When Apple debuted the iPhone 4S last year, it was Apple’s first “world phone”, meaning it could theoretically work on almost any wireless network on the planet. For customers, it meant that traveling outside of the United States no longer would cost a small fortune due to the ridiculously high-priced international voice and data plans that offer little room for more than a short call or email.Theoretically iPhone 4S customers could buy a prepaid SIM in their destination country and use the wireless network there for a much more affordable price. Since most of the world uses GSM, AT&T iPhone customers should have no problem, except that AT&T locked all iPhones under contract from being able to use a different SIM.
Verizon Wireless, however, would unlock these SIM trays for customers, providing they met certain criteria. Since the iPhone 4S was not a LTE device, the SIM tray on a Verizon iPhone 4S was not used (CDMA doesn’t use a SIM card). LTE is a GSM-based service, so unlike its slower CDMA cousin, it requires a SIM.
Apple has kept the same “world phone” capabilities in the iPhone 5, utilizing a new Qualcomm chip. But with the addition of LTE in the iPhone 5, Verizon Wireless customers will now have a SIM card installed on their phone. So now that Verizon Wireless iPhone 5′s require the use of the SIM tray, are they still willing to unlock the SIM tray for international travel?
We reached out to Verizon Wireless for an answer on this. According to Verizon Wireless spokeswoman Melanie Ortel:
The iPhone 5 is global ready. Verizon Wireless’ policy enables customers to insert a SIM from another country (according to the global SIM unlock policy) as long as they meet the requirements. The device must be active on the Verizon Wireless network for at least 60 days and in good financial standing for that time period. Verizon Wireless provides global connectivity in over 220 countries for voice and 205 for data with 140 offering 3G speeds. The iPhone 5 roams on 3G networks, not 4G LTE networks. The IPhone 5 SIM can only be unlocked for use outside of the U.S.”
So rest easy Verizon customers, you’ll still be able to unlock your SIM tray on the iPhone 5, provided you meet the same qualifications as before. For new customers, pay your bill (like you should) and just give it two months, and then you’ll also be able to have your SIM tray unlocked.
Verizon’s policy is the exact opposite of AT&T’s, which will not unlock the SIM tray in your new iPhone 5 (or any other phone for that matter) unless you’re outside of your two-year agreement or you purchased your new iPhone at the full retail, unsubsidized price (starting at $649, or $450 more, for the 16GB iPhone 5).
With AT&T refusing to unlock SIM trays, a tiny 4G LTE network, along with blocking FaceTime over cellular without a family shared data plan, it’s looking more and more that the once darling carrier of the iPhone is quickly becoming the least appealing and most restrictive. It wouldn’t be at all surprising to see AT&T’s churn rate (the percentage of customers who leave for another carrier) skyrocket in the fourth quarter.