Even If You Manage To Unlock iPhone, It Will Only Work With T-Mobile

In case you’re wondering why Consumerist isn’t writing a bunch of posts on how to hack your iPhone to get it to work on “any network,” here is why:

Even if the iPhone is unlocked (and, we’re sure it will be, because everything is eventually) it will not work on Sprint, Verizon, Alltel, or US Cellular. It will only work on T-Mobile, and on most carriers overseas. This is because the iPhone is GSM and T-Mobile is the only other GSM carrier in the U.S.

When the iPhone is unlocked, it will be fantastic for people who live overseas or people who have contracts with T-Mobile or people who hate AT&T. The rest of you will continue your lives unaffected.



Edit Your Comment

  1. dbeahn says:

    So the choice is Shitty service or unlock it for really shitty service.

  2. Madd_Matt says:

    I think that unlocking the iPhone is a big deal. Not all of your readership is American after all. Being able to use the iPhone in “the rest of the world” is a pretty big deal. More than just being able to move to T-mobile.

  3. QuirkyRachel says:

    Oooooh, you know what this means don’t you? In a few years American cell phone makers will be at the competing level of other cell phone makers, 5 years ago.

  4. Hawk07 says:

    The phone may make calls on any GSM network, but will all the little features and Internet still work as advertised?

  5. rekoil says:

    The biggest deal (for me, that is) with being able to unlock the iPhone is that I can take it overseas and use a local SIM, which avoids AT&T’s insert-distasteful-sexual-assualt-innuendo-here roaming charges. I go to Canada quite often, and paying $.20/minute on a prepaid Fido SIM is far preferable to paying AT&T $.79/minute just to have the same phone number.

  6. joeblevins says:

    Actually, I thought the trick was that you CAN’T just use a local SIM.

  7. tcp100 says:

    @Hawk07: Not necessarily. It depends on the restrictions of the GPRS/EDGE network that you move it to.

    For example, if you put in a T-Mobile prepaid sim, your internet is restricted to the T-Zones canned websites, and none of the internet connectivity would work.

    This isn’t particular to the iphone, this goes with any GSM/GPRS enabled phone.

  8. tcp100 says:

    @rekoil: For roaming in Canada, it truly is a good thing. Same thing for Canadians coming down to the US.. You can get T-Mobile prepaid SIMs for about the same price (15/20c a minute) compared to the crazy “international” (they had to string the wire over an invisible line!) roaming rates.

  9. Amy Alkon says:

    I bought an Orange phone in France years ago, which I leave with friends in Paris (you have to use it every six months or the number disappears, and I haven’t been back since January). Phones are so cheap now, if you go anyplace in Europe with any regularity, it’s probably worth it to buy a phone with per-minutes. In France, I can fill my phone in any tabac (tobacconist), and in some cheapo cafes that sell cigarettes and things. And I can even have a friend buy a refill number at a cafe and e-mail it to me so I can have my phone working the moment I get off the plane. Calls out cost, but calls in, even from the USA, are free! And my boyfriend calls me in France on either Skype or, if I’m running around and on my cell, on 1016868 (then the number, dialed direct, with country code and all) or 1019898 (the the number). (P.S. Costs more to call a cell phone than a land line from those discount numbers.) It’s 7.5 cents a minute from land line to land line on the 6868 number (from Lost Angeles). It’s about 20 cents a minute to call the cell.

  10. tonkyhonk says:

    Actually, I wasn’t wondering why you’re not posting iPhone hacking stories, though it would fit into the pattern of posting crap for crap’s sake.

  11. dohtem says:

    Ok this is absolutely NOT news!

    GSM phones only work on GSM networks, there is nothing strange there.

    Using a sensationalist title to tell us common knowledge do not make it news.

  12. tylerscott says:

    That may be true on a national level, but there are many small scale regional GSM carriers in the US, examples:


  13. roamer1 says:

    While T-Mobile is the only other national GSM carrier, there are quite a few regional GSM carriers, particularly in the Carolinas (SunCom) and rural areas. That said, AT&T has been eating up a lot of those rural carriers lately.

    Even if the iPhone is successfully unlocked, it won’t be useful for data unless the phone’s data settings (APN, etc.) are hacked, too.

  14. uricmu says:

    What, A GSM phone will only work on a GSM network? Wow…

    Actually, I doubt it will even work on TMobile: AT&T has special info in their system for iPhone plans, I am guessing the phone will be locked from accepting anything else.

  15. Real Aler says:

    LOL maybe 4 years. See BooHooForYou where we are mocked for our out of date technology.

  16. nakke says:

    Woah, a GSM phone that only works with GSM. Dude.

  17. seeing as how i regret leaving t-mo (who i found to be very good in terms of service and customer service) and am now stuck with at&t for another year, this is still news-worthy. i’m not very keen on the other wireless providers, and will likely go back to t-mo after my contract with at&t is up. maybe by then they’ll either have a cheaper option or one that’s actually worth the price tag.

  18. wreckingcru says:

    @QuirkyRachel: Thank you for finally stating the obvious!

  19. rmrf says:

    I have Cingular (AT&T) phone and it is quad-band GSM. And it works perfectly overseas. Looks like you just missed Cingular/AT&T in your post as GSM alternative.

  20. shades_of_blue says:

    From what I’ve been told, until the iPhone is connected to a network it’s nothing more than a brick. You can’t even use it as an iPod without it first verifying that you’re a Cingular customer. mearly unlocking the phone won’t be enough, or so it appears.

  21. Shadowfire says:

    I’ve been on GSM for years!

    Of course, I use one of those “rural” providers, and I love them. :)

  22. Works with T-Mobile? Sign me Up!

  23. Major-General says:

    Are we all forgetting that the US Patent Office ruled that it is legal for your cell carrier to unlock your phone if you request it, provided your contract requirements have been met? Of course some carriers (here’s looking at you, USCellular) will refuse, or try, but they will eventually have to do it.

  24. davere says:

    Meh. Of all cell companies, I think T-Mobile is the least evil one. Cheap calling plans, pretty darn good customer service.

    Switching from AT&T to T-Mobile would be an upgrade if you ask me.

  25. balthisar says:

    Uh, maybe the headline should state that it will only work on T-Mobile *and* AT&T, because right now it kind of implies in a very direct manner, *only* T-Mobile.

    What’s the point in hacking a phone only to make it work on AT&T? Well, as a current AT&T customer long, long out of a contract period, it would be great to have an iPhone without committing to another 2-year contract, i.e., hack it and install my SIM.

    I’d actually like to hear if anyone has in fact done this… I might consider an iPhone down the road.

  26. truebrains says:

    This was music to my ears! I have used an unlocked Palm Treo, Blackberry, etc, on my T-mob sim card in the past, and could not have been happier. I have used AT&T’s ‘other’ services, and vow never to use them again! T-Mob has been great for me to an extent, reception is horrible, but I have had a great experience with their customer service, and that has done enough to keep me. Can’t wait for the iPhone to get unlocked…only a matter of time!!

  27. cheesekeeper says:

    Unlocked iPhones may also work on smaller regional GSM carriers. Until I switched to AT&T last week for my new iPhone, I was with Cincinnati Bell, which is a TERRIFIC carrier in the Cincinnati area. I would be very interested in unlocking an iPhone so I could use it on Cincinnati Bell.

  28. Lkbardo says:


    Agree with that. I use an unlocked Sony Ericsson K790a on T-Mobile, and it’s been wonderful. It’s an awesomely awesome phone, and I enjoy the cachet of having the same handset James Bond used in “Casino Royale.”

    I even got it at a discount; I bought it new from an independent reseller for $380, and he offered me $200 off with a 2-year T-Mobile contract, or $150 off with a 1-year contract (I took the 1-year deal).

    Contrast that with the fact that AT&T and Apple offer people NO discount when they sign up for a a two-year contract. The deal stinks.

  29. estev09 says:

    The reason for having a phone unlock, relates to avoid roaming fees whentraveling overseas. It is only to get a new Sim card from a local company.

  30. Onouris says:

    @Amy Alkon:

    Yeah no incoming calls cost anything in England, seems like it’s the case in France too.

  31. kamel5547 says:

    I actually like T-Mobile’s service and prices. COmpared to other carriers you get double the minutes or more for the same price, and I pretty much don’t ever drop calls. Not to thrilled with the phone selection, but their sales people seem honest (tried to buy a phone saturday and they told me not to buy it as it wasn’t stable).

    That being said, I still wouldn’t pay $600 for an iPhone even if I could ge tcheaper service.

  32. SJActress says:

    That reference was genius!! Ha ha ha!