Buying a Phone on eBay?
November 4, 2012 12:18 PM   Subscribe

How to go about buying a phone on eBay, and installing your current sims card yourself?

I'm looking into buying a phone on eBay (a smart phone, an iphone, etc) and transferring the sims card from my current one to the new one. Would that work? Would my contacts and what not transfer over? Would I have any problems with the cell phone company (Verizon, in this case)?
Basically, I want to keep going my current contract but get a new phone. So if I buy a new one on eBay instead of buying one from Verizon directly, and install the sims card from my current phone myself, would I be good to go, or would problems arise?
Also, is buying a phone on eBay even a good idea in the first place?
Any info would be very much appreciated.
posted by jamesdtj to Technology (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Verizon phones don't have SIM cards, so that wouldn't be possible.
posted by blue_beetle at 12:29 PM on November 4, 2012

Some Verizon phones accept SIM Cards and I do believe your can transfer your present account to some new unlocked phones/devices--however--once you do you will be locked into a contract unless you go "prepaid" which will not replace your current contract. Also, I am not at all sure that the "prepaid" arrangements will cover a new unlocked (SIM Free) phone. The bottom line--visit a Verizon store ( or call a live representative) and discuss, and verify, any plans/purchases before exercising those plans/purchases. I know you can do this with ATT as I have done exactly that. However--ATT and Sprint use transmission bands (GSM) compatible with most phones world wide --Verizon does not. This means the range/availability of unlocked GSM phones is extensive.
posted by rmhsinc at 12:57 PM on November 4, 2012

SIM card issues aside: It's perfectly legitimate to buy a cell phone from a third party and then switch it out with your current phone. It will not extend your contract, and they will not yell at you. You can either swap out the phone yourself online (you'll need a number that's written somewhere inside the phone's battery slot), or you can bring it into the Verizon store and have them do it for you. With the latter, you have the option of having them transfer your contacts, etc.

I recently purchased two phones on eBay—one for my husband, and one for me. Everything was good to go with my husband's; with mine, unfortunately, there was an issue (if my attempts to do it myself are any indication, the ID number was for a different model of phone; so, basically, it was bogus), and I ended up having to return it to the seller. I gather that this isn't uncommon, although I've bought other cell phones on eBay in the past (when I was on Cingular, with a SIM) without any trouble. If you do this, you'll probably want to make sure that the seller gives you some sort of return window.

P.S. If your current Verizon phone does actually have a SIM card, anything you have stored on there would indeed be available on your new phone. But anything stored in the old phone's memory would not.
posted by divisjm at 12:59 PM on November 4, 2012

Ah. It sounds like rmhsinc knows way more about Verizon and SIM cards than I do (not surprising; all I know is that the process was very simple with Cingular, although for all I know that's changed since AT&T ate it). That said, the other stuff I mentioned still stands.
posted by divisjm at 1:01 PM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

You need to find out the ESN or MEID (for iPhone) number of the phone you want to buy from the seller, then call Verizon and find out whether that device is OK to activate on their network. It may be blacklisted for unpaid contract, stolen etc....So you want to make sure you're buying a phone that you can activate.

This shouldn't have any effect on your contract although I'm sure if you go into a Verizon store they will try to get you to extend your contract.

This applies to Sprint phones too. I think for AT&T and T-Mobile you would be fine.
posted by eatcake at 2:05 PM on November 4, 2012

Correction ATT and T Mobile use GSM--not relevant to this question but did not want to leave inaccurate info. hanging out there. Thanks and Sorry
posted by rmhsinc at 4:07 PM on November 4, 2012

Verizon is CDMA, which means in general they don't use SIM cards. (Subscriber Identity Module, by the way.) However, their LTE (that's "4G" in scare-quotes because true 4G is years away) network does use SIM cards.

eatcake mentions the MEID-- in my experience its' called IMEI, but I mainly work with the USB-connected "aircards," not so much phones. Assuming it's the same, it's about a 14ish digit number. Not sure exactly.

Also, SIM cards are made easy enough to be installed by unskilled sales-desk jockeys at the store or kiosk. Based on my experience in the tech field, if you can train a salesman to do it, then anyone can do it. Inserting it will not make you sweat. If it does, you may have a glandular issue.

Oh, and buy from North America. If you aren't buying from North America, make sure the phone is compatible with North American frequencies. There are 3 sets of frequencies in the world, basically speaking, for mobile phones: North America (don't get fiddly in central America here-- it's just the main 3 countries), "Europe" (which includes Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America) and Australia.
posted by Sunburnt at 4:43 PM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Sunburnt, MEID is what I meant. It is basically the same as ESN, where ESN is being phased out in favor of MEID.

I think on the newer iphones (ie Verizon/Sprint) where they are capable of international roaming via GSM networks, the phones have both an MEID and an IMEI and the IMEI is the gsm identifier for the device on the network.

The IMEI is compatible with the MEID standard. On my Spring iphone (and I'm sure on all VZ?Sprint iphones) the IMEI includes all of the MEID plus an additional digit.
posted by eatcake at 5:33 PM on November 4, 2012

eatcake, thanks for clearing up the difference. I'll have to learn more about it, and make sure my coworkers know as well.
posted by Sunburnt at 9:57 PM on November 4, 2012

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