Things I've Learned Buying an iPhone 6 Plus, Unlocked, Contract-Free, Pre-paid

Posted: 2014-12-03 02:35:22

Be very careful when buying a Sprint, Verizon, AT&T, or some other “carrier branded” iPhone.

I did some research to make sure that when spending over $1000 on a phone, that investment would not come back to bite me with a lock-in (of carrier, network type, and plan).

What I’ve found is:

1. Only Verizon’s iPhone 6 has both CMDA and GSM radios enabled. Most of the other carriers only have the GSM radio enabled.

If you want an iPhone that can work with all the carrier networks, Verizon’s is the one you must get.

2. All Verizon 4G LTE capable phones (e.g., the iPhone 6) must come factory unlocked due to FCC requirements that were made on Verizon’s last LTE-band purchase. Most of the other carriers do not have such an agreement with or requirement from the FCC, and may sell you a factory locked iPhone.

If you want an iPhone that is not locked to a specific carrier from the start, Verizon’s is the one you should get.

3. Half of the carriers (Verizon, Sprint, and some others) will not activate a plan/service on an unlocked phone that was not purchased through them (by checking for its serial number in their database). In example, to activate Verizon plans/services for your iPhone, you’d need to use a Verizon branded iPhone. You can usually get around this by activating the plan/service on some other phone of the carrier, and then moving that SIM card from it and into your new another-carrier-branded phone.

4. The only way to purchase a full price iPhone 6 without a contract though Verizon Wireless’s online store is to purchase one with a somewhat hidden month-to-month post-paid $60 1GB plan.

Afterwards, when you receive the phone, this plan is never activated, or is canceled by you. You won’t get billed for it, and there is no cancellation fee (as it’s not a contract).

Update: Verizon Wireless is pulling some type of a scam here. The unwanted plan will be automatically activated “for your convenience” (and at the earliest possible moment), billed with the full set of non-refundable charges, fees, and taxes (on top of the $60), and out of the surprise $110 bill that you will get one to two weeks after receiving your iPhone, if you act quickly, they will refund $50 from it as credit for the remaining unused time… Surprising you with another bill coming in the mail for $60 that you can’t get out of (read my comment in the comments section).

On the “Customize Your Plan & Add Accessories” step, where they want you to select an option in the “The MORE Everything Plan”, click the “View Single Line Plans” link…

MORE_Everything_Plan

Single_Line_Plan

5. To get Verizon’s $45 / month pre-paid plan, with no overages (e.g., the minutes and data just stop), buy Verizon’s “4G LTE SIM Activation Kit“. It costs $49.95 and comes with the first month included. And if you select to auto-pay, they double the data from 500MB to 1GB.

4G_LTE_SIM_Activation_Kit

6. Don’t buy any of the cases, chargers, or other extra devices from the carrier. Their prices are double Amazon’s. And the selection of iPhone cases and accessories on Amazon is much nicer.

7. I recommend you get the Space Grey iPhone 6 Plus if you are indecisive on the color scheme. While the “Gold” (Champagne) colored iPhone looks nice on the back, the white bezel on the front, around the black screen, does not have the same continuity with the black screen, breaking your thought process. In addition, that white color kind of reminds me of the floor of a school’s cafeteria.

I hope this saves you the 4 days I spent (a.k.a. wasted) trying to navigate through the minefield of rules, plan prices, and incompatibilities, the phone companies enjoy putting people through to get the most money out of them.