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Tuesday, October 23, 2018

How to Order an Unlocked iPhone XR

The iPhone XR pre-orders started last night, but unlike the XS, there isn’t an option to “Buy without a carrier.” Good news: you can still get your iPhone unlocked. Here’s how.

First Off, What is an “Unlocked” Phone?

This topic can get a little bit complex, so I’m going to hit you with the quick and dirty here: “Unlocked” means that it’s free to use on any carrier you want. So if you’re currently on Verizon and decide to switch to AT&T, you can take your phone with you as long as it’s unlocked.

That’s an overly-simplistic explanation of what an unlocked phone is because with iPhones it can get a bit more complicated than that. But here’s the gist: there are two different types of networks—GSM (AT&T/T-Mobile) and CDMA (Verizon/Sprint)—and not all iPhones are compatible with both types.

  • The Verizon and Sprint versions have both types of chips, so they will work on any carrier.
  • The AT&T and T-Mobile versions only support GSM, so you can’t use them on Sprint or Verizon.

Note: This only applies to non-LTE connections. All iPhones support Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T, and Sprint LTE bands.

This is something you’ll keep in mind when buying your new phone—if you’re on a carrier that isn’t one of the big four, you’ll need to know if it uses CDMA or GSM.

How to Get an Unlocked iPhone XR

If you’ve bought an iPhone in the past (or if you look at the XS page), then you’ve seen the “Buy without a carrier” option, which is surprisingly missing from the XR’s buy page.

Just because there’s no specific “Buy without a carrier” option, however, doesn’t mean you’re stuck with the four options presented during checkout. All these options are unlocked—as long as you pay for them in full. That’s the key: if you finance the phone, it’s locked to the carrier. If you pay in full, it’s yours.

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