Unlock iPhone 4s?
January 21, 2014 6:12 PM   Subscribe

Reliable way to unlock an iPhone 4s w/o bricking? ...off Verizon. Must be jailbroken first? Plenty of AskMe Qs on unlocking but I can't find my answer.

I have Gizmodo links:
...but a friend is questioning them. Are they good?

Thank you.
posted by Shane to Technology (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Do you want to unlock your iPhone 4S so that you can use it on a different carrier, or jailbreak it to modify and customize the software? I'll assume you want to carrier unlock it. Jailbreaking won't help you carrier unlock an iPhone 4S; those two links are old and not relevant anymore. Instead, what you need to do is ask Verizon to unlock the SIM slot - this article looks like it has a reasonable explanation:
You can get your iPhone 4S from Verizon Wireless unlocked. The stated policy on this, according to Verizon's spokeswoman Brenda Raney, is that so long as your account has been active and in good-standing for 60 days, Verizon will provide you with what you need to get the phone unlocked. Once the phone has been unlocked, you can simply put another SIM card into the phone when you are overseas and you should be able to get access on a different carrier's network.
posted by dreamyshade at 6:18 PM on January 21, 2014

Thanks, dreamyshade. But at first 4s phones needed jailbreaking to unlock? Switching to a different domestic carrier, not traveling, and Verizon (I believe) only unlocks for international use.
posted by Shane at 6:34 PM on January 21, 2014

I don't think you can do this with the 4S. It's not because the phone is locked, it's because it is CDMA-only, and Verizon is the only CDMA network in the US.

Newer phones have chipsets that support multiple networks, but I'm pretty sure the 4S does not.
posted by alms at 6:51 PM on January 21, 2014

..and thank you to, alms. There's no chance it's an older phone and might need jailbreaking? Or that's a new thing that jailbreaking's not required, across the board? I talk good but amn't very techie, lol. CDMA would explain a lot, though.
posted by Shane at 6:54 PM on January 21, 2014

Take a look at your second link. The screenshot shows ATT and T-Mobile. In the comments below there is discussion of the fact that Verizon doesn't run the same network type as ATT and T-Mobile.
Does this work on an AT&T iPhone 4s to work on Verizon? 4/22/12 6:11pm

That's not how phones work. AT&T phones work on GSM, Verizon is CDMA. There'd need to be totally different hardware in there. 4/22/12 6:14pm
posted by alms at 6:54 PM on January 21, 2014

This has nothing to do with jailbreaking. It's a feature of the chipset.
posted by alms at 6:55 PM on January 21, 2014

Got it. Thank you!
posted by Shane at 6:55 PM on January 21, 2014

Actually, from my experience, a Verizon iPhone 4S has a GSM radio in it as well. (it's considered a world phone, and comes with a Verizon-provided Vodafone SIM) However, unlocking it only allows it to accept other SIM cards from non-US carriers. It will still refuse to accept an AT&T or T-Mobile SIM.
posted by dcjd at 7:29 PM on January 21, 2014

Actually it does look like the 4S used an integrated chipset, which they have again diverged from in the 5+.

Here's the spec sheet from Apple, listing all the protocols and frequencies and this is confirmed here.

UMTS/HSDPA/HSUPA (850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz);
GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz);
CDMA EV-DO Rev. A (800, 1900 MHz)3

However the consensus seems to be that they still don't clear you for use with US carriers. This fatwallet thread includes some information and suggests buying this greevy sim gadget. However some people seem unhappy with the end result.

With used phone prices what they are I'd personally wonder whether it's really worth it. It would be one thing if you weren't committing to spending a bunch of money every month, but if you're going to drop $50+ a month on the contract why not just get a 5C or something for $99?
posted by phearlez at 7:51 PM on January 21, 2014

alms' answer (marked best) is incorrect, I know from personal experience. The Verizon iPhone 4S contains a full GSM implementation and I've used my Verizon 4S in Germany, Thailand, and Singapore on the GSM networks with no trouble. In Germany I used a third party SIM, in Singapore and Thailand I used Verizon's own SIM and their roaming service. Works great, GSM takes over for CDMA with no hassle.

Verizon is relatively generous about unlocking their iPhones. You can get an international unlock after a short period of being on contract, 45 days IIRC, and then you can put any SIM you want into it when traveling out of the US. I haven't tested it but I suspect really this is a global unlock and a US GSM SIM will also work once the "international unlock" is done. I've also been told by Apple Store employees that Verizon will fully unlock an iPhone 4S for you and that new iPhone 5S are sold unlocked, but I haven't tested that. (This all sort of makes sense; Verizon probably assumes most of their customers will stick with their CDMA in the US.)
posted by Nelson at 8:58 AM on January 22, 2014

I stand corrected regarding the chipset.

On the other hand, the fact that a Verizon 4S can be used for GSM networks in Germany doesn't imply that it can be used for GSM networks in the US. I still believe that it can't. See Phearlez's link to the Apple discussion board on the topic. If you can find a reference describing how to get a Verizon iPhone 4S to work with ATT or T-Mobile in the US that would be very helpful to the OP (and I would stand even more corrected!).

As for the 5S, that's a different phone with different capabilities.
posted by alms at 9:38 AM on January 22, 2014

Yeah, I have no experience trying to use a Verizon 4S with US GSM providers, all I can confirm is it works well internationally. My reading is the radio hardware is capable of US GSM (ie, it supports 850 and 1900 MHz) but those links all say Verizon won't unlock it for you. I'm not up to speed on the state of the art of unauthorized unlocks.
posted by Nelson at 10:09 AM on January 22, 2014

alms, Nelson, i think you're both basically correct, just two sides of the same. THANKS to both of you.

so basically, ain't gonna happen? this is a friend's phone. not sure if they're going t-mobile to verizon or the opposite, but neither sounds possible?

someone has a plan to sign up for an international plan then cancel it. does anyone see any possibility there?

this is like watching someone try to solve a puzzle and i'm getting hooked, although i doubt the outcome. i'll be sure to keep you all informed.

thanks to all. phearlez and dcdj, your comments are probably the crux of what's happening now.
posted by Shane at 3:20 PM on January 22, 2014

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