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iPhone 4s international unlock questions
January 16, 2012 9:13 AM   Subscribe

I just had my Verizon iPhone 4s unlocked for international use and confirmed working with two different foreign SIM cards. Three questions:
  1. Is this permanent? Can it ever be re-locked via software or some other method?
  2. Can this be used with US SIM cards, or are there restrictions?
  3. Is this phone now identical to an unlocked iPhone, or is it somehow different?


Probably not pertinent, but I am going to be using this exactly as Verizon allows: Verizon at home, swapping in the foreign SIM when traveling overseas once or twice a year. I am asking this question out of curiosity and potential after the two year contract expires.
posted by letitrain to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
1. In theory your friends at Verizon could send out a code to re-lock the card. It would be major-league dickish of them do to do so. I would imagine the backlash of Verizon re-locking the SIM to be greater than than the shit storm they got for wanting to a charge a fee for customers to pay their bills.

As a customer, there's no reason to ask to re-lock the SIM card since if you want to roam on Verizon, you can just leave the Verizon card while out of the country and pay the high roaming rates.

2. No. In that the the phone can only be used on Verizon in the United States (and maybe Puerto Rico and other US territories where AT&T and Verizon operates).

3. See 2. The key different between the iPhones sold truly unlocked is they'll only work on GSM networks like ATT (or T-mobile at 2G speeds) and you can't use them on Verizon or Sprint. From what I've been told, VZW and Sprint won't let you register an unlocked iPhone 4s on their network (it isn't like SIMs where you can just buy a SIM and the phone will pretty much "just work" due to GSM works). Verizon won't let you run a Sprint iPhone on their network and vice versa even though technically it could.

Unlocking the phone for international travel is one of the nicest things a megacarrier like Verizon could do (Sprint's policy waffles) and ATT wouldn't dream of it (those dicks...they won't unlock phones after the contract expires). I doubt Verizon will allow you to jump to ATT after your contract expires (or if they even can there might be a software/hardware limitation) by fully unlocking the phone.
posted by birdherder at 9:40 AM on January 16, 2012


I just went through this with my parents who bought Verizon iPhones and wanted to be able to unlock them for foreign travel. As far as I understood from the rep who helped us in the Verizon store, the fact that the phones are on the CDMA network and not the GSM network means that the default is they don't have a SIM card, but there is in fact a slot for a GSM SIM card. Verizon will unlock the phone for international use, but the rep claims that this means that it will only work "internationally" on GSM networks, and not in the US. He was unable to elaborate on this when I pressed him, so I'm not sure if this is just a party line or if there's some technological reason why US-based GSM networks don't work on an "internationally-unlocked" Verizon iPhone. I tend to believe the former, as my (legally-unlocked) GSM iPhone automatically finds GSM networks in the US, regardless of whether I have a UK, French, or US SIM installed. A final note: it seems that there is some mis-information floating around about the Verizon iPhones. See, e.g., this CNet article which claims that the Verizon iPhones don't have a slot for a SIM card, which is something I definitely saw on my parents' phones.
posted by tractorfeed at 10:28 AM on January 16, 2012


A final note: it seems that there is some mis-information floating around about the Verizon iPhones. See, e.g., this CNet article which claims that the Verizon iPhones don't have a slot for a SIM card, which is something I definitely saw on my parents' phones.

The iPhone 4 came in a GSM only model (AT&T) and a CDMA only model (Verizon). The iPhone 4s has both GSM and CDMA in all models. The Cnet article is talking about the original iPhone 4 on Verizon.
posted by sbutler at 11:25 AM on January 16, 2012


No. In that the the phone can only be used on Verizon in the United States (and maybe Puerto Rico and other US territories where AT&T and Verizon operates).

Can they do that? Unlock it for GSM carriers internationally but keep it locked in the states? Mechanistically, how would that work? What would happen when you put a SIM card from another carrier in a "Verizon international unlocked" phone in a region where Verizon operates? Does it detect the Verizon CDMA signal? Can you turn the CDMA antenna off?

Both Verizon and Apple have been pretty tight-lipped about this feature, and I'm having a hard time finding more details anywhere online.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:35 AM on January 16, 2012


I knew a guy who has a verizon rim product that had the sim/gsm for intl use. he hacked it and used it on tmobile in the usa no problem.
posted by thilmony at 11:54 AM on January 16, 2012


thilmony, I have unlocked iPhones in the past using unofficial tools. I wanted to avoid that entirely with this phone.

I am looking to purchase a prepaid US SIM just to satisfy my curiosity about #2 of my question. I'll report back.
posted by letitrain at 2:52 PM on January 16, 2012


Please do, I am curious as well. Stupid carriers and locking phones.
posted by defcom1 at 12:25 PM on January 17, 2012


When a SIM is put into an unlocked Verizon iPhone4s, the phone talks to Verizon's servers which look it up and then say if it is okay to use - the phone is unusable before this activation has been done. (You're on crack if you think Verizon of all people is going to do something remotely nice. Availability of workarounds is a different matter.)
posted by fragmede at 1:32 AM on January 18, 2012


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