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macrumors newbie
Original poster
Oct 28, 2010
Hello all,

I'm just about at my wits' end. I would love if someone could give me some advice. First, a bit of backstory:

I have an iPhone 4S 16GB that I originally purchased from Verizon back in December 2011. In Jan 2012, I traveled to Italy to study abroad for a semester, and Verizon graciously unlocked my phone for international use. I then bought a Vodafone Italy prepaid SIM card and used it without incident for about 3 months. I returned to the US in May and continued to use the phone on Verizon until Apr 2013, when I moved to Germany (somewhat permanently). At that point, I purchased a Vodafone Germany SIM card, and I've been using that for about 8 months now. Up until a few days ago, I had no reason to believe that my iPhone was not truly unlocked.

I'm currently back in the USA for Christmas for about three weeks. I bought an H2O Wireless SIM card from Best Buy, activated it, and put $40 on it for calls, texts, and data. However, when I pop it in, my iPhone says "Activation Required", and when I try to go through the Apple activation process, I get a "SIM Not Valid" message.

Here's who I've talked to so far:

H2O Wireless says that everything looks fine on their end—the SIM card is activated and ready to go. They're the first ones that suggested that my iPhone might still be carrier locked, so they suggested I contact Apple or my previous carriers to troubleshoot further.

Verizon says that on their end, everything looks fine, and the device was indeed successfully unlocked back in Jan 2012. I asked if they could perform another unlock just to be sure, but their Global Tech department said that it's not possible without an active line of service. (I cancelled my Verizon plan last month, since I was no longer using it.)

Then I called Apple, who checked their data and found that my phone is listed as being somehow locked to Vodafone Italy. Keep in mind, Vodafone Italy didn't sell me the device—all I did was insert a Vodafone Italy prepaid SIM in my phone. I expressed surprised that a SIM card could lock an already unlocked device to a different carrier, but the Apple representative said that somehow, that is indeed what happened. (I should note too that even though this isn't Apple's fault as far as I can tell, they've been extremely helpful and patient.)

Most recently, I tried calling Vodafone Italy, but I wasn't able to connect with an English speaking customer service rep. I stumbled through with my terribly rusty, basic Italian, and from what I could gather, they say that it's not possible that they locked my iPhone. The rep I spoke to did mention that the SIM card itself has been deactivated from lack of use, but that shouldn't affect the phone itself. (It's also entirely possible that I misunderstood her, because my Italian is pretty awful.)

So, what now? If Vodafone Italy denies that they locked the phone (or refuses to unlock it), but Apple says that it is indeed locked to them, is there anything I can do? Should I keep pursuing the issue with Vodafone Italy (perhaps with the assistance of an Italian interpreter)? Or should I try to unlock it through some other means?

On a related note, if the phone is locked to Vodafone Italy as Apple says, how is it that I can use a Vodafone Germany prepaid SIM without issue? Is Vodafone's carrier lock not country specific? I've considered contacting Vodafone Germany as well to see what they can do, since they often speak English pretty well. However, I've had trouble contacting their support line from the US (Skype doesn't seem to be able to connect to their prepaid support number, and I don't want to pay a bunch to call them from a normal phone). Is it worth pursuing the issue with them?

Thanks for reading this far, and thanks in advance for any suggestions! Let me know if there are any more details I can provide.


macrumors regular
Nov 26, 2012
When your in the US on a verizon iPhone 4S you can only use it on verizon. It's only unlocked for international use only. Just trust me on this. It's not locked to Vodafone Italy.


Jul 17, 2012
New York City
Hope you know that when Verizon "unlocks" their iPhone it's for International use ONLY. In the US it's still locked to Verizon no matter what. If you want a truly unlocked iPhone then you should get a GSM unlocked iPhone not a CDMA avoid those.

Which also explains why you're able to use your iPhone in Germany and Italy since it's outside of the US. And since H2O is a US carrier it won't work.


macrumors newbie
Original poster
Oct 28, 2010
Thanks everyone! I didn't know that Verizon's "unlock" isn't a true unlock, so you saved me from what could've been hours of further grief. (Funnily enough, not even Verizon or Apple themselves could answer what you guys answered in a matter of a few hours.) While it's annoying that I can't use other US carriers, it's not the end of the world—I ended up just going to Verizon on Monday and getting set up with their own prepaid smartphone plan for $60/month, and it works fine. Wish I'd just done that in the first place! :)

For future reference for others with a similar problem, here are a couple links with more information:
(This is the prepaid plan I ended up with. Just select "Smartphone Plans" from the dropdown.)
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