US iPhone to bring to UK

Discussion in 'iPhone' started by polak, Dec 16, 2014.

  1. polak macrumors newbie

    Jul 27, 2010
    Hi Guys,

    I have followed this website and forum with interest for a long time but I have a quick question.

    I'm due to travel to the US / Delaware over the next 2 weeks and want to pick up an iPhone 6 to bring back to the UK and use with my SIM only plan here in the UK with Tesco Mobile (using the O2 backbone).

    I have seen that the T-Mobile iPhone 6 is now branded "T-Mobile Unlocked" but also that a number of you guys are recommending purchasing the Verizon one (but at full price) as this is an even better unlocked phone.

    I've read a number of articles online saying why you shouldn't buy a US iPhone to bring back to the UK e.g.:

    Grateful if you could let me know what you think, specifically for it to work with my UK Tesco (o2) Mobile nano-sim card. I would buy a regular unlocked but (i) I understand that the T-Mobile one is not branded unlocked so it is a variety of unlocked LOL and (ii) The verizon one operates on more frequencies apparently so is a better bet?

    Grateful for any advice... thank you for your help.

  2. KPOM, Dec 16, 2014
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2014

    KPOM macrumors G5

    Oct 23, 2010
    Either one would work just fine. Since you are using an out-of-country credit card, you'll need to buy it in the store. The AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile versions of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus all support the exact same bands, CDMA, UMTS, and LTE. The Verizon is considered somewhat more desirable since it will "officially" work on Verizon (the others will work, but only if you have an active Verizon SIM already), but they should all work equally well in the UK. They don't have the 4 TD-LTE bands that the international GSM model has (only the locked Sprint model does).

    The T-Mobile/Unlocked version is in fairly tight supply. If they are out of stock, ask them for a Verizon or AT&T model "device only, no contract." Don't ask about "unlocked" since that will just confuse them. Also, if you can, buy it in Delaware since there is no sales tax in that state. Also, buy them at the Apple Store. Don't buy the AT&T or T-Mobile versions from a carrier store, as they will be locked. The Verizon version is always unlocked, but you have to buy a plan if you buy it directly from Verizon at one of their stores (perhaps a prepaid plan would be OK).

    I read the Macworld UK article and it looks like it is full of FUD and misinformation. There are only 4 major bands of 3G networks used worldwide, and the iPhone 6 supports all of them. The LTE bands that the AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon versions lack are used primarily in China (and Sprint here in the US). I've traveled to Europe and the UK on my iPhone 4s and 5 and never had an issue with 3G coverage.
  3. polak thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 27, 2010
    Thank you for the quick response, much appreciated.

    I had read in another article that the Sprint one has some European compatibility and you reference the 4 TD-LTE bands that the international GSM model has (only the locked Sprint model has this).

    I do travel across Europe a lot and obviously I'm based in the UK so would the absence of these TD-LTE bands impact me in any way? I'm on Tesco Mobile (using o2 backbone) and I have no idea what their preferred model number is, if I purchased directly from Tesco Mobile here in UK or an unlocked one from apple directly.

    I have previously bought my iPhones unlocked in the UK but the price difference is so big I'd much rather get them in Delaware whilst on a road trip from NYC to Washington DC.

    Thanks again!
  4. KPOM macrumors G5

    Oct 23, 2010
    This chart is pretty useful. There are a handful of operators in Europe that plan to use TD-LTE (1 each in Belgium and Sweden, a few in Spain, a couple in Russia), but the vast majority are using FDD-LTE bands that the US iPhone 6 supports, including o2 and all the other major UK networks. It appears that the TD-LTE bands in the UK are reserved for UK Broadband use.

    The international unlocked version is essentially the Sprint model, but because of some SIM provisioning issues doesn't actually work on Sprint here, or (so I've read) with VoLTE on Verizon, T-Mobile, or AT&T, though you would get regular 2G/3G voice and data, along with LTE data services.
  5. didiee macrumors 6502

    Nov 26, 2007
    Maybe a sprint phone will work overseas fine, but as far as most people are concerned, Sprint phone only works on Sprint network in the States.
    Also I have a Verizon iphone 6, which as you can see on the chart is a A1549. It worked just fine on TIM in Italy, which according the chart works with a A1586.

    Do a little investigating and see exactly which model is recommended for your carrier.
  6. Harry8, Dec 16, 2014
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2014

    Harry8 macrumors newbie

    Dec 9, 2014
    United Kingdom

    when you go and get the iPhone, please make sure it states: A1586 on the reverse of the phone as this shows that its a "Global" model and will work in almost any country as the UK iPhones you get from apple are the same model number.

    Hope it helps, i'm on Tesco UK :)

    Put the iPhone serial number in here:
    - it should come up and say Global version, also check model number too and you're good to go!
  7. KPOM macrumors G5

    Oct 23, 2010
    The only A1586 model sold in the US is for Sprint and a handful of very small local CDMA carriers (not Verizon). Unfortunately, that model is locked and cannot be fully unlocked. It can be unlocked for use outside the US, but can be used only with Sprint in the US.

    The A1549 model sold in the US will work with any UK operator and virtually all carriers in the EU. There are only a handful of small operators using the TD-LTE bands that the US version lacks.
  8. KPOM macrumors G5

    Oct 23, 2010
    One other bit of advice is to check out They track iPhone availability in Apple stores. There is only one Apple Store in Delaware at the Christiana Mall in Newark, DE (NOT to be confused with Newark, NJ). Fortunately it is right off I-95, which is the main road that connects DC to New York City. The ZIP code is 19702. Right now they have the AT&T in 16 and 64GB in any color. The Verizon and T-Mobile are in tighter supply. Actually, they have more varieties of the 6 Plus in stock. If Newark DE is too far out of the way, note that the sales tax is lower in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey than it is in New York, but again, it is 0% in Delaware, which is a tiny state so don't let a map fool you into thinking it is far away.
  9. polak thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 27, 2010
    Thanks for all replies, much appreciated.

    Yes I do hope to stop off at the Christiana Mall / Delaware on my trip from NYC to DC and hopefully they'll have some in stock. If none on the way down, on the way back up again hopefully I'l be in luck!

    I have been checking stock levels online and they vary, but I rang the store and they're more optimistic as always hold some for walk-in customers like me!

    Although I won't be able to buy the international GSM model (Sprint one A1586) which I understand is the one sold in the UK as the true unlocked / international one, I will attempt to buy in this order of preference:

    1. Verizon unlocked (although the verizon capability won't really be a deal breaker for me since no plans to move to US / be with verizon which I understand is the main benefit of this one, although resale may be higher)
    2. T Mobile unlocked
    3. ATT unlocked

    Where unlocked means "device only, no contract" so as to avoid any confusion with the sales associates.

    I don't recall things having been as complicated when I bought the iPhone 5 unlocked in the US a couple of years back, but thanks to everyone for their help on this.

    Much appreciated.
  10. didiee macrumors 6502

    Nov 26, 2007
    you CAN buy sprint phones, I think that may be your best bet, since it has more bands... It's just not our best bet, since sprint locks their phone in the US. They may not outside of US.

    The SAFEST bet is Verizon phone, unless you NEED the bands that is only supported by Sprint.
  11. polak thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 27, 2010
    OK thank you - I think this clears things up :)

    An interesting conundrum is that I hope no matter which one I buy, that when I insert my UK Tesco SIM that it will work on international roaming in the US where it hops from one network to another in the US (sometimes I see ATT, sometimes Verizon when I travel to the USA). Hopefully the fact that it's a native Sprint or Verizon phone won't lock me to that carrier when in the USA on roaming.

    Thanks again for your help guys.
  12. KPOM macrumors G5

    Oct 23, 2010
    It shouldn't. The carrier settings are determined by whichever SIM you insert into the phone. When I insert an AT&T SIM into my "Verizon" iPhone 6, it activates the AT&T carrier settings. If I take it out and insert my Verizon SIM, it activates the Verizon carrier settings. Your O2 card will download the O2 carrier settings and roam on whichever partners O2's SIM tells it to, in whatever order of preference O2 has set.

    Technically, if you purchased a Sprint model at full price from Apple, it MIGHT work with your O2 SIM card, but there's a risk that it would not (and you obviously don't have a Sprint account to request an international unlock). Also, the Sprint model would have a lower resale since it is permanently locked in the US. That may change with the "6s" as new rules are coming into place next year in the US regarding unlocking.

    If you plan to be in the US for a while, it might be cheaper to purchase a T-Mobile prepaid, Cricket, or AT&T GoPhone SIM card rather than roam with your O2 SIM.
  13. polak thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 27, 2010
    Thanks for your help... yes I will look for the Verizon one or TMobile / ATT and go from there.

    The best UK network for use in the USA is Three Mobile... they have a "three like home" policy where in a number of countries, you can use the phone as if you're at home. USA is one of those countries, so for no extra charge you get your mins / data / texts as if you were at home in the UK so you roam fee free. Off topic I know.

    Many thanks to everyone for their kind advice... now I just hope I can get a hold of one when over there :)
  14. KPOM macrumors G5

    Oct 23, 2010
    That's a great plan! Our carriers like to extract roaming fees or sell us international data packages. T-Mobile USA has something close to what 3 offers, except international data is throttled to 128kbps.
  15. KPOM macrumors G5

    Oct 23, 2010
    It may be too late for the OP, but now that the A1586 and A1522 models (the "global") versions are on sale here in the US as the SIM-free unlocked version, they are now the most desirable versions to buy for overseas travel.

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