Best Cellphone Deals: Snag Huge Savings On Unlocked and Carrier Phone Deals – CNET

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Today’s phones take on a lot for us, including communication, GPS, gaming and more — even acting as a camera when we want to capture our adventures. The vast majority of us use our cellphones more than almost any other device we own, which is why it can be worth investing in a quality model that can handle all of those needs and whatever else you throw at it. 

That said, despite how important it is to get a phone that meets all of your needs, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should be spending $1,000 or more to get one of the latest devices from Samsung, Apple or Google. There are plenty of deals and discounts available that can help you get your hands on a new phone for less. 

Over the past few years, carriers including Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile have become far more aggressive with deals for both new and existing customers as they continue to push their 5G networks. These days it’s not out of the ordinary to find deals that can score you a new high-end phone for free, though you often need to be on a higher-end 5G plan and agree to monthly bill credits over a 24- to 36-month period, which locks you into that service. If you cancel before then, you’re on the hook for the difference.

You can also save with unlocked phone deals with direct discounts at third-party retailers like Amazon and Best Buy or by trading in your old device directly to the manufacturer, meaning you have plenty of places to look for phone deals. 

That’s why CNET is working with Navi to help cut through the confusion. Navi is an independent marketplace that aggregates information on service plans and phone deals to help consumers find the best choices and prices on the market. Below you’ll find deals for those who would rather pay outright for an unlocked phone as well as deals on phones for new and existing carrier customers who are adding lines, trading in phones and more.

Read more: Best Phone Plan Deals

Best unlocked phone deals right now

If you don’t want to deal with monthly bill credits and would prefer to own your phone outright, you can still save some money on your purchase by looking around a bit. There are a few places where you can buy unlocked phones at a discount, though you’ll want to confirm that they are truly unlocked and not tied to any carrier before ordering. We’ve rounded up a few of our favorite unlocked phone deals below.

The iPhone 14 is the latest in Apple’s ultrapopular flagship lineup, and you can get your hands on one for less right now. We’ve rounded up all the best deals and promotions available, and if you’re looking for the best price on an unlocked model, shopping at Apple directly is your best bet right now. When you trade in an eligible smartphone, you can get up to $630 off the iPhone 14’s $799 starting price.

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Motorola

If battery life is important to you, the Moto G Power is a great option, especially at this price. It’s advertised to get up to three days of battery life per charge, features a 6.5-inch display, has 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. It works on all the major carriers, including AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Simple Mobile, Mint Mobile, Google Fi and plenty of others. Priced at less than $150, it’s a hard option to beat.

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OnePlus

OnePlus has been making high-end Android phones for a while, but the company also sells some lower-cost entry-level unlocked phones. The Nord N200 has a 6.49-inch display, 64GB of storage, a large 5,000-mAh battery and a triple camera system on the back. However, it only works on Google Fi or T-Mobile’s networks, so you will need to ensure you are using one of those carriers before making the purchase.

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Apple

While Apple’s iPhone SE is already the most affordable iPhone pick, starting at $429, you can knock its price down even further thanks to Apple’s trade-in program. In fact, Apple is currently offering up to $630 in credit with an eligible trade-in, so you could get it free by handing over the right device with any additional credit being made available on an Apple gift card.

white Pixel 7 on a green table against a dark background

James Martin/CNET

The Pixel 7 is the latest model in Google’s flagship lineup, and right now you’ve got a chance to get your hands on one for less. Google is currently offering a direct discount of $200 off the unlocked Pixel 7 Pro. You can also get as much as $350 trade-in credit on the Pixel 7 or Pixel 7 Pro via trade-in credit right now. Brands like Apple, Samsung and Google, as well as newer devices, will get you the largest trade-in value, but there is an estimation tool available to help. 

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra and S23 Plus

Samsung/CNET

You can snag an unlocked base model Galaxy S23 at just $100. The company is currently offering up to $700 in trade-in credit with a newer device in good condition with the purchase of a Samsung Galaxy S23 or S23 Plus. Or get up to $750 in trade-in credit on the S23 Ultra. 

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 folded shut in purple, black, gold and blue colors

Samsung

And if you’re a fan of the Galaxy Z Flip 4, you can get up to $745 off the with a trade-in of a newer device in good condition, which drops the starting price down to $255. However, if you have an older phone or a damaged device you’re ready to let go of, Samsung will still take some money off the cost of this foldable phone.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 in burgundy unfolded displaying wallpaper

Samsung

Similar to the Z Flip 4 offer above, Samsung is currently offering $200 off plus up to $900 off with an eligible trade-in of a newer device in good condition when you purchase the Z Fold 4, which brings the starting price down to $1,100. 

Samsung S22 and S22 Plus and S22 Ultra compared

Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

Carriers aren’t the only place that you’ll find a deal on the Galaxy S22 series. Amazon has some sporadic discounts right now, however it looks like you can score one from Amazon now for $100 off.

You can also buy an S22 series phone directly from Samsung, which is technically offering up to the full price off with an eligible trade-in, however that price is for the newest models out there. As the S22 series is no longer the flagship, you’ll probably get substantially less. For example, when trading in a Galaxy S21, you’re looking at up to $140 in trade-in credit, or you can get up to $260 in trade-in credit for an iPhone 12.

Google Pixel 6 Pro displaying home screen and rear of device

Google

Just like the Pixel 6, there is a newer version of the Pixel 6 Pro, which means you can find some great bargains on this previous-gen model. Amazon currently has the black variant of the base 128GB model on sale for $480, which is $419 off. It’s equipped with Google’s custom Tensor processor that’s optimized for Pixel phones. The 6 Pro also has an improved 6.7-inch OLED display with a 120Hz refresh rate for incredibly smooth operation, and a 4x optical zoom lens for truly remarkable photos.

Apple iPhone 13 Pro

James Martin/CNET

As is the case with the affordable iPhone SE, you can also trade in your old for money off on an iPhone 13 series device at Apple. With the release of the iPhone 14, Apple dropped the starting price for the iPhone 13 down to $699, and you can save up to $600 with a qualifying trade-in. Carrier deals are also available via Apple if you prefer to finance your phone that way.

Best phone deals from carriers

Carrier contracts as we knew them may not be around anymore, but these newer phone deals from Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and more are similar in many ways. Through monthly bill credits, you can get a phone for next to nothing in many cases. The stipulation is that you must remain a customer for a set length of time while you’re receiving the credits. Otherwise you’re responsible for the remaining costs and potentially more, depending on the carrier. 

In addition, some carriers will only allow you to take advantage of these deals on specific plans, which are usually some of their more expensive 5G plans, so be sure to understand the monthly costs associated with switching before taking advantage of that “free phone” deal you see advertised.

Read more: Cheap Phone Plans, Compared

If you don’t mind being tied to a carrier and service plan, you can save even more than the unlocked Apple trade-in deal above. Best Buy has partnered with Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile, and offers some massive trade-in discounts when you activate through one of these carriers. Verizon and T-Mobile customers can save up to $800 with an eligible trade-in, or up to $1,000 for AT&T customers.

Apple’s budget-focused iPhone SE is available for the low price of $0 (plus a $35 activation fee) at Verizon with a new line on an unlimited data plan, which starts at $65 per month. The deal applies to the 64GB model and the discount is applied via monthly bill credits. You can up the storage capacity for just a few bucks per month extra. Verizon is also offering a free Apple Watch SE 2022 and a ninth-gen iPad with the purchase of an iPhone SE and activation on any plan.

Pixel 7 Pro phone with Android 13 logo on screen, on a blue and pink background

Andrew Lanxon/CNET

Verizon is offering both new and existing customers a chance to get their hands on Google’s latest flagship phone for less. Like the deal above, if you’re a new customer, you can get the Pixel 7 for $0 when you activate a new line of service on a qualifying plan. Existing customers can save up to $440 with a qualifying trade-in. Verizon is also offering some other bonuses, including up to $400 off with a purchase of an eligible smartwatch with the purchase of a Pixel phone and activation on any plan. Those switching their existing number over to a Verizon plan will also get a $200 Verizon gift card. 

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Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Both new and existing customers can pick up the iPhone 13 for less at Verizon. New customers can get this phone free with a new line of service, while existing customers can get up to $600 off when trading in an old device. Those switching their existing phone number over from another carrier will also get a free $200 off an iPad. Verizon is also offering an Apple Watch SE 2022 for as little as $5 a month with the purchase and activation on any plan.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 in greygreen unfolded displaying wallpaper

Samsung

Trade in your old Galaxy phone to AT&T and get up to $800 off your new Galaxy Z Fold 4. The phone traded in can be from any year and in any condition, too. With this promotion, you can get the Galaxy Z Fold 4 for only $800 on a qualifying unlimited plan. The up to $800 credit takes place over a 36-month period, and if you cancel service before the 36 months is over you’ll have to pay the remaining balance. Also be aware that credits begin within three bills and require that you pay all taxes and associated fees on the retail price up front.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 in black shown open and half folded

Samsung

AT&T is also offering up to $800 off the Z Flip 4 with a trade-in and activation on a qualifying unlimited plan. That means you can score the 128GB model for as low as $5.56 a month, or the 256GB model for $7.23 a month. 

Apple iPhone 13 Pro

James Martin/CNET

T-Mobile is offering new customers a great way to save on the iPhone 14, iPhone 14 Plus, iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max right now. When you trade-in a device and add a new line of service on a qualifying plan, you can save up to $830. If you already have an eligible line of service, and just want to upgrade your phone, you can still save up to $830 with a trade-in. And if you need more than one new phone, you can save up to $700 on a second iPhone with two or more new lines of service on an eligible plan. 

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Apple

Released in March 2022, the iPhone SE (3rd gen) offers a familiar design with enhanced internals. For those looking to stick with Touch ID and have a phone that’s not three years old, this is the best bet. T-Mobile is offering up to the full price off off with a qualifying trade-in and the Go5G Plus plan, or you can save 50% when you purchase an iPhone SE with a new line of service on an eligible plan.

iphone-12-mini

Apple

If you don’t need the latest and greatest, buying a slightly older iPhone model is a great way to save even more money without making too much of a sacrifice. The iPhone 12 offers a lot of great features and is definitely still worth buying in 2023, especially when you can save as much as $830 off the price of one, which essentially gets you the phone for free. In order to get the biggest discount, you’ll need to be adding a new line of service on an eligible plan. 

T-Mobile requires customers to be on the Go5G or Go5G Plus plans to qualify and the bill credits are split across a 24-month period.

Do you get the best phone deals when you switch carriers?

In order to attract new customers, carriers often reserve their steepest discounts for switchers. That means you may find a more appealing phone deal if you consider moving carriers. It’s a straightforward process for individuals, but can be a little complicated for those with multiple lines. Ultimately, it’s worth shopping around when it comes time to upgrade your phone in case another offers some kind of switcher bonus or switcher-exclusive phone deal.

Unlocked vs. carrier: Which phone deals are the best for most people?

Whether you want to get your new phone on a carrier deal or unlocked will depend on your preferences and circumstances. For a lot of folks, being able to spread the cost of the phone over two or three years makes it much easier to upgrade to one of the best phones on the market. For others, being locked into a long-term plan is less ideal. While carriers often compete with each other for and offer some steep discounts or added freebies, manufacturers now tend to offer their own trade-in and financing programs to make it more affordable to upgrade without involving a carrier in the process.

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