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I am currently travelling in a remote area. My iPhone 5S can see my carrier with good signal strength, and I can access 3G data. My wife's iPhone 4 can't even see the network, even for voice calls.

Both phones were purchased unlocked from the Apple store.

There is obviously some difference in the capabilities of the different generation phones. What are these? Is is possible to detect which frequency band the phone is currently operating on?

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    The iPhone 4 was notorious for issues with signal strength, although it wasn't as bad as some people claimed. The iPhone 4S improved on this significantly, and by the iPhone 5S (your model) signal strength was greatly improved. It's likely your issue is due to this. – William T Froggard Jun 24 '15 at 13:13
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Not direct software solution but on the back of your iphone there are is a Model number, on my Iphone 5s it is A1530. Different models are supplied in different countries according to the frequency bands licensed there. If you google that number with model of iphone and or frequency band you will find information as to what frequency bands your specific hardware supports.

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