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This is probably seems like a FAQ but I haven't seen anything definitive as of today.

I have a CDMA-Only Verizon iPhone 4 (not a 4S) that recently came off contract. I'm aware that it's CDMA only and GSM carriers like AT&T can do nothing with it other than admire it as a thick iPod Touch. I'd like to explore options, mostly to lower my bill (I have no vendetta against Verizon, it's purely a cost issue).

So, network wise, are there any networks I can port to? I don't think Verizon has a MVNO in the Chicago area. Other than frequencies, is there anything I need to do to check compatibility with another network?

As far as unlocking, do I need to jailbreak my phone to change carriers? Or is this something Verizon will do (since it's off contract).

If I need to jailbreak, is it a permanent jailbreak, or is it possible to change a couple settings and then I can revert back to tracking current iOS?

Are there any US carriers that can use the phone? Cricket seems to restrict it's network to Cricket-sold phones. Can Straight-Talk handle it? Virgin?

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Unlike GSM unlocked phones that you can easily use by inserting any network SIM card, Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) unlocked phones can't be easily used with any network carrier, especially if that handset belongs to another network provider. For you to successfully use your unlocked CDMA phone, the network provider you wish to use will have to activate you on its network. –  Buscar웃 Apr 7 '13 at 21:00
    
Which one? Straight-Talk? Virgin? see CDMA Coverage Carrier Information rentcell.com/cdma-info.htm –  Buscar웃 Apr 7 '13 at 21:05

7 Answers 7

Not likely unless Verizon agrees to release that phone for another carrier. Have a look at this guide on identifying iPhone models:

The iPhone 4 you have is model A1349 (that should be printed on the back of the device), and if so, it is a pure CDMA phone so you cannot connect it to a GSM carrier due to differing radio technology.

Even if you were to jailbreak it or get Verizon to unlock it, it's only going to work with another CDMA carrier.

So in the USA - you need to find a carrier with coverage in CDMA EV-DO Rev. A (800, 1900 MHz) and that's primarily Sprint and Verizon. Since there is no SIM card in this device, you might not need to get it unlocked, but that will be a dialog between you and your potential carrier if they can provide coverage to it at the same time as Verizon may have it registered as "their locked device"

Due to bilateral roaming agreements - each CDMA tower in the US can and does serve multiple carrier devices - so it's likely that Verizon could prevent you from using your device on a competing carrier until you fulfilled your contract or convinced them to release that device's status in the common database for cell phones.

There are well over 50 regional and national carriers providing CDMA coverage according to this wikipedia article so you might have considerable options in some regions of the US.

Nore some of the information is old due to consolidation. Your main bets are C Spire, Sprint and Verizon.

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That I understand. It's a question of which CDMA carriers will support it. I know Verizon is a bit possessive of their customers, and I've met resistance already with the conversion. –  Rich Homolka Apr 7 '13 at 20:58
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@RichHomolka your question is not about iPhone, but about providers. Maybe not the right place to seek an answer to that. –  Buscar웃 Apr 7 '13 at 22:07
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@Buscar웃 We are the place for users of Apple hardware to ask about how to use it. This is squarely on topic and actually, we are an ideal place to ask this question. Since the OP is looking to select an alternate carrier, learning how the hardware is built and what specifications it has allows them to go to each potential carrier and see if they support CDMA radios (in this case). –  bmike Apr 7 '13 at 22:57
    
Thanks @bmike for getting what I'm asking. Yes, I know I can get a CDMA phone on StraightTalk, but I want to know if I can get a CDMA iPhone A1349 on StraightTalk (or equiv). –  Rich Homolka Apr 8 '13 at 2:47

As far as I can remember, Verizon uses CDMA networks (as opposed to everyone else on GSM). You can identify your phone model by looking at this Apple chart.

If the serial number of your iPhone 4 starts with A1349, then your phone is CDMA and no "big" network will accept it other than Verizon. But not all is really lost.

AT&T and T-Mobile (and Europe for the matter) use variants of GSM which is not compatible with CDMA.

So if your phone is CDMA, the answer to your question is: Only Verizon can use it (it doesn't have a SIM card as far as I can remember). (This is not 100% accurate).

Now, will Verizon unlock it? Possibly if it's off-contract but I'm not sure how they work. AT&T would do it.

Jailbreaking the phone won't (as far as I know) give you much, because the problem is not in the software, it's the hardware. The communication through CMDA uses different frequencies than those of GSM.

Now, the truth is, that there are other companies (depending where you live) that will use the Verizon Network (these are called tier-2 or tier-3 companies) and are usually local smaller companies that "rent" the big guys network (and pay them for that!).

These smaller services are usually more flexible because they are small and more efficient. You named Straight-Talk which is a good example because they lease Verizon's network and should have CDMA. You might want to talk to them to see if they can help you with this.

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CDMA only, no sim. I'm aware of the MVNOs like Straight-Talk; I was wondering if anyone had experience, other than theoreticals. Thank you. –  Rich Homolka Apr 7 '13 at 21:01

Just call H2O wireless, they will connect you in minutes, 80 minutes for $10.00 which is their minimum; it is a pay as you go service, however they have other plans as well, no jailbreaking or unlocking is necessary, happy talking!!!

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I just called Straight Talk and they told me that I could not activate my Verizon iPhone 4S on their network.

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I use Straight Talk with my Verizon CDMA iPhone 4, and works great.

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Thanks. Did you buy the device from Straight Talk, or did you have a pre-existing one? At the time I talked to Straight Talk, you could not bring a pre-existing one. –  Rich Homolka May 1 '13 at 4:21
    
can you please tell how did do you make the switch to straight talk? what info I may need from verizon before I go to straight talk? –  user50402 May 31 '13 at 17:43
    
@paddy - I'd ask a second question being narrow about your geographic region or selecting Straight Talk in a certain country and ask how to make that work. I presume you've asked that carrier and they were not able to help you navigate a switch? –  bmike May 31 '13 at 18:26

So, since someone tracked me down to ask what we did, I figured I'd post a followup. I won't accept this as an answer since we're not really satisfied with it - it's just the best option for now.

We decided to choose (drumroll) Verizon!

In the time that I posted that and the time we decided to switch, Verizon created a smartphone pre-pay plan. No Verizon compatible, BYOD MVNO exists in my area (I tried StraightTalk, they currently don't accept the phone, not sure why not).

Our choice is good, not great.

GOOD:

  • Well, same network, same service, same network quality.
  • Much cheaper month on month, we save around $45 or so (though I still drool at some other, cheaper plans)
  • No phone number porting hassles.

BAD:

  • This is obviously a lower tier plan. Can you say Price Discrimination? I knew you could.
  • Related to Price Discrimination above, this is 3G only. Irrelevant for our iPhone 4 discussion, but may affect people looking for CDMA options.
  • Every call has the "The time available for this call is _" with 99.9999999999% of those calls being "Unlimited". Please just drop the message unless it's billed by minute.
  • No visual voicemail. This sucks. Back to calling *86 to check.
  • EDIT: update to iOS7 fixed this, though still buggy on message counts some times. No visual indication of any voicemail. We've been to the store a couple times, and they can't fix it. Even updated from iOS 5 to iOS 6 (this is a iPhone 4, so no real advantage there) and didn't work. We just. figure (for now) check after every missed call
  • You lose access to your current myVerizon account, need to make a new, much less useful account.
  • Billing on myVerizon is impossible to see what they charged you for. Is this overage because of roaming (we went to Canada for a trip), is this one because of data overage? Hell if I can tell.
  • Billing also has weird timings. One bill told us our minutes exired on the 20th, the 22nd, and the 24th. We never figured out when they really did expire.

In short, it helps to save 45 or so a month, but you don't get the same service. On balance worth it for us.

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Try Page Plus Cellular, no problem transferring a verizon iphone 4 to page plus as long as it has a clean ESN / MEID. Page Plus Cellular is a Verizon MVNO and uses the Verizon Network. I have activated 4 iPhone4's (plural, not 4s) that were originally Verizon phones. The activation process was painless and you can get a variety of pre-paid (purchase minutes) or plans (starts at $12/month). For example I'm paying $29.95 / month for 1200 minutes talk, 3000 messages (txt and multimedia) and 250MB data. Unfortunately Verizon owns the WiFi Hot Spot app and its not available for use on MVNOs. I don't know if any third-party WiFi aps or hacks are available or may be available in the future.

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