When you dare to venture out into the uncharted waters that lie beyond the world of major carriers, you discover unlocked Android smartphones that offer tremendous value and features that are hard to find elsewhere—at least not for the same money. But decision paralysis is a tricky beast, which is why we have already done the research for you, and are now ready to present you with our list of 5 best unlocked Android phones not sold by major carriers in 2016.
Best Unlocked Android Phones
|Asus||Asus ZenFone 3||486.99|
|ZTE||ZTE Axon 7||399.99|
|Huawei||Huawei Honor 8||348.97|
From the Chinese smartphone manufacturer founded in December 2013 comes the third version of their signature smartphone, OnePlus 3, bringing with it quite a lot of changes. For starters, gone is the seemingly exclusive but mostly annoying invite-only system, which frustrated many users to no end. Now, anyone can purchase the smartphone without having to beg for an invite on social media sites and niche forums.
Another major change is the design of the smartphone. OnePlus clearly took inspiration from HTC, featuring elegant aluminum unibody with two simple horizontal lines: one at the top and one at the bottom. The body houses a 5.5” fullHD display with 401 ppi pixel density and Corning Gorilla Glass 4 for extra protection against scratches. The display is sharp and vivid, but it has some minor issues with color accuracy.
As always, what makes OnePlus such a highly sought-after product is its value. The not-so-expensive smartphone packs hardware of flagship devices, such as the Snapdragon 820 chipset, Adreno 530 GPU, 6 GB of RAM and 64 GB of internal storage space. Needless to say that the OnePlus 3 is a performance powerhouse capable of maxing out all the latest games and running multiple apps at the same time.
- Remarkable build quality
- Solid camera
- Great value
- Stellar performance
- Issues with display color accuracy
ZTE Axon 7
There’s no doubt about it: the ZTE Axon 7 is the best-looking device from the Chinese multinational telecommunications equipment and systems company headquartered in Shenzhen, Guangdong. It features a luxurious metallic trimming, premium finish, and subtle design accents that make some of its competition pale in comparison. The only downside is that the polished edges make the smartphone slightly difficult to hold with just one hand.
The Axon 7 not only looks like a premium device, but it also performs like a one. The Snapdragon 820 and Adreno 530 handle complex multitasking scenarios with ease, and the front-facing speakers surprised us with their high fidelity and loud, bassy sound.
ZTE use their custom Android UI, called MiFavor UI. The user interface adds a few handy features on top of Android Marshmallow, making the already capable system even better. The 5.5” screen with 538 ppi pixel density does a good justice to all pictures you take with the primary 20 MP camera with phase detection autofocus, optical image stabilization, dual-LED flash, and the ability to adjust focus after you’ve taken the picture.
- Plenty of internal storage space
- Excellent front-facing speakers
- Long battery life
- Great price
- Hard to hold with just one hand
Huawei Honor 8
Despite being a fingerprin t magnet, the Honor 8 stands out as a more pocketable smartphone among other devices featured on this list. It has a 5.2” screen, which is relatively modest in size by today’s standards, with 423 ppi pixel density and accurate color reproduction. The smaller size of the smartphones unfortunately also means a smaller battery. Getting through an entire day of heavy usage on a single charge may be a problem, so bring your power bank with you.
The smartphone is constructed using a combination of slick glass backplate and even slicker glass that covers the screen. On the back is a dual 12 MP camera with laser autofocus and the ability to record full HD video footage at 60fps.
On the back is a fingerprint sensor that doubles as a customizable button, which can activate any app with a simple single or double tap. In a similar way, you can also double-tap on the screen to take a screenshot or double tap it with two fingers to begin recording the screen. Once you get used to it, it’s hard to go back to a smartphone that doesn’t have these features.
Overall, the Honor 8 is a really good mid-range device, which is limited only by its shorter battery life. However, if you use your smartphone mainly for phone calls and SMS messages, there’s no reason to pay more for a more expensive alternative.
- Slick design
- Dual-lens camera
- Customizable button and gestures
- Limited battery life
Asus Zenfone 3
From laptops to smartwatchs and, of course, smartphones, Asus knows how to make electronic devices stylish appealing to fashion-minded individuals. Hidden inside the 155g (5.47 oz) body is a Qualcomm MSM8953 Snapdragon 625 chipset, Adreno 506 GPU, and most importantly, a fantastic 16 MP camera with 4-axis image stabilization and laser detection autofocus. The smartphone produces sharp pictures, displaying them on its 5.5” touchscreen.
The ZenUI interface that comes stock in the Asus Zenfone 3 may, however, take some getting warming up to. There’s definitely nothing wrong with it from the usability point of view, but the introduces a lot of clutter in area where the stock Android delivers simple, polished experience.
Other than that, the battery life is above average, and, given how much the smartphone costs, it offers excellent value at an affordable price.
- Premium design and material
- Great, snappy camera
- High-quality display
- User interface clutter
Google Pixel and Pixel XL
Google has released their own line of smartphones—this time, designed entirely in-house and ready for Google’s new virtual reality platform, Google Daydream. Currently, there are two available devices: Pixel and Pixel XL. The former has 5” screen with 441ppi, and the latter has much more impressive 5.5” QHD AMOLED screen, resulting in astonishing 534ppi. The larger smartphone also has a bigger battery, extending its standby time on LTE from 19 days to 23 days. Everything else is the same.
Google Pixel is the first smartphone to come with the Google Assistant, Google’s digital personal assistant powered by artificial intelligence and backed by big data. All Pixel devices come with unlimited cloud storage for photos and videos, which is a great news since the camera in the Pixel and Pixel XL is supposedly the best smartphone camera ever produced.
The Pixel features top-of-the-line hardware specs, which are necessary for smooth virtual reality experiences inside Daydream. And thanks to the USB-C quick charge, which gives up to 7 hours of battery life in just 15 minutes, the smartphone will always be ready for you.
- Beautifully designed and built
- Ergonomic design
- Ready for virtual reality
- Best-rated smartphone camera