[UPDATED] Apple Upgrade Program phone isn't really unlocked?

Discussion in 'iPhone' started by medgirl2001, Sep 14, 2015.

  1. medgirl2001 macrumors regular

    Jan 11, 2009
    I have read a lot of conflicting information about how "unlocked" the phones sold through the Apple Upgrade Program really are. I talked to the Apple online chat people today. If what they said was correct, their definition of unlocked and mine are not the same.

    My chat is below, but to summarize, all they really would confirm is that the phone is unlocked to use with your carrier. By that definition, any phone would be unlocked, so it doesn't make a lot of sense. It seems like the only "unlocked" thing they will confirm is that you can pick your carrier when you get to the store. If that's all it is, Apple should know better than to make a point of advertising that the phone is unlocked as if it's a feature. If anyone else knows more about this, I would be interested to hear it, because right now it seems like one of the big selling points for the upgrade program for me isn't that great.

    It sounds like my best bet if I want a truly unlocked phone, as in one I can switch SIMs in and out of, is to buy an AT&T (my carrier) phone at full price at an Apple store, where it should actually be unlocked or, at worst, AT&T would unlock it for me without a long delay.

    Me: I know the phone has to be activated on a carrier. But will it remain unlocked to be used with other carriers after activation? Can I use it with a carrier outside the U.S. while traveling?

    Apple: With the new iPhone Upgrade Program it will remain unlocked but it is connected to a carrier so it will not work with another SIM card.

    Me: I'm not sure I understand. In what way is it unlocked if it can't work with another SIM?

    Apple: It is carrier sales only at this time.

    Me: I understand that I need to activate it on my carrier at the time of purchase. But if it is unlocked, then I should be able to use it with another SIM also?

    Apple: I know it is confusing, but at this time they are unlocked with a US carrier. They are not guaranteed to work outside of the US or with another Carrier.

    Me: So does that mean I can use with another US carrier? For example, activate with AT&T but also use with a T-Mobile SIM?

    Apple: It gives you the freedom to switch carriers, yes. But you will need to switch your plan to that carrier.

    Me: I currently have AT&T as the carrier I would activate the phone with. But I also have a plan with T-Mobile. With my current unlocked phone, I can switch the SIMs out and go back and forth. I can also use a foreign carrier.

    I am trying to find out if I would be able to do this with a phone purchased with the Apple Upgrade Program.

    Apple: If you set you phone up with Verizon and switch to an ATT Sim you will need to switch you account to ATT for the phone to work.

    They are unlocked but to the Carrier you set it up with only. Not like a complete unlock program. It gives you the freedom to switch carriers when ever you like.

    Me: I think Verizon may work differently. But usually the GSM carriers (AT&T, T-Mobile, etc.) can be switched with switching a SIM. That is how it has been with other unlocked phones I have had.

    It sounds like maybe what you mean is not so much that it is unlocked but that you are free to switch since you don't have a contract with the carrier?

    Apple: They are not normal unlocked use with any carrier phones. They are unlocked connected to a carrier. You can not use another SIM without switching carriers. They will not work overseas at this time.

    Yes exactly they are unlocked but you still have to use it with a carrier.
  2. Shadowbech, Sep 14, 2015
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2015

    Shadowbech macrumors 601

    Oct 18, 2011
    Planet iPhone
    Even though it's unlocked I think it only works with any of the 4. So you can technically choose a plan with AT&T and later should you decide to go with T-mobile you can stick a t-mobile in there. But if you decide to pay full price then I think it would be technically be unlocked. I could be wrong though.

    I reserved mine via the iPhone UP link but will intend to purchase it full price so technically it should be unlocked for international use. But I guess we'll just have to find out what other has to report.
  3. medgirl2001 thread starter macrumors regular

    Jan 11, 2009
    Yes, the wording is strange. The term "unlocked" has been used for years, long predating the iPhone. I don't think anyone would consider a phone unlocked that only works with your (single) carrier.

    I have AT&T but I also have a T-Mobile pay-as-you-go (or whatever they call it) account for emergencies. For example, when we had an extended AT&T outage awhile back, I just swapped in my T-Mobile SIM to my (unlocked) iPhone 6 and it worked fine. But my bigger concern is international use.

    I'm in your situation in that I reserved via the upgrade program, but now I might go with full price. The person I chatted with today wouldn't confirm that I would be able to switch that at the store, but several people have posted here that they were told it wouldn't be an issue.

    As far as unlocked full price phones, for the past few years at least, AT&T phones sold by Apple at full price have been unlocked. If not, AT&T shouldn't have a problem with unlocking them. (I don't know about other carriers).
  4. Shadowbech macrumors 601

    Oct 18, 2011
    Planet iPhone
    I don't think it will be an issue, as it's just reserving your phone, and when you pick up you can select how you want to pay.
  5. manhattanmania macrumors regular

    Jul 9, 2007
    i posted on this exact thing last night as well. and got the same answer basically, except for international they said the carrier would have to unlock it.

    i am starting to feel/fear that the upgrade program phones aren't actually unlocked which was one of the main selling points! if i'm paying full price for the phone, i should be able to use it on any carrier - period.
  6. Colonel Badger macrumors 6502

    Jun 30, 2008
    I don't understand their answer and it contradicts at least how previous Verizon phones worked. For instance if you purchased a LOCKED Verizon iPhone 6, the GSM SIM functionality was still unlocked so it could be used outside of the US.

    Are they saying that now if I purchase an Upgrade Program phone and choose Verizon, that it WON'T work outside the US? I thought by LAW it had to ?
  7. greatestash macrumors member


    Oct 26, 2007
    This is not true; i just had a chat with Sales Rep and they told me that it will come fully unlocked just like full priced Unlocked iPhone. You can pop in any SIM in it and it just need internet to activate that SIM. You dont have to call any carrier to get it unlocked.

    Chat support (talked to them first) people dont have full awareness about this program; they just give you reg response what they have in their KBs when people call them (as if they are in contract with their carriers). They even told me that even if i buy full priced Unlocked iPhone, i still have to call my carrier to unlock it, which i know is B***sH** ; i have unlocked iPhones ever since 4S and never have to deal with carriers.

    So point it, yes Apple iPhone Upgrade prog will come with fully unlocked phones :)
  8. medgirl2001 thread starter macrumors regular

    Jan 11, 2009
    That is good to hear. I still haven't decided what to do about the upgrade program, but getting an unlocked phone is one of the main reasons I am considering it. No full-price phone should be locked, in my opinion, especially when the financing doesn't involve the carrier.

    I do wish the chat support people had a better understanding of all of this. What they told me made no sense. I have a feeling launch day is going to be chaos.
  9. medgirl2001 thread starter macrumors regular

    Jan 11, 2009
    When I went for phone reservation time this morning, the guy at the Apple Store said that the confusion is that the phones for the upgrade program are not factory unlocked, but unlock when they are activated and will remain so to be used with any carrier. That still doesn't quite make sense to me. I think that what is really going on is that they have to activate the phone on a carrier to fulfill the financing agreement for the upgrade program, but for some reason no one will say that.

    Anyway, I did end up using the Apple upgrade program. They activated it with my carrier (AT&T). I tested it when I got home with T-Mobile and a SIM from an overseas carrier. It works, so it is indeed unlocked.

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