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Best Cell Phone Deals: Save Big on Unlocked and Carrier Phone Deals

Regardless of the reason for needing a new phone, you should absolutely be looking for the best cell phone deal available to save you some cash on the purchase.

While you might not be able to walk into your carrier's store and get your hands on a new phone for $100 or less, that doesn't mean there aren't still tons of great cell phone deals you can take advantage of right now.

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, but you often need to be on one of the carriers' higher-end 5G plans 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.


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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. 

Read more: Best Phone Plan 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.

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 or prepaid 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 is slated to hit shelves on Friday. Which means you still have a chance to take advantage of preorder offers before they're gone. We've rounded up all the best preorder offers and promotions, 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 smart phone, you can get up to $720 off the iPhone 14's $799 starting price.

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 just $180, it's a hard option to beat.

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.

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 $720 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.

Google

You can snag select configurations of the Google Pixel 6 at a discount via Amazon, Target and Best Buy right now. There's no trade-in required or activation required, though there's also no set end date for these discounts, so they could disappear at any moment. 

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Google

The larger Google Pixel 6 Pro is also on sale right now with discounts as steep as $250. That drops the 128GB model as low as $649. It's equipped with an impressive 12GB of RAM, as well as 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.

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Carriers aren't the only place that you'll find a deal on the Galaxy S22 series. Amazon has discounts on all of the configurations available right now, with discounts of up to $200 depending on which one you pick. The bigger discounts are on the more expensive ones, but even the base model of the Galaxy S22 with 128GB of storage is $100 off right now with S22 Plus models seeing larger savings. You can also buy an S22 series phone directly from Samsung, which is offering up to $150 off in instant rebates, or you can save up to $800 via trade-in.

You're receiving price alerts for Samsung Galaxy S22 (128GB, Phantom Black)
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As is the case with the affordable iPhone SE, you can also trade in your old for for money off an iPhone 13 series device at Apple. With the release of the brand-new iPhone 14, Apple has dropped the starting price for the iPhone 13 down to $699, and you can save up to $720 with a qualifying trade-in. If your trade-in value exceeds the price of your new phone, you'll get the remainder back in the form of an Apple gift card. Carrier deals are also available via Apple if you prefer to finance your phone that way.

Samsung

Score as much as $700 off your Galaxy Z Flip 4 with trade-in direct at Samsung and get a storage upgrade at no extra cost. You can also get up to $100 in Samsung credit when you bundle Buds 2 Pro and Galaxy Watch 5 with the Z Flip 4.

Samsung

Score as much as $900 off your Galaxy Z Fold 4 with trade-in direct at Samsung and get a storage upgrade at no extra cost. You can also get up to $200 in Samsung credit when you bundle a case and a Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra tablet with the Z Fold 4.

Best phone deals from carriers

Carrier contracts as we know 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, but the stipulation is that you have to 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. At Verizon and AT&T, you can save up to $800 on the iPhone 14 and 14 Plus, or up to $1,000 on the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max with an eligible trade in. T-Mobile customers can save up to $550 on the iPhone 14 and 14 Plus, or up to $800 on the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max. Just remember that these are preorder offers, and could change when the phone hits shelves on Friday, Sept. 16.

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 start 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 up to $200 off an iPad or $120 off select smart watches with the purchase of an iPhone SE and activation on any plan.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

You can pick up the iPhone 13 or iPhone 13 Mini for just a few bucks at month at Verizon up to $600 in trade-in credits. Better yet, you can even trade in an old or damaged phone and still be eligible for the discount. iPhone 13 Pro models are also eligible for up to $600 off with trade-in. A 5G Do More, 5G Play More or 5G Get More Unlimited plan is required. Switchers get a $200 bonus, too. 

Samsung

Trade in your old Galaxy phone to AT&T and get up to $1,000 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 $1,000 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. You can also save 50% on cases, chargers and other Samsung accessories when you order them with the Z Fold 4.

Samsung

AT&T is also offering up to $1,000 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 free, or the 256GB model for as little as $1.67 a month. Like the Z Fold 4, you can also save 50% on Samsung accessories with this purchase.

James Martin/CNET

T-Mobile is offering new customers a great way to save on the iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Pro, iPhone 13 Mini and the iPhone 13 Pro Max right now with a trade-in credit of up to $700 toward the new device on a new line. If you already have an eligible line of service, and just want to upgrade your phone, you can still save up to $500 with a trade-in.

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 doesn't have any trade-in offers available right now, but you can save $215 when you purchase an iPhone SE with a new line of service on an eligible plan.

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 2022, especially when you can save as much as $700 off the price of one. In order to get the biggest discount, you'll need to be adding a new line of service on an eligible plan, but existing customers can still save between a few hundred on the purchase with an eligible trade-in. 

T-Mobile requires customers to be on an Essentials, Magenta or Magenta Max plan 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, manufacturer's now tend to offer their own trade-in and financing programs to make it for affordable to upgrade without involving a carrier in the process.


Get your next phone for the best price.

Set price alerts on your favorite models with the CNET Shopping extension and get notified when prices drop.