Last updated: 3/19/2021
Not all unlocked phones are fully compatible with all networks. It’s common for a phone that’s not carrier-locked to be incompatible with certain networks or have sub-par performance due to hardware limitations.
On this page, I list devices that I believe have near-universal compatibility across U.S. wireless networks. My work here was inspired by an earlier (no longer available) list created by Dennis Bournique.
Be aware that some small carriers that are more restrictive about permitted devices than the host networks they operate over, including Visible and Xfinity Mobile. Not all nearly universal phones will work with these carriers.
Please verify anything important before buying a device and be sure to pay attention to model numbers. Phones with the same names but different model numbers often have different radio hardware. Details about the criteria I use to determine which phones count as nearly universal are shared below the lists of phones.
5G nearly universal unlocked phones
At this time, only a few 5G devices qualify as nearly universal. Note that Samsung does a bad job disclosing band compatibility and model information for the S21 5G line, but I’m pretty sure the devices belong on this list.
|Apple||iPhone 12 mini||A2176|
|Apple||iPhone 12 Pro||A2341|
|Apple||iPhone 12 Pro Max||A2342|
|Samsung||Galaxy S21 5G||US Factory Unlocked|
|Samsung||Galaxy S21+ 5G||US Factory Unlocked|
|Samsung||Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G||US Factory Unlocked|
4G nearly universal unlocked phones
With 5G becoming more common, I no longer maintain the list of universal unlocked 4G phones. It was last updated in early 2020.
|Brand||Model||Model Number||Missing Bands|
|Apple||iPhone XS Max||A1921|
|Pixel 3a XL||G020G|
|Pixel 3 XL||GO13C||30|
|Pixel 4 XL||G020J|
|Motorola||Moto G7 Power||XT-1955-5|
|Motorola||Moto G7 Play||PAE80008US|
|Samsung||Galaxy Note 9||SM-N960U1|
4G honorable mentions
The models listed below will likely work well with the four major carriers, but the devices lack at least one LTE band I consider important.
|Brand||Model||Model Number||Missing Bands|
|Alcatel||Idol 5S||6060S||29, 30, 71|
|Apple||iPhone 7||A1660||66, 71|
|Apple||iPhone 7 Plus||A1661||66, 71|
|Apple||iPhone 8 Plus||A1864||71|
|Apple||iPhone 6s||A1633||66, 71|
|Apple||iPhone 6s||A1688||30, 66, 71|
|Apple||iPhone 6s Plus||A1634||66, 71|
|Apple||iPhone 6s Plus||A1687||30, 66, 71|
|Nexus 5X||LG-H790||30, 66, 71|
|Nexus 6P||Huawei- H1511||66, 71|
|Nexus 6||Most U.S. Models||30, 66, 71|
|Pixel 2 XL||G011C||71|
|Pixel XL||G-2PW2100||66, 71|
|LG||Stylo 4||Q710ULM||29, 30, 71|
|LG||V40 ThinQ||V405QA7||29, 30, 71|
|LG||V30s ThinQ||US998R||29, 30, 66, 71|
|Motorola||E4||XT-1768||29, 30, 71|
|Motorola||E4 Plus||XT-1775||29, 30, 71|
|Motorola||Moto G7||XT-1962-1||29, 30, 71|
|Motorola||Moto G6 Play||XT1922-9||71|
|Motorola||Moto X Pure Edition||XT-1575||29, 30, 66, 71|
|Motorola||Moto G5 Plus||XT-1687||29, 30, 66, 71|
|Motorola||Moto G5 S Plus||XT-1806||29, 30, 66, 71|
|Motorola||Moto G4||XT-1625||29, 30, 66, 71|
|Motorola||Moto G4 Play||XT-1607||29, 30, 66, 71|
|Motorola||Moto G4 Plus||XT-1644||29, 30, 66, 71|
|Motorola||One Action||PAGL0003US||29, 30, 71|
|Orbic||Wonder||RC555L||29, 30, 66, 71|
|Samsung||Galaxy Note 8||SM-N950U||71|
|Samsung||Galaxy S7||SM-G930U||66, 71|
|Samsung||Galaxy S7 Edge||SM-G935U||66, 71|
I use different criteria for the 5G and 4G lists.1
For a phone to make it into the 5G list, it must support 5G services that are in use or will soon be in use by all the major U.S. networks:
Sub-6 5G bands:
- n5 (850MHz)
- n41 (2500MHz)
- n71 (600MHz)
- n77 (3700MHz)
Millimeter wave bands:
- n260 (39GHz)
- n261 (28GHz)
Elsewhere, I share details about which networks use each 5G band.
The big, wonky Google Sheet I use for tracking devices and their characteristics is publicly available here. For more details about how carriers use different frequency bands, see this excellent article from PhoneArena.
- Support for LTE bands 2, 4, 12, 13, 25, 41, and 71
- Support for UMTS at 850 and 1900 Mhz (bands 2 and 5),
- Support for CDMA at 850 and 1900 Mhz (BC0, BC1, and BC10)
- Some VoLTE support2
Additional characteristics I track that may make a phone closer to fully universal include:
- Explicit whitelisting from Verizon (Android whitelist, Apple whitelist, IMEI check).3
- Support for LTE bands 5, 26, 29, 30, and 66
In this article, I only assess the bands and frequencies that are important for accessing major networks in the U.S. Other bands and frequencies may be important in other countries.
Sprint, Verizon, and MVNOs running over those networks may be finicky about devices they allow. Dennis Bournique suggests the following:
- Sprint’s prepaid brands may have a more restrictive whitelist than Sprint itself. Virgin Mobile is especially restrictive, only allowing some iPhone models under it’s BYOD program.4 (Boost compatibility can be checked here. Virgin compatibility can be assessed here.)
- Verizon may block MVNOs using its network from activating devices that were last used directly on Verizon. (I’m unsure if this still happens or is common. I have not encountered this issue myself.)
In my article Phone Compatibility & Unlocking Explained, I go into more details about the factors that affect phones’ compatibility across networks. In another article, I summarize the major carriers policies around device locking and unlocking.
- The criteria used in the 5G list are intentionally simpler than the criteria in the 4G list. Some things that were not standard features in the 4G era are standard features in the 5G era.
- VoLTE support is often difficult to verify, so I’m not always confident about my expectations around VoLTE support. Here are my impressions about VoLTE requirements by carrier:
- T-Mobile – According to Dennis Bournique, “VoLTE is required to make phone calls in band 12 and band 71 T-Mobile markets.”
- Verizon – Verizon will not activate devices that do not support HD Voice (a VoLTE technology)
- AT&T – In an October 2018 forum post, an AT&T employee stated the following: “VOLTE, WiFi calling, Video Calling, are luxuries essentially. Not having VOLTE doesn’t affect the ability to use the network for voice calls. It’s an enhanced feature for branded phones essentially.” I am not confident that this was true then or that it is still true now.
- As of June 2019, I believe the Android list is out-of-date and may not include a handful of recently released phones that are whitelisted.
Non-whitelisted devices appear to work with Verizon, but that may not guarantee they will continue to work on Verizon’s network in the future.
- “Currently, Virgin Mobile only supports iPhones in its ‘Bring Your Own Device’ program.”
From Virgin Mobile’s Bring Your Own iPhone page on 6/4/2019 (archived here).