Questions about unlocked iPhones (and plans)

Discussion in 'iPhone' started by PreYeah, Jul 1, 2014.

  1. PreYeah, Jul 1, 2014
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2014

    PreYeah macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2014
    #1
    I'm sorry if this has been asked before. I am thinking of buying a no-contract unlocked iPhone from Apple.

    I currently have a no-contract iPhone 4s on Virgin Mobile (USA). My plan is 30$ for 300 minutes, unlimited text and unlimited data. Since VirginMobile is CDMA, I'm guessing they don't unlock their iPhones or let other SIM cards work on the iPhones issued through them (this is assuming the 4s has the GSM capability).

    I want a no-contract unlocked iPhone just so I will have the flexiblity of using it overseas since I'm usually making a trip once a year.

    My questions are:

    If I buy an unlocked iPhone from Apple (thinking of getting a 5S, 32 GB in white and silver), are there any plans that I can use that are as cheap as VirginMobile's?

    I have heard that Verizon iPhones come unlocked (although they have to be activated through Verizon, but a T-Mobile sim can be used and so on). Is this true? Are AT&T iPhones the same?

    Will I be able to keep my current cellphone number from Virgin if I switch to a no-contract iPhone and start using a SIM card?

    Thanks!
     
  2. eyoungren macrumors P6

    eyoungren

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2011
    Location:
    Phoenix • 85037
    #2
    First, Virgin is an MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) on Sprint's network. As such, I"m pretty sure your current phone is subject to Sprint's draconian unlock policy or any VM variation thereof.

    I know that on Sprint if you call they will give you an international unlock. You might try calling VM and seeing if that's possible or not with them.

    As to your other questions…

    I've heard that Straight Talk is decent. I've never used it, it's available at WalMart I think, but I have no idea how you'd get on it.

    Verizon iPhones do come unlocked. They have to per FCC requirements for Verizon to be able to use the LTE frequency they use. I just heard the other night of someone actually taking their unlocked Verizon iPhone and activating it on Sprint's network. So, there is that possibility.

    AT&T and T-Mobile phones are unlocked as well if you buy those models. Full price I believe. Both carriers will unlock if you've met your contract requirements and you ask them to do so if you buy a contract iPhone.

    As to keeping your number, I believe it's probably just a matter of porting out.

    Understand, I've actually done none of this, just relaying what I've learned over the years. So your mileage may vary.
     
  3. PreYeah thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2014
    #3
    Thanks for your response, eyoungren.

    The more I think about it, the more I feel like buying an unlocked no-contract iPhone 5S may be worthy of my money since I'll be able to own the device and choose which carrier I would like to use.

    I have 2 questions about this.

    1. So to confirm, does this mean that these iPhone 5S-es all come factory unlocked but are just being "labelled" into these 4 categories: AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint? Wouldnt this then mean that if I buy a AT&T iPhone 5S and without using the included sim-card, pop in another carrier's simcard like T-Mobile's or Verizon's, it would still work? Or the other way around?

    2. The reason I ask is because a sim-free iPhone 5S (32 GB) is 750$. So if all these phones are unlocked, why price some for 200$ if somebody can get away using the iPhone without committing to a contract. For instance, if I buy a "labelled" iPhone and as long as I don't activate the included sim-card, and use another carrier's no-contract data plan, wouldn't I be able to get away with paying much less? So as an example, I have heard at the Apple Store to ask for a Verizon iPhone 5S device-only (because their GSM is unlocked as per the FCC regulations). And as long as I don't activate the included sim, I can pop in T-Mobile's sim, if their data plans are cheaper than Verizon.

    Sorry if I'm over complicating this. Just want to be absolutely sure before I put my money down.
     
  4. eyoungren macrumors P6

    eyoungren

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2011
    Location:
    Phoenix • 85037
    #4
    Here is how I understand it. I may be wrong, but someone should be along to correct me if i am.

    - AT&T/T-Mobile/Sprint are locked when bought on contract.
    - Verizon is unlocked when bought on contract or full price
    - Sprint is locked when bought at full price, you are only paying full price to be out of contract

    You can use a T-Mobile SIM in an AT&T iPhone because they are both GSM. You can use a Verizon iPhone on Sprint because they are both CDMA. But the CMDA phones won't work on the GSM networks and vice-versa.

    Internationally this is different (I don't know exactly how) but the CDMA phones have a GSM radio that let them function on GSM networks internationally. That could just be that the frequencies internationally are different than the ones in the US.

    It has been suggested many times here that the phone to get is Verizon because no matter how you look at it, it's unlocked the day you buy it.
     
  5. SimplyiOS macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2012
    #5
    For the most part, the above statements are correct. When it comes down to unlocked iPhones, the Verizon model is desired as it can also be run on GSM networks such as T-Mobile and AT&T by replacing the SIM with the desired carriers SIM card.

    iPhone 5 and 5s Verizon models apply to that rule. Difference there is, the Verizon iPhone 5s has the correct LTE bands to allow LTE connectivity on GSM networks and the Verizon iPhone 5 does not, limiting 3G data access on GSM.

    As for AT&T and T-Mobile branded iPhones, they can be unlocked as mentioned above, however, will only work on other GSM networks. They will not work for CDMA networks, hence the desirability of the Verizon (CDMA) iPhone which can run GSM as we'll.

    As for Sprint working on a Verizon model, while it may be possible, it's not through factory means. 3rd party flashing/modification would need to take place.
     
  6. PreYeah, Jul 4, 2014
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2014

    PreYeah thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2014
    #6

    Thanks for your response, simplyiOS!

    So would a Verizon device-only iPhone 5S still be the better choice if I plan to use GSM in the US (and not the CDMA part of the Verizon iPhone which would lock me to their service).

    Ideally, if I had the device in my hand, I would like to use TMobile's prepaid plan (40$ for unlimited talk, text, and 500 mb of data). Upon getting the phone, couldn't I just discard the included verizon simcard (without my activation) and just pop in the TMobile SIM card since the Verizon device-only instrument comes with the GSM unlocked? ( In other words, I don't have to ask Verizon to unlock the GSM part of the iPhone 5S )

    Also, if this is what my goal is (to use a prepaid Tmobile sim), I could just buy an unlocked sim-free iPhone 5S from Apple, right? I dont have to ask for a Verizon device-only iPhone 5S if I want nothing to do with Verizon or use their CDMA service? I'm guessing a device-only iPhone 5s (regardless of carrier label) is the same as unlocked sim-free iphone 5S?

    Thanks a lot for your help :) I feel like I'm starting to understand the cellular infrastructure better.
     
  7. SimplyiOS macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2012
    #7
    Correct, if you were to walk in purchase a Verizon iPhone 5S, it would already be unlocked for GSM use, no need to request the unlock. As mentioned before in the thread, due to FCC ruling, Verizon is required to keep the phones unlocked to be allowed to use LTE frequency they do.

    For you situation, you could walk in and purchase a Verizon 5s, replace the Verizon SIM with a TMobile SIM on the spot and be good to go. In my personal iPhone, which happens to be a Verizon iPhone 5S, I run an AT&T SIM. I actually purchased my iPhone at a Verizon store and before leaving, I had opened the box, pulled the Verizon SIM and popped in my AT&T and was running on AT&Ts network upon walking out the door.

    I chose this route for one reason, options. Will I use Verizon's service, likely not, but I like the idea of being able to if I was traveling and needed a Verizon prepaid sim for service in that area for example, or if Verizon ran a new cellular plan that I liked. All about additional options.

    As for the TMobile SIM you are trying to do, you could walk into Apple, ask for a unlocked phone which will work and you would essentially receive a TMobile branded phone that's unlocked for GSM only (will not work on CDMA) or you could get ask for a Verizon which is already unlocked GSM and is able to be used with Verizon in addition. If you care about having the option of Verizon, that would be the way to go, if not, the unlocked iPhone will work as well.
     
  8. RiddlaBronc macrumors 6502a

    RiddlaBronc

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    Oct 14, 2013
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    Mcallen Tx
    #8
    Eyongruen

    If i buy the next phone unlocked (verizon) can i use it on sprint? I currently have sprint. Dont want to sign another two year contract.
     
  9. T5BRICK macrumors 604

    T5BRICK

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    Aug 3, 2006
    Location:
    Oregon
    #9
    Being that sprint and Verizon are both CDMA, it SHOULD work. Unfortunately, I think the iPhone models for Sprint and Verizon are actually different. Aside from that, they probably won't activate the phone.
     
  10. Applejuiced macrumors Westmere

    Applejuiced

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    Apr 16, 2008
    Location:
    At the iPhone hacks section.
    #10
    No, you cannot.
    Sprint won't allow it on their network unless it's an iPhone locked to them.
    You can use a verizon iPhone on verizon and any gsm network in the world. But not sprint.
     
  11. eyoungren macrumors P6

    eyoungren

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    Aug 31, 2011
    Location:
    Phoenix • 85037
    #11
    This person that I tried to help states that he originally bought an unlocked Verizon iPhone and that he activated it on Sprint online.

    How that's possible, in light of the fact that Sprint's policy has been never to activate a phone they did not sell, I don't know.

    I'm just bringing it up because if true, and I have no reason to believe the user was lying, then there seems to be a way to do this.

    My advice would be to PM the user to directly ask him how he did it.

    Note, I am not contradicting anyone here, just reporting what this person has said.
     
  12. PreYeah thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2014
    #12
    Thank you but I may be getting a little confused. To put it in a nutshell: If I don't ever plan on getting on a 2-year contract with any carrier here in the US (contracts usually mean CDMA service, right?), and instead only plan on using GSM here in the US and overseas, should I get the Verizon device-only iPhone 5S or the carrier-unlabeled factory-unlocked sim-free iPhone 5S?

    You bought the Verizon device-only iPhone because it was nice to have the option of using Verizon CDMA coverage (and not their GSM), correct?

    I'm so sorry if I'm over complicating this !
     
  13. ssl0408 macrumors 6502a

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    Sep 22, 2013
    Location:
    New York
    #13
    The Verizon model I believe has the most LTE bands so personally I would buy that one.
     
  14. Applejuiced macrumors Westmere

    Applejuiced

    Joined:
    Apr 16, 2008
    Location:
    At the iPhone hacks section.
    #14
    Anyone can claim whatever they want but I wouldn't take anyone's word. Claiming he is the only one that accomplished it somehow even though we know that they don't do it and it's not their policy to do it.
    If anyone wants to take the risk and then try to go through hell to have sprint activate another carriers device then good luck to them.
    It's not gonna happen.


     
  15. eyoungren macrumors P6

    eyoungren

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    Phoenix • 85037
    #15
    Yeah, I know. I'm not saying I believe him, just that I don't have a reason not to.

    I'm skeptical about it as this has been Sprint's policy since forever. But I thought I'd mention it here more for the information than as actual proof that it's possible (which I still doubt).
     
  16. Applejuiced macrumors Westmere

    Applejuiced

    Joined:
    Apr 16, 2008
    Location:
    At the iPhone hacks section.
    #16
    I hear you.
    I don't believe any random people on the internet right off the bat either.
    Unless I know them for a while like reading their posts here.
    But a quick phone call to sprint or visiting a sprint store will verify that they don't do it what he claims. If that was the case everyone else would be doing it and we would be hearing about it from more than 1 person.
     
  17. KimChoppie macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2014
    #17
    Genius wireless ...great deal

    I used to use the virgin deal , but after being given a couple of out of contract iPhone 4 we went with Genius wireless, we have three phones on the verizon network for just $75 each per yr, there are some other deals for time, data etc, but for pretty low users this is perfect, I only use wifi for data ...worth checking their plans...def a plus for teenagers too, no overspending from my teen.

    I get great verizon coverage and have had no problems with this company at all , even spoke to the owner within minutes of leaving a message during initial setup ( iPhone prob not genius wireless prob)

    http://genius-wireless.com/selectel-plans-2/

    Highly recommend them , saves a fortune.

    ( sorry I'm not techy so apologies if this isn't techy enough in detail)
     
  18. PreYeah thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2014
    #18
    Thanks for sharing, Kim! Good to know you were also a Virgin user. Admittedly, I'm a little nervous leaving Virgin. I feel like I'm taking a risk with putting down 750$ + on a unlocked Sim-free iPhone 5S ( a Verizon iPhone 5S non-contract device-only would still cost me the same?), and hoping that the prepaid T-Mobile data plans and coverage will be better than Virgin.

    I was still thinking of keeping my CDMA-locked Virgin Mobile iPhone 4S. If it all goes horribly wrong, I had this backup Plan (don't know whether it'll work, ):

    Return unlocked iPhone 5S to Apple Store within 14-day trial period if coverage is just slow / bad > Re-activate iPhone 4S IMEI with VirginMobile and have cell number ported from the T-Mobile Sim.

    T-Mobile said they can port my number from Virgin, don't know if Virgin will re-port and if I can still re-activate my iPhone 4S's IMEI with them.

    Has anyone tried this? Left a phone career and come crawling back with their CDMA device and was able to use it again?
     
  19. KimChoppie macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2014
    #19
    Oops sorry to mislead I was virgin on a different type of phone , but acquired a used out of contract iPhone which had been on Verizon network previously , I got a new number for my phone , but my husband ported his virgin ( non iPhone ) number over with him , it was free to do , but they sometimes have a $5 charge to port numbers if I remember correctly.

    The company is very helpful, I'd suggest calling them if unsure ( sorry I'm not better at the techy stuff, yeah I know it's pretty lame, but I'm trying to learn)
     

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