Smash your carrier shackles with the best unlocked phones

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Many people still buy their smartphones directly from a carrier with a service contract attached, but buying phones unlocked is growing in popularity. You’ll usually have to pay the full price upfront, but some companies even offer payment plans, so you can pay your phone off month by month. An unlocked phone can potentially be used on different networks, and that means you can switch carriers when you feel like it, simply by changing your SIM card. With an unlocked phone, you can also sell or trade up whenever you want, instead of having to wait for the end of your contract.

More: Will that unlocked phone work with your wireless carrier? Here’s how to tell

Before you buy one of these phones from our list, be sure to double check that the phone you’re buying works on your carrier’s bands. Our guide explains how you can tell the difference.

Why should you buy this: It’s the best iPhone on the market, thanks to that dual-lens camera.

Who’s it for: Apple fans who want an unlocked phone to work with any carrier.

How much will it cost: $770+

Why we picked the iPhone 7 Plus:

The iPhone 7 Plus edged the win in our best smartphones roundup because it’s powerful, secure, and sports a wonderful camera. Apple’s classic aluminum design doesn’t hurt and it’s also the first iPhone to be water resistant. The complete package is slick and there are no major weaknesses (aside from the lack of a headphone jack).

Buy unlocked directly from Apple, and your iPhone 7 Plus will work with all four major U.S. carriers and a long list of others besides. It will also work pretty much anywhere you care to wander, so globetrotters will be well covered. You can find the full list of supported carriers at Apple’s website.

It’s an obvious pick for anyone invested in Apple’s ecosystem, but it is expensive. If you want something smaller and cheaper, then check out the iPhone 7 or even the iPhone SE. If you’re happy to look beyond Apple’s wares, keep reading for plenty of great alternatives.

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