Can I buy a used or unlocked phone for my plan with Verizon, or is this a right given only to those blessed with GSM carriers?
February 15, 2007 9:18 AM   Subscribe

Can I buy a used or unlocked phone for my plan with Verizon, or is this a right given only to those blessed with GSM carriers?

Ok, so I have tried to research this a bit and I still can't get a clear answer. There seems to be a lot of information online about all the different cell phone technologies, but no one seems ready to break it down simply and answer my question. Can I buy an unlocked phone for my plan with Verizon, and if so what are my limitations? I know I can't buy a GSM phone, but can I get some other kind? I recently slipped on the ice and split the phone I had before in half and its not time for me to get a hardware upgrade according to the contract so if I were to buy a new phone from Verizon I would have to pay full price and I am not about to do that.
posted by Bengston to Technology (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite will have the answers you seek. Off the top of my head, I know you are able to change which IMEI (I think that's the right acronym anyway -- the unique identifying code for Verizon phones) is affiliated with your account, but I'm not sure you can change it to a non-Verizon-branded phone's IMEI. But anyway, look around on HoFo. They're awesome.
posted by Alterscape at 9:27 AM on February 15, 2007

Verizon uses CDMA, and only very few other carriers use this technology. I think only Sprint, Alltel, and Amp'ed have phones that also run on the CDMA network.

You also have to register your phone's ESN (or IMEI, or other identifying code) with Verizon, and they can refuse to activate your phone. There is no such thing as an "unlocked" CDMA phone, because it is up to the carrier (Verizon) to allow you onto their network.

I'm also on Verizon and I've done the same thing (got my phone wet), and I bought a prepaid Verizon phone and activated it on my account. The packaging says that you cannot but I didn't run into any problems when I switched ESNs online. The phone was cheap, $50, and sometimes they have RAZRs for $100.

Some people on HowardForums have purchased CDMA phones from other carriers and successfully activated them on Verizon, either because they were identical phones to Verizon's own offerings, or after changing the firmware. The main benefits of this are the lack of the standard Verizon UI; or features Verizon deactivated (Bluetooth OBEX, BREW, etc). Too much work in my opinion, if you just want a working phone.
posted by meowzilla at 9:39 AM on February 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

If I understand your question correctly, you can buy a used phone and have your current number transferred to it as long as that phone was previously used on the Verizon network. Then the question of locked vs. unlocked doesn't enter into it. I've done this with U.S. Cellular, which is also a CDMA carrier.

Sorry if you already knew this and are specifically looking to use a phone sold by another carrier.
posted by zadermatermorts at 2:11 PM on February 15, 2007

You can activate used or unlocked phones on Verizon but make sure that they are Verizon branded. There are reports (source Howardforums) that Verizon will only activate "Whitelisted" phones i.e phones from Verizon itself.

Earlier you could get phones from Sprint and activate on Verizon but no more.

I was looking into to get Motorola SLVR L7c which has been released for Sprint but not widely available from Verizon (only through Verizon/Bestbuy)
posted by shr1n1 at 2:16 PM on February 15, 2007

Several times on Craigslist, I've bought someone else's used Verizon phone. Not sure if this is exactly what you're asking. But it worked well every time.
posted by salvia at 4:17 PM on February 15, 2007

[This is one of the many reasons I will not do business with a non-GSM phone company. All phones should come unlocked. Verizon crippling the Bluetooth - when I heard that, I was shocked that anyone uses their service.]
posted by caution live frogs at 4:57 PM on February 15, 2007

Verizon maintains a database of eligible ESN or MEID number ranges for equipment that is approved to run on their network. You can buy an unlocked CMDA phone but if it's not approved the systems won't allow anyone to activate them.
posted by Octoparrot at 7:43 PM on February 15, 2007

To add to my above post, this is done for very good reasons. I've been involved with quality assurance groups that test various phones and 2 out of 3 are pure shit. A customers perception of a company's service is only as good as their phone quality and a poor phone equals a poor impression by the customer.
posted by Octoparrot at 7:45 PM on February 15, 2007

I haven't been a Verizon customer for 1.5 years, but when I was, you could buy used Verizon branded phones, log into your account online, and do the ESN switch yourself. It was really easy.

[It also used to make me want to scream when Verizon reps would tell the elderly that they had no choice but to extend their contracts when their phones broke.]
posted by 4ster at 8:42 PM on February 15, 2007

"Several times on Craigslist, I've bought someone else's used Verizon phone"

That's a different story entirely. Not even close.

A used Verizon phone would be SOC locked to Verizon. All you're doing is changing the MIN/ESN pairing.

You can buy a used Verizon phone and switch it. That works. It's not an "unlocked" phone, though.
posted by drstein at 2:30 PM on February 16, 2007

(It may be a different story, but isn't that what he was asking -- "Can I buy a used or unlocked phone for my plan with Verizon?" He broke his phone and does not want to pay full price.)
posted by salvia at 1:28 AM on February 21, 2007

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