Last updated: 6/9/2019
With a phone that’s fully compatible with all four of the major U.S. networks, it’s easy to jump between carriers to find the best deals and service. Some unlocked phones will be incompatible with certain networks or have sub-par perform due to restrictions or missing radio technology. On this page, I list devices that I believe have near-universal compatibility across U.S. wireless networks. The page is inspired by a similar list on PrepaidPhoneNews.com that seems to be falling out of date.
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. I share additional information that may be helpful for understanding phone compatibility at the end of the page.
The criteria I use for considering a phone nearly universal:
- 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)
- Whitelisting by Sprint (MEID check)
- Expected VoLTE support on Verizon
Additional characteristics I track that may make a phone closer to fully universal include:
- Explicit whitelisting from Verizon (Android whitelist, Apple whitelist, IMEI check).
- Support for LTE bands 5, 26, 29, 30, and 66
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.
Nearly universal devices
|Brand||Model||Model Number||Missing Bands|
|Apple||iPhone XS Max||A1921|
|Pixel 3a XL||G020G|
|Pixel 3 XL||GO13C||30|
|Motorola||Moto G7 Power||XT-1955-5|
|Motorola||Moto G7 Play||PAE80008US|
|Samsung||Galaxy Note 9||SM-N960U1|
The models listed below will likely work relatively 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|
|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|
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. (Boost compatibility can be checked here. Virgin compatibility can be assessed here.)
- Verizon may MVNO activation for devices that were last used on its own, non-MVNO service. (I’m unsure if this still happens or is common. I have not encountered this issue myself.)
- You can check whether your phone is whitelisted by entering your MEID here. As far as I know, Sprint no longer offers a text list of supported devices.
- 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.
- Sprint – I am not aware of any requirements for VoLTE support on Sprint’s network.
- 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).