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My sister who lives in Cuba, wants me to bring her an iPhone on my next trip. I am looking at ones that are unlocked, open box as they are less expensive, but I need to know if it has to say "GSM unlocked."

Thanks for any help. I just don't want to take one that won't work on Cuba's cellular network.

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As far as I can tell, any iPhone should be compatible with GSM. But the sticker on the back of the box is supposed to explicitly say what it's compatible with, so you can see that.

Note that phones provided by some carriers might support slightly different bands than phones from other carriers. I believe Cuba uses 900 MHz, and I would imagine all iPhones support that, but I did not check all models. But if there is a specific one you are going to get, you can check a website like WhistleOut to double-check that the phone supports this. You can google something like 'WhistleOut will my iPhone 8 work on another carrier', and the article will go over the variants of the phone coming from the different carriers and show what frequencies they support, so you can double-check.

If it's open box though, you do want to ensure that it will actually work, that it's not activated and associated with someone else's Apple ID, that kind of thing. If it's a fresh installation and it would work when you pop in your own SIM card (it does have to be the right size SIM card, probably a nano-SIM), then it should be fine for your sister too.

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An unlocked phone - it doesn't matter if it's iPhone or some other brand - basically means that the IMEI or MEID number isn't restricted to a particular carrier - it will work everywhere. Simply put, these are fancy equipment ID and serial numbers the carriers use to authenticate the device whether it's allowed onto the network or not.

So, as far as unlocked goes, any unlocked phone should work on Cuba's cellular network.

The bigger concern is compatibility

According the GSM Arena, Cuba uses

  • GSM 900 for 2G networks
  • UMTS 900, UMTS 2100 (1) for 3G
  • No support for 4G

What you have to do next, is look at the Technical Specifications for the iPhone you're interested in. Using the iPhone 7 as an example, under Cellular & Wireless, we see that both of those frequencies are supported, so you should be fine.

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