“Universal Unlocked” phones work on all four US national networks. That makes them a good choice for anyone who doesn’t like being tied to one operator or likes to jump from operator to operator in their quest for the perfect deal. This post is intended to be a frequently updated list of past and present universal unlocked phones.
To be considered universal unlocked, I believe that phone needs to:
- Support at least the main bands and technologies use by all four operators. That means at a minimum UMTS (aka WCDMA) 850, 1700 and 1900 Mhz, CDMA and EVDO on 850 and 1900 Mhz and LTE bands 2, 4, 5, 12, 13, 25, 26 and 41. Ideally a universal unlocked phone would also support LTE bands 29, 30 and 66 and 71. So far the only phones that support all of those bands are the US factory unlocked versions of the Samsung Galaxy S9 and and S9+.
- Be whitelisted for activation by both Verizon and Sprint. It’s possible to use some non-whitelisted devices on Verizon by swapping in a SIM activated in a Verizon approved device. But Verizon doesn’t support non-whitelisted devices and has the ability to block them from the network if they want. Sprint totally blocks all non-white listed devices.
- Support VoLTE on at least T-Mobile and Verizon. VoLTE is required to make phone calls in band 12 and band 71 T-Mobile markets. Verizon may require VoLTE support for all phones activated after June 30, 2018. Unfortunately, with the exception of iPhones, VoLTE support is pretty spotty and hard to confirm among non-carrier branded phones. All the phones below have been whitelisted by Verizon so they should be VoLTE-capable when Verizon starts requiring VoLTE.
In the list below, the device name is a link to specs that list the technologies and bands each phone supports.
- Apple iPhone 6s (A1633) and 6s Plus (A1634) lacks T-Mobile bands 66 and 71
- Apple iPhone SE (A1622) lacks Sprint band 41, AT&T band 30 and T-Mobile bands 66 and 71
- Apple iPhone 7 (A1660), 7 Plus (A1661) lack T-Mobile bands 66 and 71 (only phones sold Verizon are whitelisted by Sprint)
- Apple iPhone 8 (A1863), 8 Plus (A1864) and iPhone X (A1865) lack T-Mobile band 71 (only phones sold Verizon are whitelisted by Sprint)
- Alcatel Idol 5s (6060S) lacks AT&T lacks bands 29 and 30 and T-Mobile band 71
- Google Pixel (G-2PW4100) and Pixel XL (G-2PW2100) lack T-Mobile bands 66 and 71
- Google Pixel 2 (G1011A) and Pixel 2 XL (G1011C) lack T-Mobile band 71
- Google Nexus 5X (H790), lacks AT&T band 30 and T-Mobile bands 66 and 71
- Google Nexus 6 (XT1103) lacks AT&T band 30 and T-Mobile bands 66 and 71 (only black and white color versions are whitelisted by Sprint)
- Google Nexus 6P (H1511), lacks T-Mobile bands 66 and 71
- Motorola Moto X Pure Edition (2105) (XT1575), Moto G4 (XT1625) Moto G4 Plus (XT1644) and Moto G4 Play (XT1607), lack AT&T bands 29 and 30 and T-Mobile bands 66 and 71
- Motorola Moto E4 (XT1767), Moto E4 Plus (XT1775), Moto G5 Plus (XT1687), Motorola G5S Plus (XT1806) and Moto X4 (XT1900-1) lack AT&T bands 29 and 30 and T-Mobile band 71
- Motorola Z2 Play (XT1710-2) lacks T-Mobile band 71
- Orbic Wonder (RC555L) lacks AT&T bands 29 and 30 and T-Mobile LTE bands 66 and 71
- Samsung Galaxy Note 8 Unlocked SM-N950U lacks T-Mobile band 71
- Samsung Galaxy S7 Unlocked (SM-G930U) and S7 Edge Unlocked (SM-G935U) lacks T-Mobile bands 66 and 71
- Samsung Galaxy S8 Umlocked (SM-G950U) and S8+ Unlocked (SM-G955U) lacks T-Mobile bands 71
- Samsung Galaxy S9 Unlocked (SM-G960U) and S9+ Unlocked (SM-G965U)
- Essential Phone PH-1 lacks T-Mobile band 71
Here’s how to check if a device is whitelisted or not.
Sprint: Go to this Sprint web page and click How do I know if my device is eligible? in the FAQs about BYOD section to view the whitelist. (includes some phones that aren’t universal). You check if a specific phone is eligible for Sprint activation here (IMEI required).
Verizon: Go to this list of whitelisted non-Verizon devices (the list is incomplete in that iPhones are missing and it includes phones that aren’t universal). You can also check if your device is eligible to activate on Verizon here (IMEI or MEID required).
Warning. Verizon and especially Sprint are notoriously fussy about which phones they will allow on their networks. Both have a history of blocking phones that should be eligible for no apparent reason. MVNOs, especially Verizon MVNOs are even worse. Verizon apparently charges its MVNOs an extra monthly access fee for so called “Verizon Retail Devices”, which is any phone that was last used on Verizon postpaid. Nost Verizon MVNOs will refuse to any phone that Veizon flags as a Verizon Retail Device..
Although Sprint whitelisted universal unlocked phones can usually be activated on Sprint MVNOs without issues, the same can not be said for Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile, which are Sprint’s prepaid brands. Boost has its own whitelist which is smaller than the Sprint one. Notably, Boost doesn’t allow any of the Google Nexus or Pixel phones. The only unlocked phones allowed on Virgin are these iPhones.
If you know of other phones that you think should be included in this list please mention them in a comment along with a link to their specs if possible.
Lock image source: Pixabay CC0 licensed