Buying an iPhone 5s in the USA, to use in the UK

Discussion in 'iPhone' started by 13twelve, Oct 1, 2013.

  1. 13twelve macrumors newbie

    Aug 14, 2012
    I'm a Brit who spends a fair amount of time in the USA during the year; I'm in NYC for a month now. If I buy an unlocked iPhone 5s here, will it work on any of the UK 4G networks when I'm back there?

    The GSM will work fine, not worried about that. But the data concerns me.

    My UK bought, unlocked iPhone 4 works here great; especially as t-mobile in NYC now have updated their 3G network - but a long time I could only get Edge.

    Anyone know?
  2. user-name-here macrumors 65816

    Aug 31, 2013
    You will have to find out the cellular bands used by the carrier you want in the UK and then check here (under "cellular and wireless") to see if the iPhone has them as well.
  3. 13twelve thread starter macrumors newbie

    Aug 14, 2012
    I'm glad its straightforward and not confusing...

    Vodafone and O2 will have 800mhz and 2600mhz and LTE bands 20 and 7
    Three will have 800mhz and 1800mhz and LTE bands 20 and 3

    I'm guessing an LTE band is ref to the mhz but I don't know heh

    Model A1533 (CDMA) and Model A1457 cover those bands.

    So does that mean I should buy a Model A1457?
    How do you specify that?
  4. d123 macrumors 68000


    Oct 19, 2009
    Ultimately the UK will use 800 MHz and 2600 MHz as well as the reused 1800 MHz that EE is using (and has sold a small allocation to Three).

    To cover those you need bands 3,7 & 20.

    In the future it's expected the networks will use 800 MHz for urban and rural areas (it is good for longer distances being a lower frequency) and 2600 MHz in urban areas and to infill where congestion is expected (like CBD areas).

    Not having 2600 MHz (band 7) might cause you to have a poorer service in busy urban areas.
  5. aneftp macrumors 601

    Jul 28, 2007

    Those are the bands. Saying that. Neither US models aren't "future LTE" proof for use in UK with their LTE bands 3, 7, 20.
  6. Northness macrumors newbie

    Oct 17, 2008
    US / UK 5S/5C Purchase

    I am in a similar position to 13twelve. (more time in USA, but enough time in UK, and want a new 5S, but ....)

    I still have not bought; situation, and what I have been told (by Apple reps in store - you sort the "party line" from underlying reality ...). All relates to LTE coverage as phone or 3G is non issue.

    1. You have common coverage on 800 and 1888 MHz frequencies. US bought phone does not have 2600 MHz, so if you want that you have to buy in UK.

    2. Right now, you can buy an unlocked 5c covering full spectrum on US bought phone. However, on 5s:
    On ATT or Verizon you can only buy locked phones (I guess this will change in due course, but not right now)
    You can buy unlocked on T Mobile. That is fine if you plan to use T Mob in USA, but apparently within USA a T Mob file is locked (or blocked, somehow) to ATT. For me this is an issue as I have to use ATT (corporate account)
    Although Verizon runs on CDMA cell, it actually has full GSM capability, but is blocked to that in USA

    3. USA pre-tax and UK pre-VAT prices are very similar. Of course 20% VAT trumps ~ 8% sales tax. You can buy in UK and get VAT rebate if you export the phone straight away, but the scam is the cream off by the companies who administer the scheme, meaning you may pay the equivalent of US sales tax (+/-) in "administration costs".

    4. At this point, it seems to me you pays your money and takes your choice, depending on circumstances. Or doesn't pay your money, and waits for market to open us a bit on phone availability.

    Happy to hear corrections if anyone has heard or experienced differently.
  7. KPOM macrumors G5

    Oct 23, 2010
    The 1533 models support Band 3 but not Band 7. None of the North American models do. So assuming you buy a "Device-Only" Verizon, AT&T or T-Mobile model (they aren't selling what they call "unlocked" phones right now but the Device-Only phones are indeed unlocked) you can get HSPA+ and LTE if your carrier uses Bands 3 or 20, but not LTE if you are in a spot where they are using Band 7.


    Verizon LTE phones are all unlocked. That's part of their agreement with the FCC here.

    If you go into an Apple Store and they have a Verizon, AT&T, or T-Mobile phone on hand and will sell it to you "device only" it will be unlocked. That's covered in lots of other threads here. Unfortunately, you can't order a Verizon or AT&T phone online through this method as this requires signing up for a contract.

    You can order a "T-Mobile" phone through the Apple website that will be unlocked. But that shows a shipping time of "2-3 weeks" and requires a credit or debit card with a US address. Maybe the OP can get a prepaid debit card and have it sent to a hotel (Amex and Visa sell them), but I've never tried that as I am from the US.
  8. Northness macrumors newbie

    Oct 17, 2008
    Buying Unlocked 5S

    Thanks KPOM.

    To clarify tho .. while you say I can buy from a store (stock available ..) T Mob, ATT or Verizon phone "device only" (ie unlocked), is what I am being told correct ... that if I tried to buy T Mob it will not run on ATT because it has been blocked to do that (agreements between Apple and carriers, I assume), even tho it is technically capable. Similarly Verizon on ATT ? (although not T Mob/ATT on Verizon as they do not have CDMA radio ?)

Share This Page