Will an unlocked iPhone with a TMobile sim work normally?
January 20, 2014 7:45 AM   Subscribe

If I were to obtain an official, factory-unlocked iPhone 5, and insert the pay-as-you-go TMobile micro-SIM I currently use in another phone, can I assume the iPhone will work exactly as if I'd obtained it on a contract? I'm specifically interested in Facetime and in free iMessaging between iPhones.

There's all sorts of contradictory information about this online, so personal experiences might be best of all. This is all in the US. Thanks for any help.
posted by oliverburkeman to Technology (9 answers total)
Yes, it will work. FaceTime and iMessage will work even with *no* SIM whatsoever in the phone, just like they work on wi-fi-only iPads.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 8:24 AM on January 20, 2014

It'll work, but there are actually two different models of the iPhone 5, designated A1428 and A1429, which indicate different cellular radios. This stuff gets confusing, but long story short, if you are getting your iPhone from a third party, you want the A1428. You can just barely make out the designation on the back of the phone.
posted by adamrice at 8:48 AM on January 20, 2014

iMessage, no problem. If I try to FaceTime on the mobile network (not WiFi), T-Mobile displays an error that states that FaceTime is not supported.
posted by tilde at 8:48 AM on January 20, 2014

It's worth mentioning that the iPhone 5 takes a nano sim, not a micro sim. You'd likely be able to trim it down to the right size, but that's not always the case.
posted by mikeh at 9:01 AM on January 20, 2014

Yes, it will work normally, but as adamrice said you want the A1428 version to get on T-mobile's LTE network. With the A1429, you'll only get 3G speeds. If you don't want to trim the SIM card yourself, you should be able to exchange it for a nano-SIM at a T-mobile store. You could also buy the $9.99 (sometimes on sale for 99c) SIM card kit from T-mobile online and call customer service to transfer your number and plan from your old SIM to the new.
posted by bradf at 10:09 AM on January 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Hey, I have a factory-unlocked iPhone 5s and a TMobile prepaid nano-sim. I had some trouble getting it set up but I think it was actually related to a billing problem and the phone was just a red herring. You might need to call up T-Mobile and tell them the IME and stuff. Try to do it on a Monday morning or something, so that if there's a problem you don't have to deal with weekend customer service.
posted by mskyle at 7:03 AM on January 21, 2014

http://support.apple.com/kb/ht5720 is the article that tells you how to be sure your iPhone 5 supports all of T-Mobile's frequencies.
posted by dcjd at 9:43 AM on January 21, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks very much for all these – really useful, including some aspects I hadn't even realized I had to think about.
posted by oliverburkeman at 1:47 PM on January 21, 2014

Also, I can't look up things on the internet while I speak on the phone any more. But it's better than giving AT&T money in some small possibly insignificant way.
posted by tilde at 6:41 AM on January 22, 2014

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