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Unlock iPhone 5/5S/5c Free Guide: Definitions and New FCC Guidelines

LockWhen you buy an iPhone 5/5S/5c it must be compatible with your cellular provider also known as a carrier. Say for instance you buy an AT&T iPhone 5S, on a contract with AT&T, that iPhone 5S is locked to AT&T until you unlock it. This guide will explain how to unlock an iPhone 5, for free.  The good news is that the process that had been so daunting and complicated in the past will be easier, soon. The FCC and CTIA the wireless association recently agreed to terms that will make it easier and clearer to understand for the unlocking of all phones.

When you buy any cellphone it is usually locked to the carrier, meaning you can use that phone with the carrier from which you bought it.  For example, a Virgin Mobile iPhone 4 can only be used with Virgin Mobile plans.

The FCC and CTIA came to an agreement in which postpaid carriers (AT&T, Sprint, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile) agreed that when a phone is out of contract or otherwise paid for, to unlock it within two days of a customer's request, and to notify customers when their devices are eligible for unlocking. Carriers will also unlock phones of military personnel.

Prepaid carriers will unlock prepaid cell phones/smartphones after a year of service. Depending upon the model of the iPhone, it may or may not work with another carrier.

If you look at the AT&T website, it states that when you fully pay for iPhone 5S and your contract is over, you can unlock your AT&T iPhone.  Since iPhones are a large portion of smartphone sales in the United States, it's hard to figure out what's going on.  If you want to be change carriers immediately, the only way to do so (without paying a fee or other methods) is by buying a factory unlocked iPhone from the start.

Earlier versions of the iPhone such as 4, 4S, 3G, 3  could only access the bands, spectrum and wavelengths of that particular carrier or a compatible one.  In some instances because AT&T iPhones used a GSM network they could be used on similar networks in the world.  Early GSM iPhones were not compatible with T-Mobile data spectrum.

With the iPhone 5, Apple started using chips that had more than one bandwidth on it, enabling iPhone 5 to be used overseas when the carrier allowed it.   Then it became even more confusing.  According to Brenda Raney, spokeswoman for Verizon Wireless the Verizon iPhone 5 was always unlocked. Sprint's iPhone policies are often hidden and may a take a while to get the quagmire.

There are many places on the Internet that will charge to unlock a used iPhone.  Say for example, your cousin had an AT&T iPhone 5 that is off contract, before s/he buys another iPhone, the best thing to do is get the unlocking code from AT&T.  If the phone is paid for and the contract is over AT&T will give the customer a code to unlock it, free.

Here is Apple's official list of iPhone 5S models and spectrum they use:

  • Model A1533 (GSM): UMTS/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz); GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz); LTE (Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 13, 17, 19, 20, 25)
  • Model A1533 (CDMA): CDMA EV-DO Rev. A and Rev. B (800, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz); UMTS/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz); GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz); LTE (Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 13, 17, 19, 20, 25)
  • Model A1453: CDMA EV-DO Rev. A and Rev. B (800, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz); UMTS/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz); GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz); LTE (Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26)
  • Model A1457: UMTS/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz); GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz); LTE (Bands 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, 20)
  • Model A1530: UMTS/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz); GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz); FDD-LTE (Bands 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, 20); TD-LTE (Bands 38, 39, 40)

If you are shopping for a used iPhone 5S, you have to make sure that the phone is either unlocked was made for your carrier.  In general most people buy a used GSM iPhone 5/5s/5c because it's easier to use with different carriers, you take the SIM and  put a new one in.  The SIM has to be correct size there are SIM, micro SIM and nano SIM. On the other hand, CDMA phone require activation from the carrier.

Currently, there is price war going on between carriers with T-Mobile offering great prices when you pay for the price of the phone upfront.  Before you buy a used iPhone of any kind, you must make sure it will work on the correct bands of the carrier that you want to use.

The cheapest locked iPhone around is the iPhone 4 for $199 from Virgin Mobile, off contract.(read comparison of deals.) Read iPhone 5S review.  Please be aware that because of the massive theft of iPhones there has been a crackdown from AT&T for unlocking iPhones. iPhone's running iOS 7 can be wiped clean of data when stolen, has an activation lock (Apple ID reuired) to prevent theft and the new fingerprint scanner makes it even harder for a criminal to unlock the device.

4 thoughts on “Unlock iPhone 5/5S/5c Free Guide: Definitions and New FCC Guidelines”

  1. One has to meet the following conditions to be eligible for unlock:

    •If you are under contract you must complete the contract period before your device can be unlocked.
    •If you are a prepay customer, you must have 6 months of prepaid service.
    •If you paid full price for your AT&T device and are a postpaid customer you must have at least 90 days of service with AT&T.

    • Thank you for the information. If our readers have suggestions on how to deal with carriers and getting their iPhones unlocked, please pot it in these comments.

      Personally I would either buy the phone for the correct carrier or have the carrier unlock it. It's not worth paying for unlocking unless you get the phone for free. Because of the great theft rate for iPhones I would not buy a used iPhone from anyone I did not know. I buy all my used phones from Cowboom, where the Best Buy returns go. In October, I bought a 8GB iPod Touch 4G for $69.99, as a gift it was in very good shape. The Chrome was a little scratched, so I put a case on it.

  2. thank you for the information, It’s very informative and i am sure it will help many other people. we are also dealing in many modern and attractive brand.

  3. Excuse me,
    I want to ask about my iphone 5s with the model is A1453. Firstly I used the CDMA and now i cut the plan and I want to change to use the Nano Sim, is it possible?

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