What is the difference between an unlocked phone?
We would like take a moment and explain the difference between a "locked" and "unlocked" cell phone. In the USA Cingular (ATT) and T-Mobile are the 2 large GSM carriers. Sprint and Verizon use CDMA phones which usually don't require a SIM card. First, a locked phone means that it will only work with 1 specific carrier.
Unlocked GSM phone means that it wouldn't be locked into a specific carrier network. On the upside it means freedom to choose your own GSM carrier that suits your needs (and wallet) best. On the down side several carrier-specific features may not be available.
- All GSM devices are designed so that service is provisioned using a SIM card. With an unlocked device, a GSM smartphone can be reprovisioned and used on another network simply by popping out the old SIM card and putting in a new one from the new carrier. EV-DO is the 3G technology used on CDMA networks.
- According to Verizon, they do not lock most of their phones. To quote them directly: "We do not lock our 4G LTE devices and no code is needed to program them for use with another carrier." That means that any iPhone 5 or higher that was bought with Verizon should already be unlocked.
- Sprint does offer some headsets with dual CDMA/GSM technology. In the USA, Boost is a MVNO (Mobile virtual network operator) for Sprint, which makes it a CDMA2000 3G service. Boost initially launched as an MVNO in the U.S. with Nextel, which utilized the iDen network.
Unlocking an iPhone means taking an iPhone that is locked to a specific carrier and making it usable on other carriers. A software unlock is the process by which the iPhone is modified such that the baseband will accept the SIM card of any GSM carrier.
- While refurbished phones have often been used, the term "used" has a more specific meaning. A used phone is sold as-is. It has not been tested or fixed, and it does not come with a guarantee. A refurbished phone is different in that it has been tested, repaired if necessary, and it has been cleaned.
- *GSM-capable phones that support Band II (1900 MHz) or IV (1700/2100 MHz) are compatible with T-Mobile's network. CDMA phones are not compatible with the T-Mobile network. Additionally, phones may need to be unlocked to operate on T-Mobile's network.
- This is significant because it marks the first time that MetroPCS, which was CDMA-only before the merger, is using T-Mobile's GSM network. The carrier is accepting unlocked iPhones, Android phones, Windows phones, and certain feature phones, but not BlackBerrys, tablets, or hotspots.
Updated: 26th November 2019