Unlock a Sprint iPhone 4?
January 19, 2017 9:04 AM   Subscribe

I searched the previous topics and didn't see this one specifically: I have an old Sprint iPhone 4 that I want to give to someone to use with a Tmobile plan. Sprint says they can't unlock it, Apple says the same- that it's Sprint's job, and the local cell places Ive trued also refuse. Does anyone have any advice? Is Sprint lying when they say they can't? Thanks in advance.
posted by Liquidwolf to Technology (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Did Sprint say why they can't unlock it? It might be company policy, but it might also be simply because of the age of that iPhone 4 --- for instance, I have an iPhone 4S I bought from AT&T in 2013, but they told me well over a year ago that, because of my phone's age, if anything happens to it they won't even look at it, let alone repair it. And a check with the Apple Store confirmed that.

I know it's cheapest to give away a phone you already own, but it might be better to buy at least an iPhone 5, if not a 6: the 5 might also be falling off the radar at this point.
posted by easily confused at 9:15 AM on January 19, 2017

Here's an FCC faq about unlocking U.S. mobile phones. But there's another reason your plan may not work. T-Mobile uses GSM networks, and Sprint uses CDMA networks. While later model iPhones can be unlocked to use either network, I am fairly sure an iPhone 4 is on either one or the other. In other words, a Sprint iPhone 4 will not work on T-Mobile.
posted by gnomeloaf at 9:38 AM on January 19, 2017 [5 favorites]

Gnomeloaf is right. The Sprint iPhone 4 is CDMA. It wasn't until the 4s that iPhones could handle both CDMA and GSM.
posted by Lucinda at 9:42 AM on January 19, 2017 [4 favorites]

FWIW I was able to get Sprint to unlock a used iPhone 5c (for use on T-mobile) by calling them and being very firm "this is a phone I own free and clear and there is no outstanding balance on it, please unlock it so I can use it as I please." I think I was more polite in my wording, but that was the jist of it.

But I think other commenters may be right that this situation one is a hardware issue.
posted by needs more cowbell at 9:48 AM on January 19, 2017

There is some more information here about different models and unlocking, and Sprint's FAQ is here. I think the iphone 4 and 4s just aren't physically capable of what you want.
posted by needs more cowbell at 9:51 AM on January 19, 2017

I have an iPhone 4 (not 4s) from a different carrier that I was able to unlock, without difficulty, for use overseas. I used the instructions on this page. I am sure I voided any potential warranty claim but I have t had any trouble with it. YMMV.
posted by stillmoving at 10:06 AM on January 19, 2017

Does anyone have any advice?
You might be able to sell that phone on a place like Swappa and then buy a different 4 that is locked to T-Mobile or is unlocked. There are seller's fees and Paypal fees to use Swappa, so it may not be worth it for the price of that phone. The good thing about a phone being of such little value on the market is that it can also be replaced or even upgraded for very little money. I would say you want at least a 4S if not a 5.

if anything happens to it they won't even look at it, let alone repair it.
But they can still send out a code to unlock the phone. That part of the technology has not changed.
posted by soelo at 10:38 AM on January 19, 2017

Thanks everyone for the advice.
posted by Liquidwolf at 1:02 PM on January 19, 2017

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