4 Replies Latest reply: Nov 27, 2012 7:11 PM by diesel vdub
Spiral Aim Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

If I buy an iphone 4 from Apple store (not subsidized), can I use it with Virgin Mobile's no contract plan?  Or do I need to buy it from Virgin Mobile?

 

And If, after a month or two, I decide not to use Virgin Mobile, can I switch to another carrier using the same phone? or do I need to unlock it or whatever?

 

I guess what I am really getting down to is this:  I want to choose Virgin as carrier because there is no 2-year contract locked in, i.e. flexibility to switch, and I am willing to pay full price for the phone.  But if, for some reason I don't like Virgin's service, or they to raise their monthly fee so that it is no longer competitive to ATT, VZ, etc., I want to be able to switch to another carrier with the same phone, and not have to sell it on the 2nd hand market.

 

I know I can just purchase the iphone 4 that Virgin offers for 350.  But if it only works with Virgin and no other carrier, then what is the point of not having tied into a contract?  The phone is useless unless I use it with that carrier.

 

I have not asked Virgin this question yet, because what I really want to know is, if an iphone purchased in an Apple store can be used "universally" across all carriers.  I kind of understand there is a different standard that ATT use as opposed to all other carriers, but I am hoping to find the definitive answer about iphone compatibility for all carriers that offer the iphone.


iPhone 4
  • Limnos Level 8 Level 8 (43,680 points)

    Some carriers will not accept unlocked phones - https://discussions.apple.com/message/20359060 - E.g., "Virgin Mobile, like all CDMA carriers, will only activate devices on their network that were initially sold for use on their network."

  • Spiral Aim Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    Thanks for the link. I followed it and this is what I understand from it, let me know if I got it right:

     

    1)  Only 3 carriers in the US unlock phones for usage other than their own network: ATT, VZ, and S.

     

    2)  ATT uses GSM, and only ATT uses GSM (I think).  So, an unlocked ATT GSM iphone can be used where else in the US?

     

    3)  I assume VZ and S use CDMA.  So, an unlocked VZ CDMA iphone user can switch to S and vice versa, and that's it?

     

    4)  ATT unlocked iphone users cannot use same phone with VZ, S, Virgin, or whoever else offering iphones at this time?

     

    5)  VZ and S unlocked iphone users cannot switch to ATT, Virgin or whoever else offering iphones at this time?

     

    With such limitations imposed on the iphone, why would anyone purchase an iphone from Apple store? And what is the utility in an unlocked iphone?

  • Lawrence Finch Level 7 Level 7 (32,230 points)

    If you purchase an unlocked GSM phone from an Apple store it will work on pretty much every network in the world except Verizon and Sprint and their resellers.

     

    An unlocked GSM phone (iPhone or any other) can be used on AT&T and T-Mobile and their resellers in the US.

  • diesel vdub Level 7 Level 7 (21,985 points)

    Spiral Aim wrote:

     

     

    3)  I assume VZ and S use CDMA.  So, an unlocked VZ CDMA iphone user can switch to S and vice versa, and that's it?

     

    You assume correctly that Verizon and Sprint are CDMA.  However, no CDMA carrier will activate a device sold for a network other than their own.  In the "CDMA world" there is no such thing as an unlocked device.

     

    Spiral Aim wrote:

     

    4)  ATT unlocked iphone users cannot use same phone with VZ, S, Virgin, or whoever else offering iphones at this time?

    An unlocked GSM iPhone can be used on TMobile and any other GSM carrier in the US, there are quite a few regional GSM carriers and resellers (like StraightTalk).  Not all features are supported/work and it's up to those carriers to get them working.

     

    Spiral Aim wrote:

     

    5)  VZ and S unlocked iphone users cannot switch to ATT, Virgin or whoever else offering iphones at this time?

    Now this is where it gets confusing, kindof.

    The iPhone 4 is GSM or CDMA only.

     

    The 4S and 5 are World phones meaning they have GSM and CDMA antenna's.  A CDMA 4S or 5 can be unlocked by the carrier (Sprint, Verizon, Virgin, etc) and activated on a GSM network.  Generally the carrier will only unlock for International carriers for the purpose of using GSM when the user is traveling and there is no partner CDMA carrier network for the user to roam on.