Unlocked cell phones ... a question - BMW Luxury Touring Community
 
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post #1 of 17 Old Jan 24th, 2006, 12:47 pm Thread Starter
 
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Unlocked cell phones ... a question

there are lots of cell phones for sale on e-Bay, and most are advertised as "unlocked." can someone explain to me what that means?

does that mean i can purchase them, then switch my service over to that phone? if so, what is involved with doing that? i currently have sprint service and a phone i'd love to upgrade. what's the best way to do that without extending my service plan?

thanks in advance.
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post #2 of 17 Old Jan 24th, 2006, 1:17 pm
 
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Here what it meant to me. My spouse bought me a really cool phone. it was unlocked. I pulled the sim card out of my locked( to cingular) phone, slid it into the simcard slot on the new phone and viola' my new phone worked just fine. Now what this means is that if I switch providers I can use my phone with the new service by just swtiching out the sim card( i think)
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post #3 of 17 Old Jan 24th, 2006, 1:42 pm
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Unlocked means that the phone will work on another network.

Most Unlocked phones are of the GSM variety that use a SIM card that is removable. Each GSM provider have their own SIM card.
A unlocked phone allows you to take your SIM card out of one phone and insert it in the unlocked phone and be able to use it.
Most carriers Lock their phones so that the phone can be only used with a SIM card that is on their network.
The reason for unlocking the phone can be a couple reasons.

1. Allows a person to use a phone that isnt offered by their carrier.
2. Allows someone from the US to travel internationally (or visa versa) and
buy a pay-as-you-go from the carrier in the country you are travelling in
and make local calls at cheaper rates instead of getting charged for
roaming charges from their home carrier

I bought a unlocked phone for my wife here in Canada. She is on Rogers which is the GSM network here. I live on the US border so I went down to T-Mobile and payed $100 for 1000 anytime minutes Nation Wide. She just went to Hawaii, so she took her Rogers SIM card out and replaced it with the T-Mobile and was able to call my 800 number as a local call. If she had of used her Rogers card she would have been charged Roaming charges.

Now all that being said, there are a few things to watch out for. All mobile phones have certain frequencies that they work on. In the US most carriers use the GSM 850 or 1900 Band. The same is for Canada. Whereas the UK carriers use the 900 or 1800 Band. Thus, you can get a Dual Band , Tri Band, or Quad Band (world band). Each phone is different. The GSM providers in the US are T-Mobile, Cingular (may be others but those are the major ones) There is also Nextel which uses a SIM card as well. They are on a totaly different network. So do not buy a unlocked phone thinking that you can use it on the Nextel Network. It wont. If you are looking to buy a phone to use on the Nextel network, you must make sure that the phone is Nextel Capable.

Now if you are looking at purchasing a unlocked phone to be used on a CDMA carriers network, (ie Sprint, Verizon, US Cellular) it gets a little trickier. The CDMA phones do not use SIM card technology. It is all internal. So if you purchase a unlocked phone that was on the Verizon network and you want to use it on the Sprint network, you have to contact Sprint and register it with them. Some carriers will not register it though. Whereas with the GSM carriers SIM card, you can take the sim card out and place it in any unlocked phone and you are ready to roll

Hope this helps

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post #4 of 17 Old Jan 24th, 2006, 1:43 pm Thread Starter
 
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that makes sense, richard. thanks.

another question: are SIM cards universal? if i have an LG phone will i have to upgrade it to another LG?
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post #5 of 17 Old Jan 24th, 2006, 1:46 pm Thread Starter
 
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wow ... thanks, ed. sounds like i need to talk to sprint, my service provider.
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post #6 of 17 Old Jan 24th, 2006, 1:53 pm
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KBandit
.

another question: are SIM cards universal? if i have an LG phone will i have to upgrade it to another LG?
SIM Cards are Universal. You can take your SIM card and place it an any unlocked phone and it will work. Provided that the phone you are going to use is runs on the same frequency as your providers

Here is a link to the providers worldwide and what frequencies they use

http://www.gsmworld.com/roaming/index.shtml

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post #7 of 17 Old Jan 24th, 2006, 2:16 pm
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KBandit
there are lots of cell phones for sale on e-Bay, and most are advertised as "unlocked." can someone explain to me what that means?

does that mean i can purchase them, then switch my service over to that phone? if so, what is involved with doing that? i currently have sprint service and a phone i'd love to upgrade. what's the best way to do that without extending my service plan?

thanks in advance.
You have to be REALLY careful before making a purchase of a phone. I wanted a Bluetooth enabled Sprint phone to use with my car, which I put Bluetooth in at some considerable expense. I purchased a Sprint phone on eBay, only after going to the Sprint store and having them check the ESN number to find if it could be activated. I got the phone, tried to activate it, and it would not work. I went to the Sprint store to see if they could do it, and found that it was a phone that was in a batch for a Sprint "Partner" service in New England, and that it now could not be activated on the Sprint network, even though they had originally said it was clear. BOY was I pissed! After about 6 phone calls to Sprint customer "service", got nowhere, and finally realized I had a nearly $100 paperweight, with Sprint's logo on it!

You will have to get the ESN (the person selling the phone should give it to you, if it is not already in the eBay ad) and try to get Sprint to guarantee that it will be useable.

Also, if a phone has been unactivated on Sprint for a pretty long time period, they MAY release that ESN number back to the phone's manufacturer for re-use, and you will not be able to ever use that phone again.

On some services, GSM only I think, there are SIM cards in the phones, which can be moved from phone to phone, making upgrades MUCH easier. To my knowledge, Sprint's CDMA phones do not use SIM cards. I know none of the several Sprint phones I have had used them.

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post #8 of 17 Old Jan 24th, 2006, 2:31 pm
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I recently saw this sign in the window of a cell phone retailer:



So I did some research, and found the details, which I've attached below. Basically, it means you can walk into a Sprint store, get whatever phone you want at their best price, and not have to sign up for anything additional. Or you could go to whatever store you want, and get whatever phone you want, but then you have to deal with the unlocking and frequency issues discussed above. Be aware though that the standard cell phone store employee may not know what you're talking about, as they're trained to sell phones with two-year commitments. You may have to speak to a manager directly, and bring a copy of the code with you.

California Business and Professional Code § 17026.1(b) provides:

(b) In each retail location, all retailers of cellular telephones shall post a large conspicuous sign, in lettering no smaller than 36-point type, that states the following: "Activation of any cellular telephone is not required and the advertised price of any cellular telephone is not contingent upon activation, acceptance, or denial of cellular service by any cellular provider."

The sign shall be prominently displayed and visible to consumers and located in that area in each retail location where cellular telephones are displayed and purchased.

(c) No retailer of cellular telephones shall refuse to sell a
cellular telephone to any customer solely on the basis of the
customer's refusal to activate the telephone with the provider of
cellular service for whom the retailer is an agent. Nothing herein
shall preclude a retailer from limiting the number of cellular
telephones that he or she is otherwise required under this
subdivision to sell to any single customer.
The intent of this subdivision is to reaffirm the Legislature's
support for the Public Utilities Commission's policy that makes
illegal the act, or practice, of "bundling," as defined and described
in relevant decisions and orders of the commission.

17026.1. (a) (1) Notwithstanding the provisions of Section 17026,
commissions or rebates regularly earned by the retailers of cellular
telephones may be used to reduce cost, provided, that in no event
shall the reduction exceed the greater of the following:
(A) Ten percent of cost, as defined in Section 17026.
(B) Twenty dollars ($20).
(2) Consistent with the provisions of subdivision (d) of Section
17050, providers of cellular services shall be permitted to sell
cellular telephones below cost, provided that sales below cost are a
good faith endeavor to meet the legal market prices of competitors in
the same locality or trade area.
(b) In each retail location, all retailers of cellular telephones
shall post a large conspicuous sign, in lettering no smaller than
36-point type, that states the following: "Activation of any
cellular telephone is not required and the advertised price of any
cellular telephone is not contingent upon activation, acceptance, or
denial of cellular service by any cellular provider."
The sign shall be prominently displayed and visible to consumers
and located in that area in each retail location where cellular
telephones are displayed and purchased.
(c) No retailer of cellular telephones shall refuse to sell a
cellular telephone to any customer solely on the basis of the
customer's refusal to activate the telephone with the provider of
cellular service for whom the retailer is an agent. Nothing herein
shall preclude a retailer from limiting the number of cellular
telephones that he or she is otherwise required under this
subdivision to sell to any single customer.
The intent of this subdivision is to reaffirm the Legislature's
support for the Public Utilities Commission's policy that makes
illegal the act, or practice, of "bundling," as defined and described
in relevant decisions and orders of the commission.
(d) The Public Utilities Commission may adopt rules and
regulations to fully implement and enforce the provisions of this
section.
(e) Nothing in this section shall be interpreted to reduce, alter,
or otherwise modify the authority of the California Public Utilities
Commission to regulate, in any manner, or prohibit, the payment of
commissions or rebates to distributors or vendors of cellular
telephones. The provisions of this section shall be effective only
to the extent that they do not conflict with any applicable
regulations, rules, or orders promulgated or issued by the Public
Utilities Commission.
(f) This section shall become operative on January 1, 1994.

Ken
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post #9 of 17 Old Jan 24th, 2006, 2:54 pm Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by meese
Basically, it means you can walk into a Sprint store, get whatever phone you want at their best price, and not have to sign up for anything additional.
i just want to make sure i understand you.

you mean i can insist on getting the "plan" price, even though i refuse to extend my plan? what about phones advertised as "free, with plan?"
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post #10 of 17 Old Jan 24th, 2006, 3:01 pm
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KBandit
i just want to make sure i understand you.

you mean i can insist on getting the "plan" price, even though i refuse to extend my plan? what about phones advertised as "free, with plan?"
That's the way I read the legal code. Now you may have some trouble getting the sales guy to agree, but I'd say it's worth pursuing.

Ken
Pacific NorthWet
'13 Dark Graphite Metallic K16GTLD, 24K miles
'09 Magnesium Beige Metallic K13GT, 63K miles
'03 Anthracite Metallic K12LTC, 66K miles
'02 Mauve Metallic K12LTC, 106K miles and sold
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post #11 of 17 Old Jan 24th, 2006, 3:04 pm Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by meese
That's the way I read the legal code. Now you may have some trouble getting the sales guy to agree, but I'd say it's worth pursuing.
good information. thanks, ken.
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post #12 of 17 Old Jan 24th, 2006, 5:24 pm
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First, it's going to be a GSM phone that uses a SIM card to enable the radio on a cell network. Basically the phone isn't blocked from usage on other networks, so if you have multiple SIM cards, or travel a lot and use prepaid SIM cards, you can use them in this phone with no problems of blocked network access. So you can use it on any cell provider's network that's GSM based. Verizon and Sprint are not, but most others are now.

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post #13 of 17 Old Jan 24th, 2006, 5:49 pm
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DavidTaylor
First, it's going to be a GSM phone that uses a SIM card to enable the radio on a cell network. Basically the phone isn't blocked from usage on other networks, so if you have multiple SIM cards, or travel a lot and use prepaid SIM cards, you can use them in this phone with no problems of blocked network access. So you can use it on any cell provider's network that's GSM based. Verizon and Sprint are not, but most others are now.
David,

Correct! Provding though that the GSM phone is unlocked. Most are locked to a specific GSM provider. I know Cingular will give a customer the unlock code though if he has had the phone for over 6 months and activated on the Cingular network. They don't like to advertise this because of the recent introduction of number portability. As soon as the phone is unlocked it allows the subscriber to change providers and have his phone activated on the new network with the same phone number

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post #14 of 17 Old Jan 24th, 2006, 6:03 pm
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KBandit
i just want to make sure i understand you.

you mean i can insist on getting the "plan" price, even though i refuse to extend my plan? what about phones advertised as "free, with plan?"
With Sprint, you can get the special price as an upgrade to an existing phone purchased from Sprint only after you have had that phone for a set time period. I think it is 18 months? The special prices are not given to a current customer who has had their current phone less than that period.

My wife, and both daughters and their husbands have all purchased their Sprint phones through Costco. MUCH better than buying at a Sprint store! If you have a problem of any kind, Costco will either give you a new one, or even upgrade it at low cost if the same model is no longer available. My son in law just had a display go bad on his two weeks ago, went to the Sprint store and they would not replace it, but said they would have to order a new display to repair it. After an hour of hassle by them he went to Costco, where the phone had been purchased, and got a new one in less than 20 minutes. Another person who will never grace the threshold of a Sprint Store again.

I don't want to achieve immortality through my work...I want to achieve it through not dying.

David Shealey
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EX: '01 Black LT, BAT BYKE (Totaled at 110,000 miles)
IBA SS, BB, BBG, 10/10ths.
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post #15 of 17 Old Jan 24th, 2006, 6:05 pm
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Ken,

That is correct as well...but here is the scenario

You have a plan already with Provider A (CDMA Network). You walk into their store and see a phone that you can get a bottom price of $300.
You then walk into Provider B's (CDMA Network) store that you have no contract with, and see the same phone for $250
You decide to purchase the phone from Provider B
You will not automatically be able to have that phone activated on Provider A's network. The phone will more than likley be locked to provider B's network. Even if the phone is unlocked, provider A can still refuse to activate it.

Now same scenario, but Provider A & B run on GSM networks
Provider B's phone will be locked and wont be able to be activated on Provider A's network. If you get the phone unlocked (many places on the web offer this service) you will have no problem activating it on Provider A's network

You cannot run a GSM phone on a CDMA network, and visa versa.

And Blackberry's are another whole different story

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post #16 of 17 Old Jan 24th, 2006, 7:30 pm
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EdBruce
...many places on the web offer this service.
Is there any security danger giving out the unique number they need to unlock the phone?

Jacques
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post #17 of 17 Old Jan 24th, 2006, 8:00 pm
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Jacques,

Of course there is always the chance of someone "cloning" your phone.
I had had several phones unlocked by advertisers on the following site

www.howardforums.com

Go to Marketplace forum. Never have had any problems with the ones I have dealt with.

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