Universal Unlocked Phones

Last updated: 7/12/2019

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 compatibility issues.

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 The page is inspired by a similar list on PrepaidPhoneNews.com that seems to be falling out of date.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.

Criteria

I consider a phone to have nearly universal compatibility if it meets the following 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)
  • Whitelisting from Sprint (check IMEI numbers here)[1]
  • Expected VoLTE support on Verizon[2]

Additional characteristics I track that may make a phone closer to fully universal include:

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 unlocked phones

BrandModelModel NumberMissing Bands
AppleiPhone XRA1984
AppleiPhone XSA1920
AppleiPhone XS MaxA1921
GooglePixel 3aG020C
GooglePixel 3a XLG020G
GooglePixel 3G013A30
GooglePixel 3 XLGO13C30
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

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
OrbicWonderRC555L29, 30, 66, 71
SamsungGalaxy Note 8SM-N950U71
SamsungGalaxy S8SM-G950U171
SamsungGalaxy S8+SM-G955U171
SamsungGalaxy S7SM-G930U66, 71
SamsungGalaxy S7 EdgeSM-G935U66, 71

Recommended devices

I strongly recommend the Motorola G7 Play and G7 Power. These phones perform amazingly well considering their list prices of $200 to $250.

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. You can check whether your phone is whitelisted by entering your IMEI here. As far as I know, Sprint no longer offers a text list of supported devices.
  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.
    • Sprint – I am not aware of any requirements for VoLTE support on Sprint’s network.
  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).

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