The impossibility of switching your Sprint iPhone to T-mobile

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Drew and I are finally getting a real phone.

We have been giving the disclaimer: “ehh…it’s complicated…but we have a wifi phone sort of…” for 3 years now, explaining why we’re not always available, why our text number is different from our phone number, etc.  We used a number of the funky non-traditional phone strategies in this article.

And now we are going to have a real phone with a  T-mobile Simple Choice Plan.  At least, we’re going to test it out.

Well, when we started this journey last week, we encountered a miserable problem.  And while I know this is going to be such a ridiculously specific post that won’t apply to many of you, I just have to do SOMETHING with all the useless things I now know and wish I would have known a week ago about why Sprint iPhones are impossible to use with T-mobile, or any other US network.

Pretty much all of the things I’m going to discuss can be found, (albeit vaguely), in Sprint’s Legal/Regulatory Unlocking page.  But I’m going to retell their story in a more useful and realistic way.

First of all let’s explain the basics:

Unlocking:

To switch your phone’s carrier from the one it was originally made for, you have to “unlock” it.  That’s just the word they use for opening it up for use with a different carrier.  Many phone companies will accommodate unlocking your phone for you, under a few conditions such as a history of on-time payments, full, legal ownership of the phone, etc.

CDMA and GSM:

Not all phones function off of the same technologies.  Really, there are two different radio systems, CDMA and GSM, that a phone can use and some phones are built to use one, some are built to use the other, and some are built primarily for one, but with some abilities that utilize the other.

For instance, the iPhone 4s is a dual-band phone meaning that it supports both CDMA and GSM.

This is important because most of the rest of the world uses GSM, so if you are wanting to use a phone with foreign SIM cards, or with global-plans like the T-mobile Simple Choice, and such things, you will want to research whether or not your phone accommodates GSM technology/wavelengths.

Unlocking for travel: 

Sprint offers two things when it comes to unlocking.  If you have been a good customer with on-time payments and the like, they will unlock your phone for international use so that it can accept an international SIM card.

Otherwise…they will provide an “MSL” or Master Subsidy Lock code which, theoretically, your new, US-based phone company would use to unlock the phone if you are wishing to switch carriers.

What is this MSL code?

Here’s what Sprint says at this link: Sprint Unlocking Policy.  (I’ve put the notable parts in red.)

“I have the MSL code for my device. Does that mean that my device is unlocked?
The MSL code may be used to override operational parameters restricting the device to operating on Sprint’s network; however, the MSL code alone will not enable certain devices to operate on a different carrier’s network. Enabling a device to work on another carrier’s network may necessitate the carrier or party attempting to unlock the device to address the firmware hardcoded into the device at the time the device was manufactured, which in turn requires extensive technological knowledge and skill. Whether another carrier is able to or will unlock a device is subject to that carrier’s policies and practices.”

I STILL have no idea if this code EVER in ANY CIRCUMSTANCE does anything or not.  They say that the code could be used to unlock the phone if someone had “extensive technological knowledge and skill”.  But…no one knows what to do with that MSL code, and in fact…it might just be useless.  Because they also say this: (Again, I’ve put the notable parts in red.)

I have been told that my device is not capable of being unlocked and/or does not have a corresponding MSL code. What can I do?
Many devices that have been manufactured for Sprint simply are not capable of being unlocked, or will not have a corresponding MSL code. For example, Sprint-branded iPhones have been manufactured in a way that prevents them from being unlocked to allow the device to activate on a different carrier’s network in the United States. This is because, prior to the development of the voluntary commitment contained in CTIA’s Consumer Code for Wireless Service (“Unlocking Commitment”) carriers were not required to, and many carriers did not, develop their devices to be capable of being unlocked. Sprint strongly encourages owners of such devices to consider Sprint’s Buyback Program, which may enable them to trade in their old devices to receive an in-store credit toward the purchase of a new device or to receive an account credit. For more information, visit sprint.com/buyback. To help resolve this problem, Sprint has committed to ensure that all of its devices produced after February 11, 2015, are capable of being unlocked.”

And here’s what that really means…

I had to call Sprint quite a few times to figure out what that information effectively meant.

In the case of iPhones, Sprint’s phones are created in such a way that they will only ever accept Sprint’s SIM cards in the US.  If you are in the US, your Sprint iPhone WILL NOT ACCEPT ANOTHER SIM CARD.  As far as I can tell, this has nothing to do with unlocking or locking, has nothing to do with CDMA vs GSM, it simply has to do with the way they’ve built their iPhones.

Now…whether or not the mysterious MSL code has anything to do with how someone with “extensive technological knowledge and skill” would attempt to UNDO the very way the phone was manufactured, I have no idea but practically speaking, the MSL code is absolutely useless and arbitrary in the case of Sprint iPhones.

They themselves say, right there in print that the Sprint-branded iPhones have been manufactured as unlockable phones (when it comes to unlocking for use with another US carrier).

Which, by the way, will be illegal as of February 11, 2015.  Sprint (or anyone else for that matter) will no longer be allowed to make a phone that’s essentially impossible to unlock for use with another carrier because of the “Unlocking Commitment” that will soon be in effect.

 

All of this begs the question, “Why provide an MSL code at all if there is no use for it?”

I confronted a Sprint representative with the question of why Sprint gives out an MSL code at all, if no other carrier will be able to do anything with it.  “So even if I have the MSL code, it won’t work with any US carrier that uses a SIM card.  Well, aren’t pretty much all US carriers going to function with a SIM card?” I asked.

She put me on a brief hold and returned to confirm that there are no US carriers that function without SIM cards.

Me: “So you are telling me that since the SIM card slot will not accept another US SIM card, the MSL code Sprint provides is basically just an arbitrary number that won’t do anything anyway but pacify a customer, in the case of the iPhone?”

Sprint Customer Service: “Yes.”

 

The solution

Ok. Let’s reign this back in to what the heck any of this has to do with switching to T-mobile.

T-mobile tries to make it easy for a person to switch to their service.  Since they offer to cover your early termination fee if you switch to their service mid-contract, you could theoretically just switch on over and use your same phone.  BUT, despite their attempts to make it easy, because of the things discussed in this article it is often not that easy.

For instance switching from Sprint or Verizon are both going to be challenging because of the issue of the CDMA vs GSM frequencies mentioned above.

PLUS, as discussed in this post, Sprint iPhones are currently impossible to switch, so don’t even bother trying to use your existing phone.  Your only option would be to sell or trade the phone for a different one.

In Verizon’s case, iPhones are an option if you do your research to see whether or not your specific phone is GSM compatible AND compatible with those frequencies.  Some Verizon iPhones are, and some aren’t.  So do your research, then have Verizon help you unlock your phone once you’ve confirmed it’s a phone that will accommodate a T-mobile SIM card.

With AT&T and many other phone companies that have embraced GSM technologies, it’s easy as pie.  Have your phone company unlock your phone and you’re good to go.

One more note, there are a few stipulations that come with getting your phone unlocked by your phone company.  This is pretty much true for all of the phone companies.  For instance, you have to legally own the phone, it has to be fully paid off, and you have to have a good history of on-time payments.  This is the case for most of these phone companies.

This is also the reason why you’ll need to buy a phone that’s already unlocked if you’re going to buy a used one online.  Because it is going to rely on the original owner’s relationship with the carrier as well as full ownership of the phone.

 

The thing still haunting me…

The thing that still haunts me is this, taken from Sprint’s legal unlocking page:

“This is because, prior to the development of the voluntary commitment contained in CTIA’s Consumer Code for Wireless Service (“Unlocking Commitment”) carriers were not required to, and many carriers did not, develop their devices to be capable of being unlocked. “

That suggests that Sprint was not the only company creating phones that couldn’t be unlocked.  They’re the only carrier I know of creating unlockable phones…but apparently there are others?  Are they just saying this to not look like the bad guys, or is it true?

If you know of any other carriers that create unlockable phones, please mention them in the comments.

(Update: Please be sure to read the continued conversation in the comments!)

56 Comments on “The impossibility of switching your Sprint iPhone to T-mobile

  1. I’m no expert, but I don’t believe that “dual band” always means that the phone uses CDMA and GSM tech. There are “quad band” phones that only use the 4 main GSM freqs (so…good-to-go for most of the world). I’ve had good luck with an old unlocked GSM phone in the Balkans, however enabling the “local” SIM card in Bosnia, Romania etc. was…fun? Instructions are predictably not in English; good for local calls and emergencies.

    I recently replaced said phone (+ old iPod Touch) with an unlocked Nokia 520 (quad band GSM). Not an iPhone, but WiFi, GPS, camera, Skype, etc. for $100 unlocked. Domestically, AT&T appears to be allowing GoPhone rates for smartphones w/o data. My experience, anyway…

    Please share how this all works out for you guys.

    • Thanks so much for adding your experience. Man this phone stuff really just spins me in circles and after spending so much time on the phone with the Sprint folks…I cannot imagine trying to have those conversations here in the Balkans! (I happen to be in Slovenia right now actually.) Sounds like it mostly went well for you though which is good news.

      I will definitely update as we figure things out. For now we still are just using a few call and text apps on old, smart phones until we sort this out.

    • Dual Band means it can pick up two different bands simultaneously, while Dual Mode means it supports two different technologies ex. CDMA and GSM.

    • If you’re with AT&T, Sprint, T-mobile and other huge phone networks, they can usually provide the code needed to unlock your phone 🙂 I’m not entirely sure if you will need to pay them (probably – but hopefully not! It can also take time). In case you’re not quite ready to do this though, you can try http://unlockyoursim.com I used it before for my phone and I didn’t have any problems.

      • The issue with Sprint was less about getting the code, and more about figuring out what to do with the code.

        Thanks for the resource!

    • Just switched from an iPhone 5c sorint and am using it now on T-Mobile network just fine soooo….

      • Was your phone manufactured or purchased after February 11, 2015? That’s when the law took place to require phones to be manufactured with an ability to accept other carriers’ SIM cards, apparently.

  2. I had an Iphone 5 w/ Sprint and spend a lot of time overseas. After even resorting to buying a fake “cheapie Chinise” smart phone and multiple unsuccessful unlock attempts in South America as well as that MSL code…. I finally just called Sprint and said “please unlock it” and they put me on hold and just did it! I then just literally popped out the sim card and slid one in from Brazil and I use it w/ no problems now!

    • Well, that is the only kind of unlock they’ll do. An unlock for foreign SIM cards. But if you want an International plan that will also work in the US, there is absolutely no unlocking they can/will do for that.

  3. Thanks for this blog and detailed leg work, it has helped me in making a decision to leave sprint no matter what it costs me. I thought i was a valued customer of 15 years, perfect credit history. I just switched plans to the new one which allows you to get the iPhone 6 in payment installments. Big mistake..They offered to give me $325 in store credit for my iPhone 5s. I sent the iPhone 5s to my mother so that she could use it with her Metro PCs network plan. In the store, they confirmed I met the requirements for an “unlock”, but when my mother brought it to Metro, the guy said they will need the mdl code to do it. He even told me about the new FCC law and said to threaten them with lawsuit if they don’t unlock it. I spent hours on the phone with sprint reps and finally went back to the store. I told them that if they don’t unlock it, I’m switching carriers. They told me that the mdl code has reverted back to a 000000 number and this should work to unlock the phone. From all I’ve read online tonight, I feel like this is just going to be another failed attempt. Now, in order to leave them, i’m sure they are going to require me to pay in full for the new iPhone 6, which is fine but I won’t be able to use another network bc of the “unlock”issue”. So now in order to leave sprint, I will be stuck with two iPhones that cannot be used on any other network but sprint..

    • Oh man that sounds like the same round of frustrating calls we were in the middle of! It’s crazy how much conversation had to happen before someone finally admitted that the very way the phone was built made unlocking impossible. GRR! Sorry for your frustration and I hope you’re able to find a solution some how.

  4. Here’s some info for you:

    First of all, forget about the MSL thing. It’s moot. It only applies to CDMA technology and for use on CDMA carriers (which T-Mobile BTW is not) and was only useful back in the day when all CDMA carriers deployed was just CDMA technology. Noways the CDMA carriers deploy a combination of technologie: CDMA and LTE – and so even if you could do something useful with the MSL it wouldn’t matter anyway because it doesn’t help with unlocking the LTE, GSM, or UMTS functions of the phone (T-Mobile and AT&T use GSM, UMTS and LTE, Sprint and Verizon use CDMA and LTE).

    Yes, back in the day Verizon used to lock their phones too. However, when they went to the FCC to purchase new frequencies for their new LTE network back in the mid-2000s they opted to purchase less expensive frequencies to deploy their LTE network on (compared to the frequencies acquired by the other US carriers for their LTE network). One of the reasons that those frequencies were cheaper was because they came with a stipulation that LTE devices sold by those frequencies’ owners could not be locked. Hence, by law, all Verizon phones with LTE capabilities are sold unlocked out of the box (though they may or may not possess support for all the other US carriers’ frequencies).

    Now about that February 11, 2015 thing… Sprint’s policy with respect to unlocking devices for domestic use is that they will unlock devices for customers under certain circumstances as the device was launched by the manufacturer on or after February 11, 2015. Since the iPhone 6 was launched by Apple before that date, it is not likely to ever come under this new policy, even for iPhones sold after that date.

    This policy BTW is not because of some law. Sprint’s commitment to unlocking phones for domestic use is voluntary and is covered under the wireless industry’s trade association’s (aka “the CTIA”) commitment to the FCC for unlocking devices for domestic use which goes into full effect in February. That said, the CTIA pretty much only came up with this policy after the government hinted that if they wouldn’t then at some point in the future a law would be passed that would force them to.

    • Wow that is…a ton of helpful information! How do you know all this?? lol

      • As a long-time Sprint subscriber I too have been frustrated with their equipment policies and as such have gotten to know quite a bit about this topic.

        The situation is such that basically Sprint went to the phone manufacturers and told them, go ahead and put the technology in the phone to support GSM and UMTS (so that their devices can roam internationally) but make it so that those devices cannot pick up signals from any other US carriers. Oh, and don’t worry about coming up with a way to undo this restriction while you’re at it…

        So this is where we are today, with an iPhone 6, which possesses all of the technology and frequencies to fully support all the other US carriers but whose Sprint variant has been crippled by Apple at the request of the carrier. And as far as I know, there is no way to get around this restriction.

        As for the whole MSL mystery you wrote about… years ago it was actually useful to have it but advances in technology have meant that it is no longer of any practical use nowadays when switching carriers (unless you switch to some of Sprint’s MVNOs which use the Sprint network). However, Sprint’s policies are stuck in the past, which is why they still go through the motions of allowing you to request it, even though like I said it nowadays does you no good. Verizon on the other hand, the other CDMA carrier, was forced to change its locking ways due to the legal restrictions related to their unique LTE band that I mentioned before.

        As for AT&T and T-Mobile… these two didn’t present issues since they were always GSM and since they have reciprocal roaming agreements with each other, thus it didn’t make sense for them to request an overall domestic lock from their device manufacturers – since that would prohibit say a T-Mobile phone from roaming on AT&T. (Sprint and Verizon do mutually roam but only using CDMA technology, which is unaffected by Sprint’s domestic restriction since that restriction only applies to the GSM, UMTS, and LTE functions of the phone; neither Sprint nor Verizon roam with T-Mobile or AT&T.)

        The only consolations are that like you mentioned, Sprint will unlock for international use and that finally, in a couple of months now, all of this would be changing and Sprint should become a much more unlock-friendly carrier. Unfortunately, as far as Apple devices are concerned, these new polices will probably only be applicable to the iPhone 6S and later models since their introduction date is after the “magical” February date.

        • Wow this totally falls in line with the feeling I was getting from Sprint. I definitely came to the conclusion that Sprint had made some kind of agreement with Apple so that phones made for them would be made differently and basically unlockable.

          Thanks for adding so much to this post. I do hope others make sure to read this comment as it puts some resolution to it, (even if it’s not the resolution any of us iPhone owners wanted to hear!)

      • I’d be really interested to hear your perspective/insight on this. Care to elaborate?

  5. I didnt read everything you posted so I may have missed it, but…. Up until I got my iphone 5s a year ago I had a Sprint iphone 4s that was unlocked and i was using on AT&T straighttalk, it was great and I could pop any domestic or foreign GSM sim and it would work. All you have to do is jailbreak your phone and order a gevey sim unlocker off ebay. They were like $15 a few years ago probably cheaper now. Hopefully you still have an older version of ios that can still be jailbroken and havent yet installed ios 8. Check out http://www.anbcomponents.com/unlock-cdma-iphone-4s/ i think that is the one i used.

    • Definitely did the jailbreak and went to buy the SIM unlocker but they told us it was about to go through an update and the one we were going to buy would be useless then. Do you have to get a new one every time it updates?

  6. This here is the story of sprint and what they are pulling on there Domestic customer’s. Hope this help’s

    The unlock policy has been on Sprint’s site for years. You make a payment, you have service with Sprint, you agree to the unlock policy. Even if you have never read it.

    Whatever law Obama signed is irrelevant because there are exceptions for devices that cannot be unlocked because there is no technical means to do so. With ALL iPhone models this is the case. Sprint made Apple design the phones so that they could not be physically unlocked. Nowhere in that law is any provision forcing a carrier to unlock a phone of such design.

    You may feel abused by Sprint, and you have a right to feel abused. What you can’t do is sue. You also agreed by form of making your payments to go through arbitration only.

    Re: MSL codes and unlocking. MSL codes are worthles (BTW, the code is 000000). Apple does not use MSL codes and no carrier will touch the phone to unlock it or reprogram it. You have to do that yourself. Since Apple doesn’t use MSL codes this is either evidence of further Sprint CSR stupidity, or the obvious ploy to get you off their back.

    All Sprint has to do is submit your IMEI to Apple’s unlock database and Apple’s iTunes server would issue a new activation policy to your phone (through iTunes) that would unlock it. As you have discovered, SPRINT WILL NOT DO THIS.

    You want out with your phones, your only option is an R-SIM or some other form of SIM interposer. Otherwise, cut your losses, move on, sell the phones and get new phones with the carrier you want to go to.

    There is no unlock. Period. End of story. Sprint WILL NOT DO IT. People keep trying to find a way around this and there is NONE! All they end up doing is putting themselves in a rage and wasting their time and money.

    PS. A lot of customers here seem to think for some stupid reason that threatening Sprint with a lawsuit on the forums will have some MAGICAL effect that forces them to do what the customer wants.

    I have news for those customers. Sprint’s high price lawyers are paid to eat other high priced lawyers as snacks. Your insignificant and irrelevant threats of lawsuits are a joke to Sprint. Unless you have more money than God you are never going to beat Sprint’s lawyers. The only thing you end up doing when you issue threats like this is flagging yourself to Sprint Social Care. Want to feel further ignored and receive zero help? Threaten a lawsuit. Sprint WILL IGNORE YOU!

    This all came from a post on the sprint forum’s you can google it if you wish. The phone’s aren’t made hardware different its all software related. This part here is what sprint needs to do to fix this issue for it’s customer’s but they will not do it.

    “All Sprint has to do is submit your IMEI to Apple’s unlock database and Apple’s iTunes server would issue a new activation policy to your phone (through iTunes) that would unlock it. As you have discovered, SPRINT WILL NOT DO THIS.”

    • LC you are almost right. The MSL code for The iPhone 5s, – 6+ is 00000. However the iPhone 5 and 4s have true MSL codes. The iPhone 5s-6+ can be unlocked via the DSU process. Sprint does not have to submit anything to Apple to get the device unlocked either. Also, please do not call the CSR’s stupid. They are only doing their jobs.

      • Agreed. Even if a corporation is frustrating, the people working for that corporation are just doing their jobs.

  7. LC, that’s not totally true. There a guy on another blog or blog who successfully sued Sprint by himself (representing himself in court). He said Sprint knew they had no case and so they settled out of court. Ok so it was only as about $1000. But corporate are not almighty, even they do have a lot of money and lawyers.
    Also on yet another website I read about a someone who claimed that unlocking internationally will now unlock domestically. Unfortunately the Sprint iPhone 5’s LTE bands and frequencies are not the same that T-mobile employs (not sure about att and vwn) but you should still be able to get non-lte 4G (HPSA) on either the 4S or the 5 with T-mobile. In many areas like mine that can be better than even Sprint’s LTE speeds. Once Sprint worldwide updates me on my request for unlock I will let you know.

  8. I am with sprint and have my old iPhone 4s which has to be the same as the Verizon 4s because Apple sent me a Verizon phone under Apple care which I relized after I restored it and it did not work since my service is sprint and the phone said verizon. I called apple and they reprogrammed the phone to sprint. So if you could flip your phone to Verizon then you could use it on T-Mobile?

    • Wow that’s really interesting…. though my understanding is that Sprint has made an agreement with Apple of some kind to basically make phones that are Sprint-use only. So maybe you can’t go the other way around? It’s all very confusing but that’s definitely an interesting thought. In any case, it would be interesting to find out once and for all what Apple’s response would be to “hey can you reprogram my phone from Sprint to Verizon”?

      But actually now that I think about it…that still wouldn’t produce an unlocked phone. Just a phone programmed for Verizon. But then you’d have to get Verizon to unlock a phone they have no record of being on their plan…

  9. I work for Sprint, the MSL code is useless. Basically you will not be able to unlock a Sprint iPhone 4s or 5 to work on a domestic carrier.

    • THANK YOU so much for stopping by to chime in! Great to hear some affirmation on that.

    • How about iPhone 7 plus from Sprint to will work on a T-Mobile network?

      • Back when I was researching this, the newest iPhones were supposed to be built in a way that remedied this problem. That was just before the release of the iPhone 6. If that information was correct, the iPhone 7 should be fine.

  10. Um… You got a lot of misinformation here. I am currently using an iPhone 4s from Sprint that I have been using on T-Mobile for well over a year and a half now. It’s super easy and Sprint is full of a bunch of lying ass holes. Period.

    • Julie, how were you able to have the iphone work on T-Mobile?

  11. I am trying to get an inactive iPhone 4S unlocked now. There are details on having Sprint do it at http://forums.macrumors.com/threads/sprint-users-read-new-automatic-domestic-unlock-policy-change.1644014/. Basically they need to apply “Unlock Policy 2303” to the iPhone 4S to get it to accept domestic SIM’s. Apparently this will disable its ability to be used with Sprint but does that really matter? Funny thing is my sister has a Verizon iPhone 4S, that for years was claimed to be permanently locked against domestic SIM’s, and now works with AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon. I keep asking myself why anyone would continue to buy Sprint iPhone’s with all the hassles.

    • Hmmm that is very interesting. Ya I’ve pretty much come to the same conclusion you have- just avoid Sprint phones!

  12. This was a very useful and informative article. I recently spent hours on the phone with Sprint, Apple, and Cricket in an attempt to change carrier service from Sprint to Cricket on an Iphone. Sprint provided an MSL unlock code, but neither Cricket nor Apple could do anything about it. When I called Sprint back the CSR’s that I spoke with seemed to be at a loss to help me. They didn’t even seem to understand what an MSL code was and their only answer was to tell us to speak with the new carrier. I wish I had read this article before placing my calls to Sprint. I will never use them again. I understand why the phone was made the way it was, but I can never forgive them for wasting my time and lying to me by giving me a useless code.

    • So frustrating, right??? UGH! I spent SO MUCH TIME on the phone with them. Hope reading this post at least saved you from calling back yet another time.

  13. I’ve been doing a lot of reading about unlocking phones as a part of getting a tablet to use non-native software. Basically, since your Sprint-branded phone works with other networks internationally (all use GSM except for Japan & Australia), then by definition it is not the hardware blocking it from working domestically. This is a software block. Many capabilities and features of cell phones are blocked via software, because either the company does not (want to) offer those features, or it would save the customer money, i.e. cost the company profits. [For example, any WiFi-capable phone can default to making free calls whenever connected to WiFi, but not too many phones offer this.] Unlocking the domestic GSM capabilities of your cell phone requires slightly re-writing the software, i.e. putting in a patch. If that patch is not written by the company or the manufacturer (via contract), then the lawyers can legally say that the unlock can not happen. But why spend an extra hour training CSRs to explain these facts (essentially boiling down to ‘we refuse to do it b/c our company execs are money grubbing bastards’) when it’s easier to train them to say “sorry, we can’t do that.”? If you want to do this yourself, the phone would need to be rooted (gain root access to reprogram s/w) then modified, but I have not found any patch (sorry).

    • That makes a lot of sense. One of the agents told us that he was not allowed to tell us how to unlock it. And when we told that to another agent she said “He was not supposed to say that to you.”
      soooo fishy and weird.

    • I think we tried that too but it ended up being a scam and we got a refund.

  14. I just went through this process with Sprint this week. My phones were bought directly from Apple and I pay full price. My two year contract with Sprint has been over for more than a year. I spoke at length with a senior iOS manager at Apple and he informed me that internal sprint policy has nothing to do with the way that iPhone5’s are made. And since we went to sprint with our paid for phones, he did not understand why they put a carrier lock on them. After going back-and-forth between T-Mobile, Sprint, and Apple, we realized that Sprint was not going to remove the carrier lock. We did put in a complaint with the Better Business Bureau and the FCC. I wish I had known about this situation with Sprint three years ago because I would not have signed up with them.

    • I felt the same way. Wouldn’t have even bothered with Sprint to begin with!

  15. iPhone can be used on any network. Sprint literally will just not allow you to use a phone bought from them on any other network because they know they’re doing so bad that they cannot afford to lose customers. Everytime I would go to the Sprint store I would be told that I couldn’t connect my phone to their network because the phone isn’t compatible with GSM ( Its funny because they were saying this about my Nexus 5 and Nexus 6). I asked to speak to a manager and he said that they couldn’t find my IMEI or IMEID number in the system. So I told him, “I don’t know how you’re going to do it, but you are going to put it in the system”. And sure enough he did. If you are trying to unlock your iPhone for another network then just keep calling. Eventually someone will do it for you.

  16. Sprint phones can be unlocked to work with GSM carriers in the US. It just requires a special type of unlock.

  17. I was part of the galaxy note disaster i had a note 5 form sprint i was with them 20 yrs i finnaly had enough went to tmobil got the not 7 paid off my 5 from sprint and kept it i have 4 lines with tmobil leased, ihad the note 7 took back 2x and i wasnt leasing another phone i hate! So my sprint phone is unlocked and i decided to use it for now till they figure out the whole situation.tmobile store didnt even set up ive called 3x now 2 different tecs gave me input codes i still get no rec without wifi or out of my house im so annoyed and they still expect me to pay i cannt sen pic messages so frustrated!! Any ideas anyone!!!!

    • I’m so sorry but unfortunately, when I was trying to sort this all out for myself, the only conclusion I kept coming back to was that it’s just impossible to fully switch a Sprint phone to anything non-Sprint. Even with an unlock code. 🙁

      • And it still is impossible. I have an iPhone 7, 32GB, model A1660, and it was just unlocked with Sprint (this was such a pain in the a$$ by the way). It will not work with T-Mobile because Sprint is CDMA and T-Mobile is GSM. And yes, the Sprint iPhone 7 takes a SIM card as well. The worst part about all of this is that I switched to T-Mobile because the sales rep assured me that my Sprint iPhone 7 would work on their network. Now I’m stuck purchasing a new iPhone from T-Mobile. Hate Sprint, Hate T-Mobile for not knowing/deceiving customers into switching to their network when their devices are incompatible.

  18. Thanks for the post, i stumbled across it because I was looking for answers…sprint said they have successfully unlocked my LG G5, both domestically and internationally – this from 2 different rep who checked. however the phone just wont take the tmo sim card, kept saying Invalid Simcard. From what I read here, it just wont work…. got to get a different phone and sell this one,.

  19. Phone tech and ethical hacker here.
    Let us clarify something.
    Sprint IMEI’s starting with 99XXXX
    Can get unlocked but due software constrictions they will be unusable anywhere in the US.
    With both CDMA & GSM carriers.
    These devices are what Sprint brands as “International.”
    If unlocked by Sprint or by Apple issuing an unlock order.
    They can and will work anywhere else for both GSM and CDMA internationally.
    These are the so called quad-band devices.
    Now a few years back in the early days of iOS 9.X an activator card allowed you to use these same devices for let’s say T-mobile.
    But only on a specific and hard to come by Sim Card.
    Cant remember the serial. Unfortunately these devices got quickly updated and the exploit thus locked.
    I personally know somebody still on 9.1 who was savy enough to save his SSH blocks and every time apple forces an update into his jailbroken device all she has to do is restore accordingly. And is still using a sprint issued Iphone 6 on iOS 9.1 with said activator card.
    Some people purposely look for these devices for dirt cheap and send them overseas or abroad and make a killing if they are unlocked here.
    Other than that please do not waste your time with Sprint Techs. You will honestly be wasting your breath on them

    • I have an inactive 1st gen moto x which was one of those system type ghost.sprint phones. It not only can still pick up Sprint, but it frequently just jumps between other carriers. The only thing that screwed things up a bit recently was the wifi connection failure issue with constant ! on both its cell and wifi icons, which happened mid April out if nowhere so I assume something to do with those nsa leaks. I went into the engineering settings trying anything to fix wifi failure issue and reset just about every network setting and somehow I managed to delete the phone number, and other interesting things from the SIM. It now frequently says 31000 as a network connection, but the wifi is working again and it still says sprint sometimes or unknown. What on earth is the 31000 network? And I don’t know how but somehow it has gotten new sprint.w.v8 internal files which to my knowledge is something it technically is impossible to be happening but it is lol. I should mention that my activated phone is an s7edge and even that one somehow frequently picks up other carriers. I am pretty sure that neither phone is sim locked though. Edge pst internal chip settings I looked at but didn’t change anything clearly says usim but says unknown error, card lock not happened, and even more interesting the SIM had to be changed months back and it is showing 0 for a sim change that would alert carrier (even though they gave it to me) and a hotswap status of 1. Id be interested in your opinion on all this, definitely not complaining especially since I got some interesting carrier specific perks appear on my phone that’s from another carrier, I get volte calling alot without setting up anything, and I have been talking and surfing simultaneously on sprint for years and just recently discovered they apparently don’t offer that. I know it isn’t because of wifi since until months ago I lived down the block from sprint tower didn’t use wifi for anything had unlimited plans for a long time. That’s crazy to me I think I may have left them a long time ago if I couldn’t talk n surf at the same time. Am I just getting lucky?

  20. Just went and spoke to the store manager at Sprint Braintree, Ma. Steve Medina, he said call customer care and ask for international dept and they would unlock my I phone 6-plus both internationally and domestically. Woman I spoke with said no problem just needed to answer a couple of questions and provide either the MEID or IMEID NUMBER.
    When she went to unlock it she found it was already unlocked for domestic and international because it was bought from Apple Store then used on sprint.
    She was going to unlock it though with no problems.
    Hope this helps

    • Kevin… Sprint International told me the same thing. I then tried both domestic and international SIMs with no luck. Sprint basically just lies to you. F%*k Sprint. No choice cut to sell it on e-Bay and buy a phone for the network I want.

  21. Anyone ever consider that the iphone is your problem.
    I have several Samsung and Htc phones unlocked by sprint and they easily work with other networks.
    Iphones are trash

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