Universal Unlocked Phones

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.

BrandModelModel Number
AppleiPhone 12A2172
AppleiPhone 12 miniA2176
AppleiPhone 12 ProA2341
AppleiPhone 12 Pro MaxA2342
SamsungGalaxy S21 5GUS Factory Unlocked
SamsungGalaxy S21+ 5GUS Factory Unlocked
SamsungGalaxy S21 Ultra 5GUS Factory Unlocked
GooglePixel 5GD1YQ

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.

BrandModelModel NumberMissing Bands
AppleiPhone XRA1984
AppleiPhone XSA1920
AppleiPhone XS MaxA1921
AppleiPhone 11A2111
GooglePixel 3aG020C
GooglePixel 3a XLG020G
GooglePixel 3G013A30
GooglePixel 3 XLGO13C30
GooglePixel 4G020I
GooglePixel 4 XLG020J
LGG8 ThinQLMG820QM
MotorolaZ4PAF60000US5, 29
MotorolaMoto G7 PowerXT-1955-5
MotorolaMoto G7 PlayPAE80008US
MotorolaZ3 PlayPA9S0000US
SamsungGalaxy Note 9SM-N960U1
SamsungGalaxy S9SM-G960U1
SamsungGalaxy S9+SM-G965U1
SamsungGalaxy S10SM-G973U1
SamsungGalaxy S10+SM-G975U1
SamsungGalaxy S10eSM-G970U1

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.

BrandModelModel NumberMissing Bands
AlcatelIdol 5S6060S29, 30, 71
AppleiPhone XA186571
AppleiPhone 7A166066, 71
AppleiPhone 7 PlusA166166, 71
AppleiPhone 8A186371
AppleiPhone 8 PlusA186471
AppleiPhone 6sA163366, 71
AppleiPhone 6sA168830, 66, 71
AppleiPhone 6s PlusA163466, 71
AppleiPhone 6s PlusA168730, 66, 71
EssentialPH-1PH-171
GoogleNexus 5XLG-H79030, 66, 71
GoogleNexus 6PHuawei- H151166, 71
GoogleNexus 6Most U.S. Models30, 66, 71
GooglePixel 2G011A71
GooglePixel 2 XLG011C71
GooglePixelG-2PW410066, 71
GooglePixel XLG-2PW210066, 71
LGStylo 4Q710ULM29, 30, 71
LGV40 ThinQV405QA729, 30, 71
LGV35 ThinQV350ULM71
LGV30s ThinQUS998R29, 30, 66, 71
MotorolaE4XT-176829, 30, 71
MotorolaE4 PlusXT-177529, 30, 71
MotorolaMoto G7XT-1962-129, 30, 71
MotorolaMoto G6XT-1925-671
MotorolaMoto G6 PlayXT1922-971
MotorolaZ2 PlayXT-170171
MotorolaMoto X Pure EditionXT-157529, 30, 66, 71
MotorolaMoto G5 PlusXT-168729, 30, 66, 71
MotorolaMoto G5 S PlusXT-180629, 30, 66, 71
MotorolaMoto G4XT-162529, 30, 66, 71
MotorolaMoto G4 PlayXT-160729, 30, 66, 71
MotorolaMoto G4 PlusXT-164429, 30, 66, 71
MotorolaOne ActionPAGL0003US29, 30, 71
OrbicWonderRC555L29, 30, 66, 71
SamsungGalaxy Note 8SM-N950U71
SamsungGalaxy S8SM-G950U171
SamsungGalaxy S8+SM-G955U171
SamsungGalaxy S7SM-G930U66, 71
SamsungGalaxy S7 EdgeSM-G935U66, 71

Criteria

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.

LTE bands

  • B2
  • B4
  • B12
  • B13
  • B71

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.

4G Criteria

  • 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:

Additional notes

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.)

Related reading

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.

Footnotes

  1. 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.
  2. 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-MobileAccording 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.
  3. 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.

  4. “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).

14 thoughts to “Universal Unlocked Phones”

    1. I’m aiming to be as comprehensive as possible in listing phones that meet the criteria listed in the article. If you’re aware of devices I’m missing, please let me know.

  1. This list is fantastic, thank you!
    I have a requirement of wireless charging for my phones to prevent replacing worn out charge cords hundreds of times over the years. Can you include which of these phones have wireless charging?
    (I’m aware of the universal addon on eBay that occupies the charge port, I don’t think it’s worthwhile reliability to consider.)

  2. Do you know anyone that will unlock a Verizon prepaid non-activated E4 phone for a reasonable price?
    I got this phone just to hook up to MetroPCS which it can be done but the phone is locked

  3. I’m considering buying an unlocked Moto G Stylus on the Spectrum network. It is not on their compatibility list but I put my SIM card in my old Moto G 4 and it worked. Can I expect the same with the Stylus?

    1. Hi Lew, my gut feeling is probably, but I’d reach out to Spectrum to confirm (I’m unfortunately not familiar with Spectrum’s eligibility policies).

  4. This article is very informative and has helped me get closer to a decision. I’m pretty sure there’s an unlocked Motorola Moto G Stylus in my future. Looking forward to your revised list.

  5. Hey, Christian. Thanks for the research. I’ll surely be checking back every so often.

    In case you haven’t run across the following information,
    here are a couple of links you might find relevant to this discussion.

    https://www.att.com/ecms/dam/att/consumer/help/pdf/Devices-Working-on-ATT-Network.pdf

    https://www.androidpolice.com/2020/07/23/t-mobile-will-soon-require-volte-on-all-phones-incomopatible-devices-kicked-off-january/

    [ That’s January, 2021 I believe it said. ]

  6. Afterthought– In view of current upgrades by the now-3 major network owners, I find it a bit puzzling to see the online markets fairly glutted with 2G and 3G phones for sale. Who would be able to use them for any length of time — or at all — if they bought them? Unless most of the rest of the world is still using those technologies? If so, is there a simple way we could donate our older phones to areas where “financially challenged” folks might have a real need for them? Just a thought.

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