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Thread: Buying devices from prepaid MVNO carriers - advice for and against?

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    Buying devices from prepaid MVNO carriers - advice for and against?

    Many of the mob virtual network operator companies sell devices - basic phones and smartphones - for their services. Some of the mvno's SAY that their devices are sold unlocked. Anybody bought any from such carriers expecting device as unlocked but found problems, either due to not truly being unlocked or other kinds of problems? Is buying a device from an mvno just as good as shopping for and then buying from either the manufacturer, or some place like BestBuy, or from Amazon?


    post-edit: Yes, I know, if you buy a device from Tracfone as an example, the device IS LOCKED. If buy the device from another Tracfone company, it is also probably or most certainly LOCKED.
    Last edited by joseg2016; 12-19-2020 at 01:21 AM.

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    Depends on what carriers your talking about. There are very few that sell them unlocked.

    Straight talk, T-Mobile, metro, uscellular, boost, total wireless , tracfone and so on. Those phones are locked for 6 to 12 months of paid service.


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    Unless you know for sure & recently. Times change & so do policies. Imho it's tricky.
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    I really should have given very specific examples of which carriers I had in mind. The ones which operate mostly or entirely online, like US Mobile, Mint Mobile, Gen Mobile, H2O Wireless. More specific example, US Mobile sells "unlocked" devices. Now, how is all this for my earlier questions?

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    In the last 4 months I have bought 2 unlocked phones directly from Motorola (Moto G Power, Moto G Fast) for AT&T prepaid service. VoLTE worked out of the box on both phones.

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    e.mote in post#5 makes excellent points. Well done.

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    Quote Originally Posted by joseg2016 View Post
    I really should have given very specific examples of which carriers I had in mind. The ones which operate mostly or entirely online, like US Mobile, Mint Mobile, Gen Mobile, H2O Wireless. More specific example, US Mobile sells "unlocked" devices. Now, how is all this for my earlier questions?
    the answer is Maybe, that said i just took a look at US Mobile and can not see any reason to want to buy from them, pricing is not any lower than buy direct from apple, motorola, etc.

    there are sometime great deals with activating new service from the larger carrier owned MVNO's such as cricket, metro and boost but no commonly from the smaller MVNO resellers. theses phone would not initially be unlocked though and you would want to research each handset/deal on a one off basis. they also may not work perfect on all carriers as mentioned above.

    i do think you are trying to over simplify things. i would start with the carrier you need the phone for and than look at the individual deal and see if can work (either out of the box or via an unlock/work around) and take it from there.

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    Follow post #5.

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    I looked at mint mobile and the prices look the same as you might find at best buy.

    So I assume these are the same model of phones sold at places like best buy.

    You might also try to compare model numbers so if the same and you find a good deal at mint mobile then it would be OK.

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    Quote Originally Posted by joseg2016 View Post
    Many of the mob virtual network operator companies sell devices - basic phones and smartphones - for their services.
    I've read some confusing info about Tracfone phones. Last May I bought a year's service/phone from them. The Galaxy a10e. I can unlock it after a year. The confusion is referenced to by some other responses.

    Based on what I've read, this phone is the model that works on Tracfone T-Mobile/ATT/Verizon. However, I don't know how it will work unlocked if I try to take it someplace else. I've seen reports that it isn't actually whitelisted for Verizon directly, even though it does VoLTE on the Verizon network with Tracfone. I'm still in the first year, so haven't tried.

    It isn't on the ATT HD Voice list (the specific submodel). So would it work there? I think I will experiment after month 13. See whether it accepts an active ATT SIM, or whether the online IMEI checkers accept it.
    iPhone 12 Pro is my current primary phone. Not yet signed up for 5G.

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    devices on google fi and visible are unlocked from day 1

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    I put in another posting this morning but now it does not appear. I will say about what I tried to say a few minutes ago.

    The sense I have from the responses is that I should buy an UNLOCKED, GSM + 4G LTE device, Either from the manufacturer, Or from a place like BestBuy. Not good idea to rely on the "unlocked" description of a phone offered from any mvno.

    Briefly, that Verizon was mentioned in some of this topic's responses but Verizon to me is of much much less interest. I want to be certain that I could take SIM card out from one device and put into another device and have cellular service with whatever current carrier on that new device.

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    my understanding has been that iPhone from best buy(and Walmart) are locked to the carrier used if purchased specifically for that carrier and a discount for either an activation or upgrade is given and possible in some cases with no discount. in these situation the phone should be getting tied to a carrier account and that carrier can later unlock. the same inventory of phones should also available unlocked if purchased outright as such.

    if the phone is sold out right as unlocked it should not later lock when a SIM is inserted, the looking should be based on instructions put into the POS and/or carrier activation systems at time of sale. any iPhone sold unlocked and sealed in the box without having an account accessed should be safe.

    it is possible best buy earns a lot more money if the phone is sold via a carrier promotion and locked and so sales reps may be encouraged to avoid selling the devices as unlocked whenever possible via commission structure or otherwise.

    the reason for these phones that can lock to a carrier is the stores can keep a single inventory to sell for whatever service it is needed for while still offering the subsidies.

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    Quote Originally Posted by e.mote View Post
    >

    >Based on what I've read, this phone [Galaxy A10e] is the model that works on Tracfone T-Mobile/ATT/Verizon.

    TF is large enough to have its own phone variants, and therefore large enough to provision them. TF "DL" phones work on all carriers as long as you have TF service; they most likely won't work (have VoLTE) outside of TF service.

    >However, I don't know how it will work unlocked if I try to take it someplace else...I'm still in the first year, so haven't tried.

    You can still find out. T-Mo BYOP IMEI checker will indicate if a phone has VoLTE on T-Mo, regardless of its lock/unlock status.

    http://google.com/search?q=t-mobile+imei+check

    >I think I will experiment after month 13. See whether it accepts an active ATT SIM, or whether the online IMEI checkers accept it.

    AT&T won't require VoLTE until early 2022. An active AT&T SIM should work until then. AFAIK, AT&T IMEI checker has yet to require VoLTE for validation.

    https://forums.macrumors.com/threads...ocked.2154093/
    Thanks. Seems to confirm what I expect. Luckily, the overall price was low enough that it isn't life altering if it really is locked to TF. COVID has changed my plans this year for vacation travel, though so far at least it has been trivial compared to many people. It can be helpful to have a non-iPhone line available for some usages. I'm just going to keep an eye for the $19.99 special that TF has had for a year's service, in which case it doesn't matter too much for the phone on other carriers.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kevink1 View Post
    Thanks. Seems to confirm what I expect. Luckily, the overall price was low enough that it isn't life altering if it really is locked to TF. COVID has changed my plans this year for vacation travel, though so far at least it has been trivial compared to many people. It can be helpful to have a non-iPhone line available for some usages. I'm just going to keep an eye for the $19.99 special that TF has had for a year's service, in which case it doesn't matter too much for the phone on other carriers.
    many samsungs (including a10e t-mobile/metro and nearly all of the recent flagship models) once unlocked can be 'flashed' with the un-branded ROM shipped on factory unlocked devices. this can be done before or after unlocking but may cause difficulty with unlocking so you would generally want to unlock first and than flash the un branded ROM. these ROMs generally gives the best experience on all carriers.

    the last few years have been pretty good as far as hardware be identical between carriers, although new fragmentation is arriving along with varied 5G radio bands and technologies.

    XDA forums are your best friend for details on the flashing process.

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