Having learned that there is a real difference between the iPhones provided and branded by Sprint, Verizon, AT&T, and the other carriers, I did some research to make sure that when spending over $1000 on a phone, that investment would allow for the most amount of freedom from carrier lock-in, network type lock-in, plan lock-in, and other factors.
Basically, as far as avoiding mentioned lock-ins, Verizon’s iPhone is the one you have to get. The rest will not work due to multiple issues.
Edit and Update: There is a problem with what Verizon Wireless will do after you make your online purchase. This problem (in my opinion) falls somewhere between a combination of misrepresentation + misinformation + miscommunication – and an intentional checkout and activation process that is designed to generate additional profit from every buyer that pays the full no contract price (and just uses the pre-paid plan). In most cases, unless you are fully aware of the situation and can be pro-active about it, a few weeks after you get your full-priced iPhone (side-by-side with your pre-paid SIM kit), Verizon Wireless will send you a $140 bill for a plan that you never activated. And when you do call in to explain the situation and to “cancel” that plan, the majority of the amount will consist of non-refundable charges that you will be required to pay (they will only credit you for the time remaining). How can this happen? Read on…
1. Only Verizon’s iPhone 6 has both CMDA and GSM radios enabled. Most of the other carriers only have the GSM radio enabled. So 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 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 can provide factory locked iPhones. As above, 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).
Edit and Update: Verizon Wireless is pulling some type of a scam here. That 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 $140 bill that you will get one to two weeks after receiving your iPhone, if you act quickly, they will refund $40 from it as credit for the remaining unused time… Surprising you with another bill coming in the mail for $100 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…
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.
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. 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.
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.