International unlocked cell phone on US carriers

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It’s no secret that cell phones and service carriers are dramatically different in the US in comparison to the rest of the world. Simply on a national level there are dramatic differences between carriers. Purchasing an unlocked cell phone may seem like a great method to overcome this, but in actuality requires a lot of research to make sure you aren’t wasting your money on a bad unlocked cell phone.

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The first thing to consider is the radio system of the carrier and phone. This requires background information on the main technologies currently used, specifically GSM ( Global System for Mobiles ), CDMA ( Code Division Multiple Access ), and LTE ( Long Term Evolution ). Just because a phone is unlocked, doesn’t mean that it will work with all carriers. Major carriers in the US, such as Sprint and Verizon, currently use CDMA while others, such as AT&T and T-Mobile, use GSM. GSM generally uses SIM cards making it easy to switch carriers by simply inputting the respective SIM card,while CDMA phones have more complex steps. LTE is the newest and is used by all of the referenced carriers, however, different carriers use different frequencies for LTE and there are few phones that support all frequencies. Carriers are slowly moving to an all LTE standard, but at a gradual rate. What this means to you, is that you need to make sure the phone you purchase is compatible with the standard your carrier uses. If you travel a lot or plan on switching phones frequently, you may want to stick with GSM.


On top of phone to phone carrier compatibility, you will have to investigate the unlocking policy of your carrier as well. The CTIA ( Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association) adopted six standards on unlocking into the CTIA’s Consumer Code for Wireless Service. The new standards are fully in effect among all nationwide mobile service providers as of Feb. 11, 2015, but not necessarily among Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO’s) . According to the FCC, these standards, “give consumers greater freedom and flexibility while increasing incentives for service providers to innovate.” It is now dramatically easy to unlock your phone or used unlocked cell phones, but there are still the radio system limitations to consider with a unlocked cell phone.

image00 unlocked cell phone International unlocked cell phones on US carriers image001You may also run into a problem if you are trying to use an older unlocked cell phone, specifically on CDMA carriers. Older unlocked cell phones that were not developed when these standards were put in place may still have issues working on certain carriers so it is best to check with your carrier before you purchase.

Another issue to consider is hardware failure. If you purchase an unlocked phone that was pre-owned, the manufacturer’s warranty may no longer be applicable, causing you to spend money on insurance or an extended warranty to cover any possible problems. If you are searching for a bargain and end up buying a clone phone made overseas, you may end up getting a phone that is prone to hardware failure. If you attempt to purchase from Craigslist, you may get a phone that doesn’t work at all with no recourse.

This all may sound like a foreign language to you, but there is somewhere you can turn for help. If you are considering the purchase of an unlocked phone and don’t know where to start, OneSupport can assist you with evaluating your current phone situation and needs, so that you don’t have to do it alone.