Not all iPhones are created equal. “What kind of silly statement is that?” you might say. “Of course, they’re not!” I know. I get it. With all the iPhone numbers from 4 to 10, and the pluses, and S-es, and max-es, of course they’re not all the same.
However, it gets even more complicated. Did you know that depending on the model of your iPhone it may or may not work with cellular providers overseas? That’s the difference in iPhones that I am talking about.
The two iPhones I have owned were gifts. You see, I was an iPhone-resistant human until I was given a 4S. Up until that time I preferred Android, and probably still would, if I have not been blessed with free second-hand iPhones. And, thankfully, the phones I was given were compatible with the countries in which I travel overseas. However, I often hear of, and meet people, who try to connect their iPhone with an overseas provider only to find that it doesn’t work. What’s the problem?
2 Crucial Questions for Using an iPhone Overseas
If your trips abroad are rare and for short periods of time, perhaps this article is not for you. However, If you find that you are going to be traveling overseas often and for any extended amount of time, you might want to keep reading.
- Is your phone Unlocked? Most people that I know in the States buy their phones all wrapped up in a “deal” they get with their cellular provider. And those cell companies know that it is best (for them) to lock you into their service from the very beginning, so that you are less likely to move to a different provider. To do that they lock the phones that they provide for use only within their network. If you try to travel overseas with these phones, you immediately find that you are unable to just buy a local sim card and put it in your phone, but rather you are forced to utilize that company’s roaming abilities and fees. So, point number one is to buy an unlocked phone. You can order new and refurbished (renewed) iPhones from places like Amazon or Walmart, but make sure that your next phone is unlocked so that you can easily use it when travelling. Not planning to purchase a new phone? Just Google your current phone and include “how to unlock” to see if you can unlock your phone yourself, or get it done somewhere cheap.
- An unlocked iPhone is not enough. Now we get into more of the unseen differences in phone models. There are two main types of cellular connections (languages) that are used in mobile devices—CDMA and GSM. The first, CDMA is used by US companies like Verizon and Sprint, as well as their partners. Other than these two American companies, not many other countries utilize CDMA technology in their civilian cellular services. So, if you have a Sprint or Verizon phone, your phone may or may not work in another country. By far, most countries use GSM for their networks, as well as the American behemoths ATT&T and T-Mobile, and their partners. Now, don’t get mad and throw your Sprint or Verizon phone out the window just yet. Certain phone models (Android and iPhone alike) can work with both CDMA and GSM. The trick is to make sure that you purchase the model that is compatible with both systems.
The first iPhone I was given was a Verizon phone. The person who gave it to me already had it unlocked, and, thankfully, it was a model that worked with GSM. However, as I said earlier, I have known people who get all the way overseas just to discover that their phone is incompatible with GSM, and therefore, basically only useful when connected to WiFi. So do your homework, or get a phone that works overseas.
iPhone Model Recommendations for the Global-Minded
If you are wondering what kind of model your iPhone is, you can do two things. First, flip your phone over, look on the back, and find the model number written in very small text. Second, on your phone open Settings > General > About > Model Number for the exact version of your phone model. For example, my phone is an iPhone 6, model A1549, number MG4X2LL/A (yes, I’m a little behind the times). A quick Google search will show that “This is considered as the world phone version. It supports all the same spectrum frequencies as the A1549 (GSM) and also includes CDMA…” I recommend searching using both the model and model number because, as with the iPhone 6, model A1549 is the number used in both GSM and CDMA versions. The more exact model number will reveal which one your phone is.
If you are looking to buy a new iPhone, or at least an iPhone that you can use while traveling, below are some recommended models to check out. But remember, get the unlocked version.
- iPhone 6 – model A1549, CDMA version
- iPhone 6s – model A1633 or A1688
- iPhone 6s plus – model A1687
- iPhone 7 – model A1660
- iPhone 7 plus – model A1661
- iPhone 8 – model A1863
- iPhone 8 plus – model A1684
- iPhone X – model A1865
- iPhone XR – model A1984
- iPhone XS – model A1920