This Is How Unlocking Your iPhone 4S Overseas REALLY Works

iphone 4s preorders begin october 7

Photo: Apple

There has been a bit of confusion about how the “global” iPhone 4S will work overseas.Even we weren’t sure at first. Then things got complicated when Macworld reported you’d be able to unlock the Verizon and Sprint iPhone 4S to run on any international GSM carrier, just by sticking in a new SIM card.

Then Ars Technica reported that you won’t be able to unlock the Sprint model. But they quoted a Sprint rep as saying that’s probably the same policy for the Verizon iPhone 4S.

Confusing!

Let’s get this all straight. Here’s a quick breakdown:

  • Verizon and Sprint’s networks run on the CDMA standard.
  • AT&T runs on the GSM standard.
  • Most international carriers run on GSM, meaning it has always been really easy for AT&T customers to roam overseas. (But it’ll cost you a lot.)

So what happens if Sprint and Verizon customers want to take their new iPhone 4S overseas?

Both devices come with a SIM card designed to operate the phone on each carrier’s overseas partners. (For example, Verizon is partnered with Vodafone to provide customers with service outside the U.S.) That SIM card is locked to your carrier.

In Sprint’s case, you have no choice but to use the SIM card they give you, as Sprint confirmed with Ars Technica. You can’t unlock the Sprint iPhone 4S to run on any non-Sprint partner.

Verizon has a better deal. We spoke to a rep who told us customers in “good standing” can unlock their iPhone 4S to work on any international GSM carrier after 60 days. (By “good standing” Verizon means that you pay your bill on time.)

To recap: Verizon will let you unlock your iPhone 4S overseas if you’re a good customer and pay your bills on time. Sprint keeps your iPhone 4S locked.

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