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

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.

21 thoughts on “Things I’ve Learned Buying an iPhone 6 Plus, Unlocked, Contract-Free, Pre-paid”

  1. does this still work? Bought unlocked phone from apple but when I tried to use Verizon prepay I could not as I did not buy from them. Want there service but on prepay or straight talk. Thank you for the help

    1. If you purchased the iPhone directly from Apple, then it is somewhat tied to the selected carrier it was purchased for – selected at the store or online.

      Verizon Wireless might not accept it due to either:
      A. That particular carrier-model iPhone missing the required network radios + antennas (of the Verizon network).
      B. Verizon Wireless’s business practices of refusing to directly activate phones that were not purchased through them. Though I would read up some more, there are ways to get around that last part.

      The Verizon iPhone is the only carrier-model of the iPhone that:
      1. Has all the different network radios + antennas in it (or at least the radios are all enabled in it).
      2. Is unlocked from the factory.

      Which makes it technically usable on any network type (i.e., with any carrier or provider)…

      But if you are going to use Verizon’s plans/services, understand that Verizon Wireless will only directly activate its plans/services in Verizon branded and sold phones, when and where possible.

      Though as mentioned previously, if you are using a non-Verizon phone, this artificial blockage can be easily overcome with a simple SIM card activation trick…

      1. Find, borrow, or buy the cheapest (e.g., lower-end, under-performing, or late-model) 4G LTE Verizon phone (should cost about $50).
      2. Place the Verizon’s plan/service SIM card into it.
      3. Activate that plan/service on that phone.
      4. Then transfer that SIM card out of it and into your non-Verizon carrier-model iPhone.

      Once turned on, your non-Verizon iPhone will utilize the plan/service and assigned phone number. Though it might take a day for the network to detect the phone change and enable the services/features that are only supported by your much newer and more advanced iPhone (i.e., network services and features the other phone did not support).

      I have no idea if Verizon Wireless Terms Of Service forbids this. Or if this action is protected by some law, made possible by (or is an emergent effect of) some arrangement between the carriers and/or the FCC, or just can’t be stopped due to technical, backward/forward compatibility, or side-effect reasons. But when I looked into all this, everything seemed fine.

  2. 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).

    Either the customer service rep misrepresented the situation when I asked him/her about it, or I was too naive about it all, but this did not turn out to be true at all…

    A few weeks after you get your full-priced iPhone, you will get a bill from Verizon Wireless for about $110. This includes the $60 cost of the mentioned no-contract month-to-month post-paid plan, the activation charge for that plan + phone number, and some other fees + taxes.

    It turns out that Verizon activates that plan for you, “for you convenience”, sometime between when you make the purchase and around the time the phone ships.

    I assumed the selected (a.k.a forced) $60 plan would never activate without my action. An action such as turning ON the phone and accepting the plan.

    I, and many other people, order stuff that we don’t open or start using for weeks and sometimes months after they arrive (for many different reasons)… That iPhone could have been a gift for Christmas for someone (which was still a few weeks away at that time). Or maybe I was busy. Or maybe I still had time on my other phone + plan to use up. Or maybe I wanted time to play around with it using only WiFi, get comfortable with it, and set it up to my liking. And sometimes these devices are delivered DOA, or broken in some way with the cellular service non-usable, and occasionally the delivery is lost/stolen. We also all like to procrastinate.

    So when I received the iPhone, assuming as mentioned above, I simply took out the original SIM card (that had the unwanted plan), figured if that SIM never sent a signal it would be all good, and replaced it with the SIM card of the $45 pre-paid kit (that was purchased at the same time along with the iPhone).

    Long story short, calling in and getting the customer service people to understand what the problem was, was not easy. I got transferred around a bit. When I tried to explain that I received a bill for a plan I never activated, every rep I talked to read the same line – “well that’s not good!!!” (or something like that).

    After canceling the unwanted plan, the ONLY thing that was refunded was the time left on that plan (I guess about 2-3 weeks). And at the end, a final bill for about $60 had to be paid…

    That day, Verizon Wireless made $60 of pure profit on services that where never used, nor activated, nor wanted – by the end-user.

    The thing about it all is, I doubt you could even fully terminate the plan (i.e., with no charges billed out at all) before the phone is shipped, because that probably:

    A) Requires knowledge of the assigned phone number. And if you try to call in without it, they’ll likely say “we can’t do anything without the number” (or they’ll just tell you “it will be a couple of days before the database updates with your info”).
    B) But when that phone number gets assigned, and after everything moves through and you are made aware of it, the plan is likely already activated (i.e., has started the clock), or at the least has all the additional non-refundable charges billed out.

    And doing so after the phone has shipped / or has been delivered, you are still facing the same problem.

    Best case, their legal department probably green-lighted this fraudulent behavior by allowing you a two hour window, starting on some unknown and ever-changing time, itself based on a dozen different factors (everything from the time-zone you are in, to the time it takes today for the DB to fully update and propagate the info to the other systems), to terminate that plan fully and completely, before the non-refundable charges (i.e., activation, phone number, other fees and taxes) are applied and billed.

    Either way, the customer who takes the bait, and calls to “cancel” the plan when the iPhone arrives, will be told that everything is fine, the system will process the refund, but will still get a surprise in the mail a week later that totals: the 10 days of provided service + the mentioned full set of non-refundable charges.

      1. File a complaint for what? You can’t claim something is a scam because you are ignorant to the process. The thing that a very large percentage of consumers don’t understand about the cell phone business is that carriers don’t get paid to sell you a piece of equipment…they are paid to attach services to said equipment. If you are after just buying equipment it’s best to do so at an Apple Store, eBay, Craigslist etc. as most carriers’ processing systems are limited to attaching services to equipment sold by them. It makes sense to me… Verizon isn’t an electronics company they are service-based, so if this person went thru the motions of setting up service why would that person not think it would play out like it did? A SIM card doesn’t dictate the billing system. I guess I just don’t understand how people come to the conclusions that they do.

  3. So…is the phone now disabled from working on Verizon’s network because of the old bait and switch you pulled with the monthly plan? I want to buy a Verizon iPhone 6+ and use it with Straight Talk’s Verizon network but don’t want to have it stuck on GSM after this ordeal…thanks!

    1. If you buy iphone 6 Plus model A1586, it will work on any network. You don’t need to go through all those Verizon fiery hoops.

      1. Sandra
        Model A1589 is a Sprint iPhone 6 and I thought even the Factory Unlocked Sprint iPhone versions of this model still won’t work on Verizon,

  4. An acquaintance gave me her iPhone 6 plus… I think it was post pay under verzion… I would like to get a prepaid Verizon kit… Can it work??

    1. Why wouldn’t it work (as long as it’s Verizon’s)?

      Once you place the prepaid kit SIM card into it, it will be on your account/phone-number/etc.

    2. just make sure no bill is owed i bought an iphone 6s recently and had her reset it in front of me and i signed in on my icloud account and then paid her then went to verizon to hook it up and they gave me a number took my money and then wouldn’t hook it up cause she owes a bill and wont refund my money anyone have an idea how to help me

  5. what if i buy an iphone6 with contract and jail break it to use without the contract? will it work and how will the contract telecom company react

  6. if now i buy an iphone 6 with verizon with $199 + $60 for the plan purpose, and after getting the iphone will i need to continue the plan of $60 for 2 years or will i be able to go on without the contract?

  7. I bought an iPhone 6 Plus from a friend and the phone won’t disable the find my iPhone I guess cause she still owes money on the phone but she’s in good standing by with AT&T so my question is can I use my prepaid sims card on the iPhone 6 Plus and have no issues and will it take off the find my iPhone. Also will it be linked to her iCloud account?

  8. Bought the iPhone 6s at Best Buy today. Previously used a 3G moto g last 2 years and was prepay and tomorrow just happen to be when autopay takes the $45 from my account. Well Best Buy was out of the 4g prepay SIM cards which was fine because Verizon store only a block away. Best Buy said I wouldn’t be able to switch my number to iPhone without it and that since my payment was due tomorrow I should go ahead and call and have them aware I am switching from 3 to 4g service. Called customer service. Was told no problem and did not need buy a SIM card that it would be in phone but the salesclerk at Best Buy insisted I did need 4g prepay card, although they were out of stock. Told her I would indeed go to Verizon as it was on my way. Went in Verizon store. The greeter and the tech, or customer service, not sure of job title, BOTH said same thing Verizon customer service on phone said ” the SIM card should already be in the phone and no need to buy new separate 4g card since I was already auto pay with my 3G device”. He still opened phone and checked for me and said yes it’s in there. Then as he put name and number along with iPhone serial number into computer he said until I made payment my phone would not work. Which is tomorrow!! I said well leave moto g on until payment goes thru. He said too late because he already put new phone in system. Seeing that I was just confused he offered to get the prepay dept on phone and I said yes please. Anyway they moved my payment day back and took my payment tonight, turning on my new 4g iPhone 6s. All was good. Got home. All my 5 little dots went to just one. Instead of LTE it now says 3G Made a couple calls and quality was bad and call dropped. My question is was bestbuy right saying I must get special SIM card for being a first time 4g phone user? Or were all the Verizon people right saying card in the brand new phone was all I needed. Phone IS activated but quality and signal plummeted after about an hour of being turned on. Did things finally get in the system and they realized I did not buy this additional 4g SIM card, but only didn’t because Verizon insisted I didn’t need to. After reading the previous posts about how it’s all in the SIM card, I just want the best experience with thus phone. I paid full price and owe nothing on it and was assured I am still the same , meaning 45 a month prepaid customer on autopay. Sorry so long. Just been very weird day about being told such opposite instructions and then the phone suddenly behaving worse than the old moto g ! Thanks in advance

    1. Still having problems with this phone. Goes into roaming. Dropped calls etc. the SIM card that came in phone is only sim card this phone has had. Will purchasing a new SIM card for 4g or whatever it’s called make it work better?? I can’t be the only person ever to upgrade from a 3G prepaid to 4g LTE iPhone. Bought at Best Buy. I can’t be that rare a customer but it seems when dealing with tech support that I get either “I really don’t know” or else that I couldn’t have activated and used it if buying a 4g prepaid SIM card was necessary Lol. Someone please let me know what I should do This phone is paid in full from Best Buy. This phone was purchased for me by someone that preferred I had a reliable phone after always settling for cheapie with barely a signal. I am on fixed income and my child is a cancer patient Just mentioning WHY I am prepaid yet having such an expensive phone

  9. I have an IPhone 6s, my husband’s is a 6s plus and my son is a 6. We bought all of these (plus 2 iPads) directly from a Verizon store. All of these phones are supposed to be unlocked. We are wanting to switch to a prepaid carrier (Net 10, Straight Talk or Total Wireless, etc) but when I checked the compatibility they all said they were not compatible. If the phones are unlocked why are they not compatible? How can I switch carriers?

    1. I think that has something to do with the type of sim card supplied by Net 10. You can get a sim cutter for $10 to convert it to what the iPhone takes.

  10. Quick question. We are post pay with Verizon now. There are 4 lines on the account. # being Iphone 6s and one being a Droid Maxx. Due to my fiance getting hurt at work and fighting with workers comp for over 6 months, our bill has gotten out of control. We still owe “payments” on our phones. If we call in and just cancel/close our account with verizon & have them to terminate service, can we then buy the prepay kit & change out the Sim cards and activate the phones that way? Im just looking for a way to stay connected to the world without having to pay Verizon 350.00 every 2 weeks just to keep service going. Of course the bill on the post pay will get paid as soon as we can, just not like and when they want unfortunately. Any input on this would be appreciated. Thank you!

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