Carrier iPad Air: *Really* One LTE Model?

Discussion in 'iPad' started by screensaver400, Oct 24, 2013.

  1. screensaver400 macrumors 6502a

    Jan 28, 2005
    My understanding is that Apple will be selling the LTE iPad Air (and presumably the LTE Retina Mini) preloaded with a particular carrier's SIM. Further, from what I can tell, the LTE iPad Air only has a single hardware model (A1475), with the only hardware difference between a T-Mobile iPad Air and a Verizon iPad Air being the preloaded SIM card.

    This leaves a few outstanding questions.

    1) iPads are sold unlocked. Will you be able to insert a SIM from a different carrier and use it seamlessly with the device? In other words, will carriers support iPads originally sold for other carriers? E.g., can one buy a T-Mobile iPad and then insert an AT&T SIM and use it with AT&T?

    2) If you *can* use an LTE iPad with another carrier's SIM, will the iPad's Settings-Cellular Data screen automatically display the correct carrier's plan options, based on the currently-loaded SIM? Or will you be forced to activate it through the new carrier's website (potentially with activation fees and the like)?

    3) Will Verizon's 3G CDMA network work on another carrier's iPad? For instance, could I purchase a T-Mobile LTE iPad, decide to insert a Verizon SIM card, and then have the device fall back to Verizon's 3G Network? Note that AT&T and Verizon both use iPhone 5s Model A1533, but only the "A1533 CDMA" supports Verizon's 3G network.

    4) Does the T-Mobile iPad support T-Mobile's HSPA network on 1700mhz? T-Mobile says it does on Twitter, but Apple's website does not include 1700Mhz for HSPA.

    If anyone knows the answers to these questions---and has the sources to back it up---please post. It would help those of us deciding which model to purchase.

    For instance, T-Mobile seems to have a very liberal policy on accepting customer-provided hardware, and will even provide the free 200MB of data to those users. If only the Verizon model supports Verizon's 3G network, I'd probably buy the Verizon model and immediately insert a T-Mobile SIM card. OF course, if only the T-Mobile supports 1700Mhz HSPA, then the T-Mobile model becomes more attractive. Further, if I'm unable to use the iPad's built-in cellular data plan tools with any other carrier than the original one, that would push me toward the T-Mobile model.

    Thanks for any help.
  2. magilla1981 macrumors newbie

    Sep 20, 2012
    I just spoke with an apple chat specialist who informed me that I would have to return my iPad Air to the store and buy a different one from a different carrier if I wanted to switch. I'm not sure how serious to take her statements, but thats what she said.

    Unless there is a firmware thing I'm not sure what the difference would be? What would stop me from going to ATT and requesting a SIM Chip. Currently I'm torn between ATT and T-Mobile.
  3. legioxi macrumors 6502a

    Mar 2, 2013
    In the past the iPads were unlocked, should be the same with the Air.

    The only issue would be if you did not have a Verizon iPad, you wouldn't be able to activate it on Verizon as the CDMA would be turned off on the iPad. But a Verizon iPad should work with any GSM carrier. Similar to the iPhone5S from Verizon.
  4. French macrumors regular

    Jan 13, 2011
    In looking at this page it is ONE chip in ALL new iPad Airs and Retina Minis, which would mean you should be able to swap SIMS.
  5. Nevek, Oct 24, 2013
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2013

    Nevek macrumors newbie

    Oct 4, 2013
    I've been searching for exactly the same information with no conclusive results. I like the T-Mobile 200M free offer, but want to be able to switch to ATT if needed.

    It appears that there is only one model cellular iPad Air, but the wording on Apple's web store for iPad Air configuration says "Your iPad will work only with the carrier you choose". Perhaps this means a form of lock, perhaps it just refers to what SIM card comes with it originally and they can be swapped out later.

    If anyone comes up with definitive information, please post here and I'll do the same.

    Spent some time at an Apple Store today and after some research, the staff there admitted they weren't sure either.
  6. screensaver400 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Jan 28, 2005
    I'm really hoping that all of the hardware is the same, that all the networks will let you use any of the models (including on EVDO, for Verizon and Sprint), and that the iPad software is smart enough to detect which carrier's SIM is inserted, and display the appropriate Cellular Data screen in Settings.

    However, I think all of the above being true is unlikely.
  7. nostresshere macrumors 68030

    Dec 30, 2010
    Review the link in post #4 again.
  8. screensaver400 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Jan 28, 2005
    I'm familiar with that page. Just because there is a single hardware model with the same band support does not mean that there isn't:

    1) An iPad software limitation whereby changing SIMs won't cause the appropriate carrier to appear in the Cellular Data screen in the Settings app.

    2) A Verizon and/or Sprint policy that doesn't allow non-whitelisted ESNs to access their 3G EVDO networks.

    Further, T-Mobile publicly said that the iPad Air supports 1700Mhz HSPA. None of the Apple tech specs pages support that. Does that mean that the T-Mobile is, in fact, different?
  9. Krevnik macrumors 68040


    Sep 8, 2003
    1) Such a limitation would remove the benefit to Apple. The main thing being that the only difference being the SIM, they can adjust their output very easily and cheaply between which SIM is pre-inserted. Having to tweak, or re flash the firmware eats into the benefit. And as the iPad is not carrier subsidized, there is zero benefit to a carrier or SIM lock in software either. There is zero benefit to locking it in this way to anyone involved.

    2) For LTE capable devices, Verizon doesn't whitelist ESNs, they use SIMs. Sprint has moved to the same model as far as I know. The ESN whitelist was how it worked prior to LTE, sure, but it isn't now.

    Anything T-Mobile says about the iPad should be taken with a grain of salt. Apple is the manufacturer, and if there is a conflict, Apple's information is likely to be more reliable. That said, CSR reps are notorious for being out of date, last to get information, etc. the tech specs posted on Apple's site are the best source of information until someone can do a tear down.

    If we want to use the iPad 4 as a model, sure. You could easily swap SIMs with the 4 and take it to a different carrier. The problem was the band support. Only the CDMA model had CDMA, which meant taking an AT&T iPad to Verizon was messy, as you couldn't use 3G, and the LTE bands didn't match. And a Verizon iPad with an AT&T SIM would only operate at the HSPA speeds, with no LTE support. So with the previous model, the ONLY thing preventing you from going from carrier to carrier was the cellular chipset. Apple has now addressed that with the Air, to the benefit of their supply chain and their customers. The only real reason to sell the Air with inserted SIMs is to make it easier for the customer and have it work "out of the box".
  10. rui no onna macrumors 603

    rui no onna

    Oct 25, 2013
    The Sprint and Verizon iPad 4 and iPad mini have the same model numbers. Has anyone tried using Sprint iPads on Verizon's network or vice versa?
  11. aneftp macrumors 601

    Jul 28, 2007
    Verizon is quirky about "universal" LTE unlocked devices. They have to be "certified" for use on Verizon network.

    Saying all that. If u have an active post paid verizon 4G lte SIM card from ur verizon phone. U can slide the 4g lte sim from phone to a nexus 7 2013 lte model and it works.
  12. screensaver400 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Jan 28, 2005
    Then why can't you use a "GSM" A1433 with Verizon?
    It wasn't a T-Mobile CSR, it was their CEO during their twitter press conference. They specifically said that iPad Air supports 1700mhz for HSPA, that it was built with T-Mobile in mind, and that if any spec sheets contradicted that, then they would work with Apple to get them corrected.

    From Twitter:
    @nbrownfield: @nbrownfield: @TMobile Is the iPad Air compatible with TMO's HSPA+ network? Apple says it's missing the 1700MHz band. #unleashthetablet

    @TMobile: Yes it is, it's compatible. The new ones support all of our frequencies. These were built with @TMobile in mind.
  13. Krevnik macrumors 68040


    Sep 8, 2003
    I already answered that question:

    Emphasis mine. The 1433 has no CDMA support in the chipset, and has the wrong LTE bands. Put simply, it has no support in hardware to even see Verizon's towers, as they are the wrong technology and band.

    The 1460 for example, does have chipset support for EDGE and UMTS/HSPA. So it can talk to the GSM towers, but again the LTE bands were wrong for AT&T, thus no LTE support with AT&T.

    My comment about the CSR was to cut off comments about Apple's CSRs, which are about as clueless as any company's CSRs.

    What's interesting is that folks are reading into this more than it actually says. Which is not surprising, this is how miscommunication happens.

    The iPad Air supports AWS frequencies for LTE. But it doesn't call out the frequency specifically. AWS uses 1700Mhz and 2100Mhz bands, although AWS usually refers to the 1700Mhz band. So what is interesting is that both tweets are technically correct:

    - The iPad Air does not seem to support HSPA+ over 1700Mhz, but T-Mobile is migrating all of their HSPA+ network to run on 1900Mhz. Which the iPad Air does support.

    - LTE band 4 is AWS frequencies, which covers the 1700Mhz band. T-Mobile is repurposing the 1700Mhz band for LTE as they move HSPA+ off that band. Again, the iPad Air supports this band correctly.

    So what folks are reading is that the T-Mobile CEO "says" that the iPad Air supports HSPA+ over 1700Mhz, which is not something he actually says. However, the CEO carefully side-steps the real question by answering that the iPad Air supports T-Mobile. The reality is that it supports HSPA+/LTE on T-Mobile in the areas where T-Mobile has deployed LTE, or migrated HSPA+ to 1900Mhz. Of course, that doesn't fit a 140 character tweet all that well.
  14. sixstrings03 macrumors regular

    Oct 1, 2012
    You seem to know a lot more than me... Does this mean that all you'd have to do is swap SIMs to switch carriers with the Air?

    I'd like to buy a T-Mobile version but be able to swap in an ATT or Verizon SIM later if needed.

    It's the only concern I have before picking one up!
  15. Krevnik macrumors 68040


    Sep 8, 2003
    There is one other issue with the iPad 4 that is something I can only hypothesize about with the Air:

    The CDMA iPad 4 firmware only includes APN settings for the CDMA providers. And the GSM firmware only included the GSM APN settings.

    With a single model for the Cellular-enabled Air, it stands to reason that they will only produce one firmware with all the APN settings required for all carriers they support. The firmware historically has been split by model number, which is used to figure out which firmware update/image to provide to a given device.

    So in that case, I'd expect it to "just work", but this is only an educated guess on my part, based on history and my own experience working with the carriers.

    That and I don't really know about the Sprint scenario. They, like Verizon have moved to SIMs to identify subscribers instead of ESNs (except on legacy devices), but I don't know if they still track the ESN on new devices, where I know Verizon does not. I don't believe they do, but again, only an educated guess.
  16. rui no onna macrumors 603

    rui no onna

    Oct 25, 2013
    Theoretically, yes.

    There should be no issue with swapping between AT&T and T-Mobile. Verizon and Sprint are the unknowns here but the fact that an already activated Verizon SIM card worked on the Nexus 7 (2013) LTE is quite promising.

    The iPad Air is one of the first devices to support all carriers so I reckon it'll be a learning experience for all of us. My guess, you'd get better help on these forums trying to use a "non-Verizon" iPad with a Verizon SIM card. Last time I needed a SIM for my Verizon iPad (3rd gen) when I wanted to switch from postpaid to prepaid, the customer service reps and even the manager at the Verizon corporate store had no idea what to do. There were like 4 people helping me (thankfully, it was a slow day for them) and none of them had any idea how to get the SIM activated. Eventually, one of the guys just installed it inside the iPad and I activated it myself via Settings. On the upside, they didn't charge me for the SIM although they now have a SIM unaccounted for in their system. :rolleyes:
  17. panzer06 macrumors 68030


    Sep 23, 2006
    This bit from the Apple website would seem to indicate a requirement that you buy the version most likely to work on the network you want to use.

    AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, or Verizon.
    The iPad with Wi-Fi + Cellular model you purchase will work with one of these wireless carriers: AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, or Verizon. While you don’t have to activate service right away, you should choose your iPad according to the carrier you prefer. Each carrier offers a range of data plan options. Visit your favorite carrier’s website to see data plans.

    Not exactly sure what that means but it seems to generate more questions than answers. Probably the safest bet is to buy the Verizon model and try an AT&T or T-mobile SIM similar to the situation with the unlocked 5c/5s. Seems needlessly confusing to me. I wish they would just clearly state there is a single model and you'll need the correct SIM to activate service.

  18. sixstrings03 macrumors regular

    Oct 1, 2012
    I've got an idea to test this.... what do you think?

    1) I will buy the T-Mobile iPad Air on release day
    2) I will swap in my Verizon SIM used on my iPhone 5 to see if it works on the iPad (never done this before... does that kind of thing work?)
    3) If not, I still have 14 days to exchange if needed

    Anyone know more to say if that'd be a worthwhile test or not?

    EDIT: Not to mention once I buy the iPad I'll have AppleCare access to ask an expert on this
  19. rui no onna macrumors 603

    rui no onna

    Oct 25, 2013
    Verizon iPad with AT&T or T-Mobile service is pretty much guaranteed to work. It's whether AT&T, T-Mobile or international iPads will work on Verizon that would be interesting to know.

    Lol, I was actually considering doing the same thing you're planning. :p
  20. sixstrings03 macrumors regular

    Oct 1, 2012
    Just got off the phone with T-Mobile and they weren't sure on this either... my plan is now to just buy the Verizon model of iPad and then pick up a T-Mobile prepaid SIM to try on it.

    Has anyone done this before? Since the iPad Air takes nano SIM this would fit.... but wondering if this would be set up with the same free 200MB of data.


    This is making me think that my experiment will work
  21. panzer06 macrumors 68030


    Sep 23, 2006
    That could be a problem. On the HP laptop I received with the T-Mobile free 2 year 200MB you had to use the included SIM and follow the online activation steps. The agents on the phone had no way to activate the free service.

  22. sixstrings03 macrumors regular

    Oct 1, 2012
    just so I understand: you're saying my best bet to get the 200mb free is to just get the TM iPad Air... Then just test the Verizon SIM?

    Versus the other way around?
  23. Chupa Chupa macrumors G5

    Chupa Chupa

    Jul 16, 2002
    iPads are unlocked & Apple even states international roaming w/ sim of users choice. If you look at the Airs tech specs all the LTE versions are capable of the LTE bands. The difference between each carrier version is the SIM card. You could buy an XYZ cellco version & later get an ABC cellco sim but ABC may charge for the sim or not sell one at all.
  24. panzer06 macrumors 68030


    Sep 23, 2006
    On the T-Mobile enabled laptops from HP, only the SIM it came with was somehow imprinted with the free 200MB for 24 months. None of my other blank T-Mobile SIMs could get the special deal. They all tried to force me to sign up for the full T-Mobile data device plans.

    If the free T-Mobile service is something you want, it's probably best to get that model. Don't activate the SIM and try a Verizon SIM. I'm tempted to try that since I have a Verizon SIM in my current mini. That way I know it works on Verizon and could just put it in the new T-Mobile version iPad Air or Mini 2 to test.

  25. sixstrings03 macrumors regular

    Oct 1, 2012
    thanks man - anyone know if an iPhone Verizon SIM would work in an iPad or would that flag something on their system/mess something up?

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