US Verizon iPhone 5 on Italian vacation?
February 10, 2013 11:54 AM   Subscribe

I've Googled this, and asked at both the Verizon and Apple stores, and am getting conflicting information, so I turn to you. Have any of you taken a stock (not jailbroken or unlocked) Verizon iPhone 5 which is under contract (not purchased at full price) to Europe and used the GSM SIM slot with a prepaid European SIM?

I understand that I can't use the CDMA radio in Europe, nor am I interested in doing so. I'd like to buy a prepaid GSM SIM at the airport in Rome and put it into the GSM slot and use that while I'm there, then go back to using my regular CDMA number when I get home, without incurring any Verizon charges (aside from my normal monthly bill, of course), and without bricking the phone in the process. Have any of you successfully done this?
posted by outfielder to Technology (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You aren't going to brick it (I believe). It just won't work. If it's locked, it's locked, and won't work with a SIM card from any other mobile provider than Verizon, whether it's in the US or abroad.
posted by Skeptic at 12:58 PM on February 10, 2013

Skeptic, the Verizon iPhone 5 doesn't use a SIM in the US, where the CDMA radio is active, but according to the internet, it alone (among iPhone 5s) also has an unlocked GSM slot which should work in Europe. This slot is simply unused when running the phone on Verizon's CDMA network in the US. I just can't find any first-hand accounts of anyone who has tried it, and Verizon and Apple have differing interests here.
posted by outfielder at 1:09 PM on February 10, 2013

Why the Verizon iPhone 5 is a globetrotter’s best friend

It used to be the case that if you traveled extensively overseas, Verizon Wireless was the last carrier you wanted to sign a long-term contract with at home. Not only were its CDMA phones incompatible with the GSM networks used in most other countries, but also its lack of SIM cards meant you were stuck paying whatever ridiculous international roaming rates Verizon charged.

That all ends with the iPhone 5. The CDMA version of the device is not only the most internationally versatile of the different carrier variants, but it also has a SIM card slot, which Big Red is keeping unlocked, a Verizon spokesperson confirmed to the Washington Post. That means a Verizon iPhone 5 owner can go anywhere in the world, insert another carrier’s SIM card, and be up and running.

The Verizon iPhone 5 isn't sim locked. Everything I have read since before the phone were actually on the market say it can be used on foreign networks by putting in a SIM card. I haven't personally done so, but it was one of the things all the business magazines were crowing about when the 5 came out.
posted by Orb at 3:10 PM on February 10, 2013

I called Verizon before my trip and they told me what Orb said - just put in any SIM. That's what I did in the UK. No unlocking necessary. Have fun!
posted by Salamandrous at 4:02 PM on February 10, 2013

I travel abroad for my job often (I'm based in New York), and with my iPhone 4S with Verizon, I was able to do an unlock after having the contract for three months. The CDMA remains locked to Verizon, but any local SIM card can be used.

If you have Verizon and the 5 is the same system as the 4S, call the Global Customer Support Number from the States (1 8007118300) and they will take you through how to unlock. Once you get to your destination, put in the local SIM card, and either connect to the internet through the phone or connect the phone to a computer that is both internet connected and has iTunes. The phone should work from there.

Few things to note: you do not need to repeat the internet step after the first time; any SIM card will work when you're abroad thereafter. You need a micro SIM. You can buy a cutter online or go to any major phone company. They'll have micro SIM cards. You can only do this GSM unlock on a device once every ten months, but once you unlock a device, it'll remain unlocked forever. And finally, DO NOT LOSE THE VERIZON SIM CARD! Even though the US is still CDMA-based, your phone "profile" will not switch back to your US account without that card.
posted by msk1985 at 5:26 PM on February 10, 2013

Thanks all! Orb, I had read the pre-release articles and didn't doubt them until an Apple employee told me it wouldn't work unless I had an out-of-contract phone. I didn't believe him, but just wanted to hear from someone who had successfully done it.
posted by outfielder at 5:33 PM on February 10, 2013

Actually for the 5 you need a nano sim. I researched before I left which UK carriers had a nano sim pay as you go with good data and was all set to go with Three but they didn't actually have any at the local store I went to. I ended up at a Carphone house or something that sold from all the carriers and the salesperson found exactly one nano sim from one carrier with a weird Byzantine plan that I ended up spending more than I needed to on. So bring a cutter or be prepared to be flexible, I guess.
posted by Salamandrous at 7:41 PM on February 10, 2013

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