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I'm looking to buy a used iPhone 5s from eBay. It will be used as an iPod Touch for a while, but I'll be moving out of the US in about a year or so. Sprint phones are by far the cheapest, but as I understand it, you have to be a Sprint customer for 3 months before they'll unlock it for international use (which is a condition I likely won't be fulfilling).

Would I be able to buy a bad ESN phone and use it abroad, then? It sounds like GSM phones are better for abroad use, but they're a bit more and I'm just trying to go down the cheapest route.

Thanks in advance!

  • If the phone was in Sprint contract with previous user, why not unlocking it. – Ruskes Sep 11 '14 at 22:59
  • @Buscar웃 Would that count as fulfilling the 3 months, then? I guess it's eBay so you're never quite sure of where it's been. – derp Sep 11 '14 at 23:29
  • You are probably better of getting a pay as you go (prepay plan) if your international travel is only temporary. Why mess with unlocking ect.. The only disadvantage is you will have a new number. – Ruskes Sep 12 '14 at 0:16
  • I'm actually upgrading from an old iPod Touch 2G, so no phone technicalities to worry about, etc. Wouldn't those be more expensive, though? (The travel is indeed temporary - few months at a time) – derp Sep 12 '14 at 1:01
  • Example for €30 you get a phone (unlocked) (not smart phone) and then you buy like €10 and use it till you need refill. No contracts, nothing. – Ruskes Sep 12 '14 at 1:03
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If you buy a locked phone, then it will be locked to the carrier it was originally bought for. But I guess you know that already.

I am assuming you are in the US, since you mentioned Sprint.

There are two things you can do:

  1. Buy an iPhone that was already unlocked.
  2. Buy a locked iPhone and use it as a phone in the US, but buy a second phone for use abroad. This can be bought abroad or in the US, but make sure it is not carrier locked. When travelling abroad, you could use the iPhone wherever you have access to WiFi - and you could use the other phone for making phone calls. If this phone is also a cheap smartphone, you could even use it to tether the iPhone to it for WiFi access on the move.

Buying an already-unlocked iPhone is not the cheap option, and I assume this is an issue since you were looking on eBay for a phone. But you could get a low-spec Android phone for very little money if it's a few years old. The key thing is that it would have to be unlocked since you would be using it for phone calls abroad, and possibly data access if you use it as a hotspot.

  • Yeah, sorry for not making the US-ness clear enough ... I'd figured that it wouldn't be terribly hard to unlock a GSM and that Verizon would be GSM unlocked by default, so I wasn't worried much about those. I'm aiming mostly for iOS, if only because I had a recently-defunct Nexus 7 and I'm ready for a change of scenery. – derp Sep 12 '14 at 2:57
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From Sprint's FAQ on unlocking your device:

I am a former Sprint customer or was never a Sprint customer but have purchased a Sprint device from a third party other than Sprint. Can I get the MSL code?

For individuals owners who can provide the telephone number last associated with the device, Sprint may be able to provide the applicable MSL Code if the account associated with the device is in good standing (service or installment contract fulfilled, payments are current, no write-off balance, not associated with a phone sent to collections, phone not reported lost or stolen, etc.).

You're going to need to work with the owner of the phone to get it unlocked which sounds like a risky proposition.

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