lost iphone, how to buy unlocked?
February 1, 2012 11:02 AM   Subscribe

Wife lost here Verizon Iphone 4, can we buy a cheaper refurb, unlocked 3gs and get it going w/Verizon, and how?

Finally convinced my wife that iPhones are great. Now, several months after getting the 4 via Verizon, she lost it. :( Since they're about 700 new, I want to buy a 3Gs online that is unlocked.

How hard is it to get the unlocked iphone running w/Verizon for calls data etc? Is this a pain?

Is there anything I should look for/avoid when buying an unlocked phone?

The 3 series phones are so much cheaper. But there aren't really 3 phones for Verizon unless they were unlocked 3's. Anyway, i have no experience with this, so I need some help. Tips?
posted by Salvatorparadise to Technology (12 answers total)
The iPhone 3GS is GSM-only, which means it's compatible with AT&T and T-Mobile's networks in the US, but will not work with Verizon (or Sprint) at all, ever, as those networks use CDMA rather than GSM. This isn't a matter of locked/unlocked, but having the right hardware in the phone.
posted by Tomorrowful at 11:09 AM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's my understanding that the 3Gs iPhones are incompatible with Verizon. This is a matter of hardware, not just that you'd have to jailbreak the phone or something.

You'll have to pick up an iPhone 4 or 4S, or break contract.
posted by gauche at 11:10 AM on February 1, 2012

thanks for the answers, this is what i needed to know
posted by Salvatorparadise at 11:15 AM on February 1, 2012

You will specifically need VERIZON versions of the 4 or 4S.
posted by The Lamplighter at 11:27 AM on February 1, 2012

The original iPhone, 3G, and 3GS are GSM (AT&T)-only.
The 4 is available in separate GSM and CDMA versions.
The 4S has only one version, which operates on GSM or CDMA; it's sold locked to AT&T, Verizon, or Sprint, but the phone itself is the same either way.
posted by Tomorrowful at 11:35 AM on February 1, 2012

The hardware on all 4s phones is identical. The 4s is a dual GSM/CDMA phone. There is carrier locking, however, so you need either an unlocked phone or a phone locked to Verizon.

For the 4, you need the Verizon-specific hardware.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:37 AM on February 1, 2012

could you sign another two year contract with Verizon and get the phone for the $99 contract price?
posted by pintapicasso at 11:49 AM on February 1, 2012

Will Verizon activate an unlocked iPhone 4S? I don't think they will.
posted by The Lamplighter at 11:56 AM on February 1, 2012

Apple Insider may not be an official source, but they say that the unlocked 4S only works on GSM carriers (ie, NOT Verizon).

You must get a Verizon version of the 4 or 4S for it to work on Verizon, I'm afraid.
posted by The Lamplighter at 12:07 PM on February 1, 2012

In my experience it's easy to switch to a new device online with Verizon while keeping the existing contract. This link probably won't work unless you're logged in, but it's the one that says "Activate or Switch Device," - go there then enter the ESN number of the phone.

I've done this several times with used phones bought on eBay. They have to be CDMA phones with the hardware to work with Verizon. Once possible problem could be if the phone was flagged as stolen or the like, so look for one advertised as "clean ESN."
posted by exogenous at 12:11 PM on February 1, 2012

I've seen many phones advertised as having clean ESNs that are actually stolen. If you aren't going to buy from an individual (on craigslist, say), make sure that you try to activate the phone while the seller is still there. Sadly the great majority of Verizon secondhand smartphones for sale on craigslist are stolen or otherwise blacklisted.
posted by The Lamplighter at 12:15 PM on February 1, 2012

We did have one eBay phone that turned up with a bad ESN despite the description, but got a refund from the seller. If they didn't refund voluntarily, there was always the option of reversing charges on the credit card. But yeah, if you pay cash make sure the phone will activate first.

To explain why so many phones, my wife has gotten better lately, but at one point she was going through Droids like the Imperial Army.
posted by exogenous at 12:21 PM on February 1, 2012 [4 favorites]

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