Best Cellphone Deals: Save Big on Unlocked and Carrier Phone Deals – CNET

Odds are, your cell phone gets more use than just about anything else you own. From communication and navigation to photography and gaming, your phone does a lot of heavy lifting. 

It’s worth investing in a model that fits your needs, but that doesn’t mean you have to drop $1,000 or more to get one of the latest devices from Samsung, Apple or Google. There are tons of bargains out there that will get a new phone into your hands 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 or prepaid carrier before ordering. We’ve rounded up a few of our favorite unlocked phone deals below.

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Carriers aren’t the only place that you’ll find a deal on the Galaxy S22 series. Amazon has some sporadic discounts right now, with some configurations on sale for more than $250 off. At the moment, you can save up to $200 on the base model S22, $251 on the S22 Plus or $229 on the S22 Ultra. The phantom black color variant has the biggest discount for all three models. You can also buy an S22 series phone directly from Samsung, which is offering up to $200 off, plus up to $280 in trade-in credit. 

You’re receiving price alerts for Samsung Galaxy S22 (128GB, Phantom Black)


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 base 128GB model on sale for $586, which is $313 off. Or you can save $38 on the 256GB model, dropping the price to $986. It’s equipped with an impressive 12GB of RAM, as well as Google’s custom Tensor processor that’s optimized for Pixel phones, plus a charger. 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.

You’re receiving price alerts for Google Pixel 6 Pro: $586

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

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Verizon is offering both new and existing customers a chance to get their hands on Google’s latest flagship phone for less. If you’re a new customer, you can get the Pixel 7 for just $5 per month, saving you $520 in monthly bill credits, when you activate a new line of service on a qualifying plan. Existing customers can save up to $700 with a qualifying trade-in. Verizon is also offering some other bonuses, including a free Google Pixel smartwatch and $310 off a Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 FE 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. 


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 up to $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 $100 on a pair of Samsung Galaxy buds by adding them to your cart with this purchase. 


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 $730 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 up to $250 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, 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.

This post was originally published on Cnet

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