For years, Samsung has generally not sold its top-tier smartphones SIM unlocked to US customers. The reason for that is basically left to us to speculate: be it collusion with or demands from carriers, cost issues, or simple lack of demand, it's not exactly clear. But the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge may be the most readily available unlocked of any major Samsung smartphones in the US yet.
Currently, Best Buy will sell you - with what appears to be a factory Samsung warranty - an unlocked North American model Galaxy S7 or S7 edge. They aren't cheap... at all: $709.99 for the S7 and $819.99 for the S7 edge. But if Best Buy is vouching for a 1-year warranty, that's certainly better than you'll do on eBay or Amazon. But there's a real catch: these are unlocked international models. Meaning they don't support Samsung Pay at this time. They also use a different processor, the Exynos 8890, instead of the Snapdragon 820.
Newegg seems to offer similar warranty protection (Samsung is listed on the warranty tab), but at much lower prices. Currently, the S7 is only $619.99, the S7 edge is $719.99 (or $729.99 for the gold variant). These, too, are the Exynos variants, and lack US Samsung Pay support.
These phones do work on T-Mobile and AT&T (and a bunch of MVNOs, obviously) and support the necessary LTE bands, though things like VoLTE, wideband voice calling, and Wi-Fi calling likely won't work, either - even potentially with hacky workarounds. However, these unlocked Exynos handsets are widely reported to have better battery life (substantially) and be somewhat quicker. You'll also likely be able to get major software updates more quickly, and you can do so pretty easily using Samsung's Smart Switch software on your PC (this replaces the old Kies software). So, let's break it all down.
Reasons to buy an unlocked Exynos Galaxy S7 / S7 edge in the US?
- You're not SIM locked to any carrier, and can use your phone on any compatible GSM provider, even ones outside the US.
- Full LTE band support for AT&T and T-Mobile and their various MVNOs.
- Exynos versions of the S7 / S7 edge are widely reported to offer superior battery life and somewhat better performance versus the Snapdragon versions.
- Major software updates will likely be available to you sooner than carrier-branded US S7 and S7 edge models.
- No carrier bloat apps - my unlocked S7 has a full 1.5GB more available storage than my AT&T-branded version, and over 2GB more than the Verizon version I was testing!
- Some retailers may end up saving you money - that Newegg price of $619.99 is lower than what any carrier here is selling the S7 for right now, barring BOGO deals. It's been on sale at Newegg for $599.99 on multiple occasions now, too.
Reasons not to buy an unlocked Exynos Galaxy S7 / S7 edge in the US?
- You'll have to work directly with Samsung or a 3rd party warranty provider (e.g., the retailer) in the event you need to take advantage of the warranty - that could mean shipping, waiting, and dealing with a lot of unknowledgeable service reps. A carrier phone can just be taken to the carrier store, and often can be replaced on the spot if it's faulty.
- You lose support for things like Wi-Fi calling, VoLTE, wideband voice, and some other carrier-specific features, potentially. At least for the time being (this could possibly change in the future, but I wouldn't count on it.)
- You'll be financing the entire cost of the phone yourself, though some retailers do offer credit options that are basically 12-month payment plans, sometimes with no interest.
- Samsung Pay doesn't work, and may not ever.
- These phones do not and will not ever work on Verizon or Sprint.
So, there you have it. You can find a few links to buy unlocked Galaxy S7 and S7 edge models in the US below, I've picked three retailers that all offer one-year warranties, though in the case of B&H, at least, the retailer is the one providing the actual warranty. Newegg currently provides the best prices. The model numbers for these devices are G930F for the S7 and G935F for the S7 edge.