable cameras; the largest, brightest screen; and the biggest, longest-lasting battery. We gave the iPhone 14 Pro Max the highest review of any recent model. It’s our Editors’ Choice for 2022 iPhones.

The $729 iPhone 13 is still an excellent phone. In fact, if you’re tempted by the iPhone 14 and want to save some money, grab a 13. They have essentially the same body, same screen and same A15 Bionic processor. Although technically, the iPhone 14’s processor does have an extra GPU core.

Buying an unlocked phone gives you the freedom to do whatever you want with it. If you want to try out one carrier for a month and then try out another, that’s totally possible. If you don’t want to have any carrier attached to it at all and instead use it as a Wi-Fi-only device, that’s fine, too.

The Phone 13 is the best iPhone for those on a budget, especially now that it’s $100 cheaper after the iPhone 14 launch. With a new display, larger battery and better camera hardware and software, the iPhone 13 remains a great flagship phone.

After weighing all the available models and options, the iPhone 14 Pro Max stands tall as the best iPhone overall. It features the latest A16 Bionic processor, the best iPhone camera system to date, and a dynamic design that laps even last year’s lineup.

The ‌iPhone 12‌ is roughly expected to be 18.4% faster in single-core performance and 17.6% faster overall in multi-core scoring than the ‌iPhone‌ 11. For machine learning, the A14 Bionic features a 16-core Neural Engine, resulting in an 80 percent increase in performance.

The main disadvantage of buying an unlocked iPhone is the cost, especially if you’re buying a new device. Unlocked iPhones are often more expensive than iPhones that are locked to a single carrier. However, buying a used and refurbished unlocked phone can save you a lot of money!

Buy unlocked if you’re tech-savvy, have the money to buy the phone you want upfront, often travel internationally, and want the freedom of switching carriers as and when you want. One of the key reasons to buy a locked device is if you don’t have the money to pay for a device upfront or are reluctant to splurge.

Conclusion

You can save hundreds of dollars annually, whether looking for the newest iPhone or a cheap unlocked phone. 

Low-cost carriers, such as Mint Mobile and Visible, offer unlocked iPhones with inexpensive plans, frequently with interest-free payments over 12 to 24 months. 

Even though the major networks offer to finance over 36 months, being locked into their overpriced unlimited data plans for three years could result in a $2000 loss! 

Compare offers from Mobile Virtual Network Operators to find the most affordable unlocked iPhones. 

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Best Top Reviews Online was founded in 2018 to provide our readers with thorough, unbiased, and independent advice on what to buy. We now have millions of monthly users from all over the world and evaluate over 1,000 products per year.

The article above was written by the BestTopReviewsOnline team, which includes many of the US’s most knowledgeable technical experts. Our team includes well-known writers with extensive experience in mobile phones, computing, technology, photography, and other fields.

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