Back to School 2016 Buying Guide: Top 10 Best Unlocked Smartphones

2016 AH Back To School Shopping Guide 3
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Heading back to school with a new smartphone is always exciting. But in this day and age with the smartphone world being saturated with so many options, picking a new smartphone can be pretty tough. Luckily, we have done the dirty work and found 10 of the best smartphones that are available. These are all GSM unlocked smartphones, unless otherwise noted in their descriptions.

Google Nexus 6P



While it’s true, the Nexus 6P is starting to get a bit old in the tooth. The Nexus 6P is still one of the best smartphones out there, and it’s under $400 right now. The Nexus 6P sports a 5.7-inch Quad HD display, and has a 3450mAh battery inside. Definitely enough to play Pokemon GO for a good bit. Additionally, the Nexus 6P works on all four US carriers, which means Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint and AT&T. A bit better than just an unlocked smartphone.

Buy the Google Nexus 6P (32GB) Buy the Google Nexus 6P (64GB) Buy the Google Nexus 6P (128GB)

Google Nexus 5X



Looking for something a bit smaller? The Nexus 5X has you covered with its 5.2-inch display. Like the Nexus 6P it also works on all four US carriers. The Nexus 5X does differ a bit though, from it’s larger brother, in the fact that it has just 2GB of RAM and runs on the Snapdragon 808 hexa-core processor. The Nexus 5X does also have a polycarbonate body, instead of aluminum.

Buy the Google Nexus 5X (16GB) Buy the Google Nexus 5X (32GB)

Moto X Style/Pure Edition



Like the two Nexus smartphones already listed here, the Moto X Pure Edition is unlocked and does also work on all four US carriers. The Moto X Pure Edition is the Moto X Style outside of the US, which sports a fantastic looking 5.7-inch Quad HD display. The main advantage it has over the Nexus 6P here, is the micro SD card slot. Which can support up to 256GB of extra storage. Definitely great for those that take loads of photos.

Buy the Moto X Style/Pure Edition




If you just need a smartphone that can make calls, send texts, check your email and such, then look no further than the BLU R1 HD. This smartphone is actually available for as low as $59.99. That’s a pretty low price for a smartphone, even today. The BLU R1 HD sports a 5-inch display and is powered by a MediaTek MT6735 quad-core processor which is clocked at 1.3GHz. BLU has also added in 2GB of RAM for good measure.

Buy the BLU R1 HD




The ZTE AXON 7 is actually a brand new smartphone. It just launched this month and is very competitively priced at just $399. ZTE equips the AXON 7 with a 5.5-inch QHD AMOLED display, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage (there is also a model with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage). Powering this beast is a 3250mAh non-removable battery.

Buy the ZTE AXON 7

Honor 5X



Honor is the online brand of Huawei, meaning that their smartphones are only sold unlocked and online – not through physical stores. The Honor 5X was the first Honor smartphone to come to the US, and make a big splash. And that it did, coming in at under $200 with a 5-inch HD display, the Honor 5X is a great smartphone for anyone that does not want to spend an arm and a leg on a new smartphone.

Buy the Honor 5X

Lenovo Moto G4 Plus

moto g4 plus


The Moto G4 Plus is a fantastic phone, and it’s available in two models. One with 16GB of storage and 2GB of RAM and the other with 64GB of storage and 4GB of RAM. Both of which are competitively priced at under $300. The Moto G4 Plus does also sport a fingerprint sensor, allowing you to authenticate apps as well as purchases through the sensor and of course, unlock your smartphone.

Buy the Moto G4 Plus (2GB/16GB) Buy the Moto G4 Plus (4GB/64GB)

OnePlus 2


OnePlus has always released some pretty incredible smartphones, especially for their price. And now with the OnePlus 3 being out and available, we’re seeing the OnePlus 2 drop in price a bit. Making it an even better deal than it was before. The OnePlus 2 sports a 5.5-inch Full HD display and is powered by the Snapdragon 810. It also sports a USB Type-C port for charging and such.

Buy the OnePlus 2



We all want a larger battery in our smartphones, so that they’ll last longer, right? That’s exactly what BLU did with their ENERGY XL smartphone here. It houses a massive 5,000mAh battery, which should definitely get you through the day, even if you’re playing Pokemon GO endlessly. It also sports a 6-inch Full HD AMOLED display, which makes for a great looking smartphone to play games and watch media on.




This isn’t as high-end as the ZTE AXON 7 already listed here, but the ZMAX 2 offers some incredible value for its price. We’re looking at a 5.5-inch IPS display here, Snapdragon 410 powering the show with 2GB of RAM and 32GB of storage inside. It does feature a micro SD card slot, allowing you to expand that storage as well. The ZTE ZMAX 2 does run on Android 5.1 Lollipop, and should see Marshmallow rather soon.

Buy the ZTE ZMAX 2