Help me switch my phone from one provider to another
September 17, 2013 6:18 PM   Subscribe

Can someone help me with the technical aspects of switching my cell phone from one provider to another?

The good news is I finally got Verizon to agree to let me out of my contract with no early termination fee (I moved to an area where Verizon has basically no coverage). The bad news is I don't know if my phone will work with other providers.

I ended up getting a landline, so getting coverage at my house is no longer an important issue for me. I want to have a cellphone to use for when I'm not at work or home - where I have both internet access and landlines. So I'm looking for a month to month contract or a prepaid plan. T-Mobile seems to have some good ones but I can't get a good answer from them or Verizon on whether my Verizon Samsung S3 Galaxy (model SCH-1535) will work outside of Verizon. When I google it, I get a lot of technical jargon (rooting, CDMA, etc) that doesn't mean anything to me.

I have a vague idea that I might need to unlock my phone. Verizon will not give me the unlock code. I've unlocked a Verizon phone (Blackberry) before so I could use it abroad with a SIM card, it cost me $10 through some unlock code site. Is this an option with my Galaxy? I've read that Verizon and T-mobile are totally different technologies so that won't work? I really have no idea.

Can someone tell me

1. If it's possible to take my phone from Verizon to T-Mobile?
2. If so, what do I need to do to make it work (without jargon)?
3. If not, are there any carriers where my phone will work?

I would rather keep my phone if at all possible as it's still pretty new, it works well and I like it. Thanks!
posted by triggerfinger to Technology (5 answers total)
Best answer: T-Mobile uses a different network protocol -- GSM -- than Verizon, which uses CDMA. Here's an article about the difference, but what those terms mean is less important than the practical impact for you, which is that your CDMA Verizon phone will not work on T-Mobile. It has nothing to do with the unlock code or anything like that -- it's the actual chipset in your phone, which is a CDMA chipset and will only work on a CDMA network, which in the U.S. is Verizon or Sprint.

Unfortunately, I don't think your particular phone will work on Sprint, either. CDMA network providers can lock out any phones they don't want from accessing their networks, so even though Verizon and Sprint are both CDMA networks, they can each prevent the others' phones from working on their networks.

I think your best option is probably to try and sell your phone to someone who wants to activate it for their Verizon account, and use the money you get to subsidize the purchase of a new phone that will work on T-Mobile.
posted by devinemissk at 7:08 PM on September 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: 2nding devinemissk. The phone will not work on a network other than Vz's. Unlocked, jailbroken or whatever. If you want to keep your number, you will need to port that number. Have the new carrier do it.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:16 PM on September 17, 2013

Best answer: It's possible that if you get an unlock code, the phone will work on T-Mobile. Most phones from Verizon are "world phones", which means in addition to the CDMA antennas needed for Verizon, it also has antennas for GSM which is used by a large number of carriers overseas. However, even within the GSM technology, T-Mobile has a slightly different implementation than AT&T - different frequencies - that *might* make it impossible to use. T-Mobile is in the middle of switching these frequencies over to more "AT&T" standard ones, but only T-Mobile would know if it's switched over where you live. Also note that LTE has no chance of working at all, because that antenna (separate than the others) is completely incompatible.

It's also possible that Verizon has locked it specifically so that it will not work with AT&T / T-Mobile, but will work with overseas carriers.

If you can figure out how to get it unlocked easily and cheaply, I'd bring it to a T-Mobile store first. They can check if it's truly locked out and if it works on their network.
posted by meowzilla at 9:28 PM on September 17, 2013

Best answer: You might look into the reseller phone companies, like Ting or Virgin or Boost, etc. I know Ting rides on Sprint's CDMA network so that's a step in the right direction,and you can use your Sprint phone on Ting, but I don't know if you can use a Verizon phone over there.

One word you can use to google this is "flash". I see all the time on Craigslist that folks are offering to "flash your Sprint phone" for use on other carriers. I've never done it, but it's out there.
posted by CathyG at 8:17 AM on September 18, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks everyone and thanks CathyG for the "flash" terminology, which helped me in googling more info. I've already called and spoke to T-Mobile two times but I ended up contacting them again, this time by message and I think I got a good answer this time. They said that if my phone was an international phone (i.e. has a SIM card slot - I think this is the same as a "world phone" that meowzilla was referencing) I can use it. My phone does have a SIM card slot and I asked if I would be able to use the 3G or 4G network and they came back with this reply:

...the phone would definitely need to be unlocked before it can be used on our network. Our 3G/4G network runs off the 1700/2100 bandwidths, but we've included 3G/4G access in certain areas for phones that use the 1900/2100 bands. You can check with Verizon, or Samsung directly to see what bands your phones supports, as long as the phone uses either 1700/2100 or 1900/2100, you'll be able to use 3G/4G with us

I think this is the key point I need to know and the thing that makes the difference between some people being able to use their phones and some not. I looked up my phone model and it doesn't look like there are any GSM bands with it, though I may check with Samsung directly. Otherwise, I've resolved myself to the fact that I'll probably have to buy a new phone. Thanks again to everyone for your help.
posted by triggerfinger at 7:20 PM on September 20, 2013

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