Carrier iPhone 5S in USA: Which Models are Unlocked?

Apple Trees

macrumors 6502
Original poster
May 28, 2013
261
0
I've seen tons of threads popping up here asking where to get unlocked iPhone 5S, which ones are unlocked, and from where to buy them. Here is the final word on this to end all questions.

AT&T
Unlocked: If purchased from Apple store full retail price device only
Locked: If purchased from Apple at the subsidized price, AT&T, or any other 3rd party retailer
Note: Can easily be unlocked for $2-$3 using remote IMEI sites such as swiftunlocks.com (does not matter whether phone is in contract or not)
Carrier: AT&T will unlock your iPhone 5S once your contract is completed per request. Unlock works for any GSM carrier, US or other countries.

Verizon
Unlocked: No matter where purchased or at what price, ALL Verizon iPhone 5S are unlocked right out of the box. Even if they are bought from Verizon or 3rd party retailers at the subsidized price. Can never be carrier locked. The is due to an FCC requirement for Verizon LTE phones.

T-Mobile
Unlocked: If purchased from Apple. The iPhone is only sold to T-Mobile customers at full retail price by Apple, no EIP financing through Apple. Thus coming from Apple, the iPhone 5S that has a T-Mobile sim card is factory unlocked out of the box.
Locked: If purchased from a T-Mobile retail store whether financing or at full retail price. Phone will be LOCKED.
Carrier: T-Mobile allows you to request an unlock for your phone after 40 days of service with the carrier. Unlock works for any GSM carrier. US and other countries.

Sprint
Unlocked: This phone can ONLY be unlocked by at the discretion of Sprint. After 90 days of service and paying your bill on time Sprint will allow you to request an unlock of your iPhone.
Locked: This phone will be locked no matter where or how you purchased it. Full retail or subsidized.
Note: Even when Sprint 'unlocks' your iPhone, it is only for international use. It CANNOT be used on domestic GSM carriers like AT&T or T-Mobile. This means that in the USA your phone can only be used on Sprint even if it is unlocked. No exceptions.

Hope this clears up some of the confusion. Suggestions are welcome for any incorrect info. I've also just discovered that Virgin Mobile will be offering the 5S, so anyone with that carrier who is familiar with their unlock requirements can chime in.

Edit: this also applies for the iPhone 5C
 
Last edited:

AndrewR23

macrumors 68040
Jun 24, 2010
3,897
1,177
I can verify I ordered a T mobile 5S on apple.com, inserted my AT&T sim and it worked perfectly, with full LTE.

Yesterday, returned the T mobile one for Verizon 5S, my AT&T LTE works flawless on that one as well.
 

Jovianremix

macrumors newbie
Oct 4, 2013
11
0
So it appears that the 5S models for Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile are all exactly the same hardware. The only differentiating factor is whether the phones are unlocked or not? Am I correct?
 

Namji

macrumors 6502a
Aug 13, 2010
621
14
Verizon
Unlocked: No matter where purchased or at what price, ALL Verizon iPhone 5S are unlocked right out of the box. Even if they are bought from Verizon or 3rd party retailers at the subsidized price. Can never be carrier locked. The is due to an FCC requirement for Verizon LTE phones.
Could you go in more details on the bolded comment? Why does FCC only require VZW to unlock their LTE phones and not AT&T or tmobile, and sprint?

----------

So it appears that the 5S models for Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile are all exactly the same hardware. The only differentiating factor is whether the phones are unlocked or not? Am I correct?
Not to my knowledge. If you were to pay full retail price on a iPhone 5S the best phone to get would be from Verizon, regardless which carrier you are with.
 

Jovianremix

macrumors newbie
Oct 4, 2013
11
0
Not to my knowledge. If you were to pay full retail price on a iPhone 5S the best phone to get would be from Verizon, regardless which carrier you are with.
Why is it best to get the Verizon model?
 

Raibyn

macrumors regular
Sep 24, 2013
154
8
South Carolina
If you were to pay full retail price on a iPhone 5S the best phone to get would be from Verizon, regardless which carrier you are with.
Unless you are on Sprint. Otherwise, yes as the Verizon 5s is the only phone I know of that can get LTE on Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile.
 

urkel

macrumors 68030
Nov 3, 2008
2,783
864
Sprint
Note: Even when Sprint 'unlocks' your iPhone, it is only for international use. It CANNOT be used on domestic GSM carriers like AT&T or T-Mobile. This means that in the USA your phone can only be used on Sprint even if it is unlocked. No exceptions.
I know this is how it was last gen with the iPhone 5 but I thought for the 5s then Apple was only making a single model that would be carrier locked, but unlocked would all work identically. So did Sprint get a unique (crippled) model?
 

Raibyn

macrumors regular
Sep 24, 2013
154
8
South Carolina
I know this is how it was last gen with the iPhone 5 but I thought for the 5s then Apple was only making a single model that would be carrier locked, but unlocked would all work identically. So did Sprint get a unique (crippled) model?
Yes, the Sprint model is different, A1453 vs A1533 for the other three carriers. Different LTE bands on the Sprint version.

http://www.apple.com/iphone/LTE/
 

CEmajr

macrumors 601
Dec 18, 2012
4,377
1,138
Charlotte, NC
I know this is how it was last gen with the iPhone 5 but I thought for the 5s then Apple was only making a single model that would be carrier locked, but unlocked would all work identically. So did Sprint get a unique (crippled) model?
Yep Sprint is always the crippled oddball and their restrictive unlock policies are what keeps the resale value of their phones so low. Just another reason I would never use them.
 

takeshi74

macrumors 601
Feb 9, 2011
4,974
68
Could you go in more details on the bolded comment? Why does FCC only require VZW to unlock their LTE phones and not AT&T or tmobile, and sprint?
Part of the terms of Verizon's purchase of the 700Mhz spectrum. It was a cover story here on MacRumors and has been discussed in many threads as well:
https://www.macrumors.com/2012/09/2...s-required-by-fcc-network-access-regulations/

The main reason for the unlocked SIM card slot appears to be FCC network access requirements for Block C, the 700 MHz spectrum that Verizon uses for its LTE network. According to the FCC's CFR Title 47 Part 27.16 paragraph (e):
(e) Handset locking prohibited. No licensee may disable features on handsets it provides to customers, to the extent such features are compliant with the licensee's standards pursuant to paragraph (b) of this section, nor configure handsets it provides to prohibit use of such handsets on other providers' networks.
I know this is how it was last gen with the iPhone 5 but I thought for the 5s then Apple was only making a single model that would be carrier locked, but unlocked would all work identically. So did Sprint get a unique (crippled) model?
Locks can be applied like that without needing a different model.
 

ActionableMango

macrumors G3
Sep 21, 2010
9,512
6,770
Is that swift unlocks thing legit and are there any drawbacks? Anyone here personally use the service themselves?
 

ryanmcv

macrumors 6502a
Aug 12, 2007
742
401
Phoenix, AZ
Is that swift unlocks thing legit and are there any drawbacks? Anyone here personally use the service themselves?
I've used it, and it works perfectly. But unfortunately, the service appears to be down for AT&T iPhone unlocks at the moment. Apparently AT&T is cracking down on these types of unlocks. If and when the service comes back up, expect prices to be much higher than $2.
 

Col Ronson

macrumors 6502a
Aug 7, 2008
619
2
Is that swift unlocks thing legit and are there any drawbacks? Anyone here personally use the service themselves?
its legit but technically "illegal." I only unlock my phones thru official means or by buying full price. I dont like taking chances.
 

Satnam1989

macrumors 65816
Nov 16, 2011
1,200
0
Illinois
I've seen tons of threads popping up here asking where to get unlocked iPhone 5S, which ones are unlocked, and from where to buy them. Here is the final word on this to end all questions.
Add /5C to the title and next to any "5S" you have mentioned in the post as the Radio chip is the exact same in both.

Nice post
 

germinator

macrumors regular
Apr 22, 2009
144
33
Just one question...

If I buy the AT&T 5s from Target at full price, will AT&T unlock it?
 

Coleman2010

macrumors 68000
Oct 9, 2010
1,868
115
NYC
If I buy the AT&T 5s from Target at full price, will AT&T unlock it?
Yes they should. It will be sold locked to AT&T. You will have to call AT&T customer service and request an unlock. They will have you fax copy of the receipt to prove its paid full price.
 

aneftp

macrumors 601
Jul 28, 2007
4,292
487
Part of the terms of Verizon's purchase of the 700Mhz spectrum. It was a cover story here on MacRumors and has been discussed in many threads as well:
https://www.macrumors.com/2012/09/2...s-required-by-fcc-network-access-regulations/




Locks can be applied like that without needing a different model.
I want to point out, outside of iPhones (which Apple controls 100% of the software).

Verizon play A holes with their LTE Android and especially Windows Phones "GSM unlocked" portion of the FCC agreement. Sure they let you make and receive phone calls and text with Verizon HTC 8X/Lumia 822, Galaxy S4/S3 etc.

But Verizon neuters the software that makes MMS and data APN changes extremely difficult Android phones without rooting it.

And in Windows "unlocked" Verizon phones like the HTC 8x, it's next to impossible to enable MMS to correct work with GSM carriers.

Thank God Apple doesn't not let Verizon impose their will with their "unlocked GSM portion" by not allowing Verizon to cripple APNs and MMS settings.

I have both Verizon and ATT and the iPhone 5S works flawlessly, nothing needs to be changed. Pop Verizon SIM in, it works. Pop ATT sim in, it works.

Verizon Nokia Lumia 822, pop Verizon Sim everything works including data and MMS.

Verizon Nokia Lumia 822 with ATT sim, calls and text work. Data works only by changing access points. But MMS will not work even with downloading Nokia access points which configures everything for you.
 

MJedi

macrumors 6502a
Dec 16, 2010
778
194
T-Mobile
Unlocked: If purchased from Apple. The iPhone is only sold to T-Mobile customers at full retail price by Apple, no EIP financing through Apple. Thus coming from Apple, the iPhone 5S that has a T-Mobile sim card is factory unlocked out of the box.
Locked: If purchased from a T-Mobile retail store whether financing or at full retail price. Phone will be LOCKED.
Carrier: T-Mobile allows you to request an unlock for your phone after 40 days of service with the carrier. Unlock works for any GSM carrier. US and other countries.
Has anyone requested an unlock but you're financing the iPhone with T-Mobile? Did they approve or deny it? I thought they would only unlock any phone if you bought it for full retail price, aside from the 40 days of service.
 

Coleman2010

macrumors 68000
Oct 9, 2010
1,868
115
NYC
Has anyone requested an unlock but you're financing the iPhone with T-Mobile? Did they approve or deny it? I thought they would only unlock any phone if you bought it for full retail price, aside from the 40 days of service.
T-Mobile will unlock if you meet their criteria. 40 days active account. Account in good standing. iPhone in use on account for at least 7 days. Unit paid in full.

Considering how hard it is too find unlocked Gold units in store I'm considering buying it locked and having T-Mobile unlock it.
 

CEmajr

macrumors 601
Dec 18, 2012
4,377
1,138
Charlotte, NC
I want to point out, outside of iPhones (which Apple controls 100% of the software).

Verizon play A holes with their LTE Android and especially Windows Phones "GSM unlocked" portion of the FCC agreement. Sure they let you make and receive phone calls and text with Verizon HTC 8X/Lumia 822, Galaxy S4/S3 etc.

But Verizon neuters the software that makes MMS and data APN changes extremely difficult Android phones without rooting it.

And in Windows "unlocked" Verizon phones like the HTC 8x, it's next to impossible to enable MMS to correct work with GSM carriers.

Thank God Apple doesn't not let Verizon impose their will with their "unlocked GSM portion" by not allowing Verizon to cripple APNs and MMS settings.

I have both Verizon and ATT and the iPhone 5S works flawlessly, nothing needs to be changed. Pop Verizon SIM in, it works. Pop ATT sim in, it works.

Verizon Nokia Lumia 822, pop Verizon Sim everything works including data and MMS.

Verizon Nokia Lumia 822 with ATT sim, calls and text work. Data works only by changing access points. But MMS will not work even with downloading Nokia access points which configures everything for you.
Yeah I noticed this when I was trying to use a T-Mobile sim with the Verizon S3. Couldn't do anything but talk and text, no data or MMS. Seems like a slick way for Verizon to get around the FCC unlock requirement. Technically it's unlocked, but essential features are crippled.
 

galaceuriel

macrumors newbie
Oct 6, 2013
1
0
Verizon
Unlocked: No matter where purchased or at what price, ALL Verizon iPhone 5S are unlocked right out of the box. Even if they are bought from Verizon or 3rd party retailers at the subsidized price. Can never be carrier locked. The is due to an FCC requirement for Verizon LTE phones.
Does this apply for international carriers as well? Like, can I just go into a Verizon store, buy a contract-free iPhone 5S at full price, then take it with me outside of the country and use nano-SIMs from international carriers?
 

Apple Trees

macrumors 6502
Original poster
May 28, 2013
261
0
Does this apply for international carriers as well? Like, can I just go into a Verizon store, buy a contract-free iPhone 5S at full price, then take it with me outside of the country and use nano-SIMs from international carriers?
Yeah it works with nano sims for carriers outside the US too.
 
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