If you’re looking to buy a cheap unlocked phone what’s the best place to do it? As always, there’s more than one way to skin a cat, so strap in as we delve into the mysterious world of buying cheap unlocked phones…
You want an unlocked phone and you don’t want to pay a lot of money. This basically gives you two options:
Let’s now look at these two options in more detail…
Option #1) Buying A Refurbished Phone
If you go the refurbished phone route, you could stand save yourself around 40% versus buying new. For instance, you could pick up an iPhone XR via Verizon’s refurbished program for less than $300.
If you want a properly unlocked model, however, it pays to go with a specialist – someone like Gazelle.
- Related: Best Androids Under £300
With Gazelle, you’ll have your pick of refurbished iPhones and Samsung phones, as well as iPads and MacBooks too.
You can also get unlocked phones from Gazelle, although they’re usually slightly more expensive. Not by a lot, but enough to make you notice – maybe like $40 to $50 more.
If you want an iPhone, and you want one that is cheap and unlocked, buying it refurbished is the simplest way to do this.
You can pick up all of Apple’s legacy iPhones refurbished, though I’d be inclined to suggest you do not go any older then iPhone X.
The iPhone 8 Plus, for instance, is still a great phone but it probably only has another two years of software support at best. Apple’s iPhone X, on the other hand, will get another five to six years of iOS updates.
If you want a new iPhone, you’ll have to look at Apple’s cheaper iPhone models like the iPhone SE 2020. This will still be the best part of $400 though, so you’ll need either a credit card or finance options.
Option #2) Buying A Cheap Unlocked Android Phone
When it comes to cheap Android phones, you’re spoilt for choice. Thanks to the rise of brands like POCO, Xiaomi, RealMe, and VIVO, you now have TONS of amazing options for less than $300.
The only downside is that most cheap Android phone brands, brands like RealMe, VIVO, and Xiaomi, do not have an official presence in the USA.
This means you need to go through specialist retailers like GizTop, as these guys specialise in putting brands like Xiaomi and RealMe into the hands of users in the US. If you’re in the UK, just go get a RealMe phone – they’re brilliant and extremely affordable.
Or, go through an MVNO like Xfinity Mobile and pick up one of its budget phones.
If you need some options for the best cheap Android phone right now, I’d take a look at the following phones, as they’re all very impressive specs-wise and, importantly, they all cost less than $350.
- OnePlus 7
- Xiaomi Mi 10 Lite
- RealMe V11
- Xiaomi Black Shark 3
These would be the ones I’d be looking at, if I were in the market for a cheap unlocked phone right now.
On a personal note, I tend to prefer buying refurbished iPhones because you get better software support for Apple than you do from brands like Xiaomi or RealMe.
For instance, if I bought the iPhone X (refurbished, of course), I’d get the phone for like $350 or thereabouts. But I could then use this phone for the next 5-6 years without any issues.
I’d get iOS updates as soon as they’re available and the phone, thanks to its potent CPU, is more than powerful enough. The only thing missing, however, is 5G, so if that is important to you, you’re going to be better off with an Android phone because, well… Apple doesn’t make a cheap 5G iPhone.
Another great option, for the budget conscious, would be Samsung’s Galaxy A phones. My personal favourite would be the Galaxy A71; it is a monster of a phone and, best of all, it ships with 5G and raft of impressive specs.
Samsung also has some killer finance deals too, and these can make buying outright a lot more palatable, even if you’re on a tighter budget.
Recap: Best Place To Buy Cheap Unlocked Phones
Benefits of Buying Unlocked Phones
Why buy an unlocked phone? The main reason, at least in my opinion, would be that you can swap your data plan whenever you like. It might be cheaper, offer more data, or something else. But because you’re using an unlocked phone, you’re not tied to a network or carrier.
So, if you have a SIM-only plan from Verizon or Three, and you see a better offer from O2 or T Mobile, you don’t even need to think about it – you can just switch over, no questions asked.
If you had a locked phone, this would not be possible; you’d be stuck with one network for the lifespan of the phone, unless you paid to get it unlocked. And unlocking phones comes with its own set of unique problems.
Best SIM-Only Deal For Unlocked Phone?
If you’re in the UK, this is simple: Three has the best SIM-only deals in town right now. If you want unlimited data, free 5G, and don’t want to pay more than £15 a month, you’ll want to get this deal from Three – it is more or less unbeatable right now.
In the US, things work a little differently, but Verizon has some of the best bring your own phone offers I have seen, so if things like data allowance and coverage are important to you, I’d have a good look at these offers, as they’re some of the most competitive in the USA.
What About Storage?
Storage is the quickest way to increase the price of a phone; the higher the storage option, the higher the cost. And this applies to both iPhones and Android phones, so if you want to save even more money be sure to keep your storage as low as possible.
How low should you go with respect to storage? This will depend largely on what you want to do with the phone, as well as what brand you go with. Apple only sells its phones in certain storage configurations (usually pretty high) for instance, whereas Android phone makers tend to go a little lower.
Again, storage increases the price of a phone but storage is essential, so it always pays to get a little more than you need. There is literally noting worse than a phone that has run out of storage.
A third option, however, would be to get a phone that has expandable storage, something like the Galaxy A51, for instance, which has support for SD cards up to 1TB. And that phone comes with 128GB of storage as standard. And 5G.
In fact, I’d probably just get the Samsung Galaxy A51 if you want a cheap, unlocked phone that isn’t a pile of steaming excrement. Or, failing that, get a refurbished iPhone (either the iPhone X or iPhone XR).
Richard Goodwin has been working as a tech journalist for over 10 years. He is the editor and owner of KnowYourMobile.