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Thread: Looking to migrate to a Tracfone-branded iPhone, but I have a lot of questions...

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    Looking to migrate to a Tracfone-branded iPhone, but I have a lot of questions...

    I currently have an older 3G phone on Tracfone's BYOP plan running on the AT&T side of things. Since AT&T has announced they're shutting down 3G over the next two years I need to get a move on and upgrade to something more modern.

    I'm heavily considering getting a Tracfone-branded iPhone SE off Amazon or Walmart or something as they can be had fairly cheap. However I've never used one of their branded smartphones before and I'm suspicious it's not as good a deal as it appears and won't work out for me.

    I'm wondering if anyone can help shed some light on the following issues:



    To what extent does Tracfone screw around with the OS/firmware on a branded iPhone?

    - Do system updates work like normal?

    - Can I flash a stock iOS image onto this via iTunes like any normal iPhone?

    - This phone will likely need to be managed by my company and have MDM profiles and certificates and stuff installed on it, etc, will that work?

    - I have seen rumors/posts that with a branded smartphone, Tracfone will sometimes randomly declare it to be unsupported/incompatible once it stops receiving system updates and you'll have all sorts of problems with customer service (well, more than is normal for Tracfone at least). Has anyone had any experience with that?


    I'll need to unlock this at some point on the sooner side for travel reasons. Tracfone is notorious for being nasty about unlocking.

    - Do they ACTUALLY allow unlocking iPhones or do they still scam people with all sorts of excuses and runaround?

    - It seems that they require a full 365 days of continuous service before they'll unlock. Can I transfer my existing account/SIM over and have that count? Various pages on the net indicate "no" and that I need to activate a brand new SIM, is that true?

    - Whether I transfer or use a new SIM, am I required to purchase a minimum amount of minutes during the year period? Some of these come with quite a lot as part of the package. My existing account currently has more minutes on it than I'll use in a year and the due date is ages from now, so I wouldn't otherwise be buying another card any time soon.


    How does the AT&T/Verizon/T-mo/LTE/GSM/number thing work these days?

    - Would the iPhone likely be locked to Verizon/T-mo's side?

    - Would I be able to switch it back to the AT&T side? (nobody else gets service at my house)

    - If I'm forced to switch, will Tracfone let me keep all my accumulated minutes/texts/data and my phone number, or would they force me to give some/all of those up?



    Basically, there's a bunch of unknown unknowns here and I'm not sure what I'm going to be faced with. Like, can I just pop in my current SIM and go play, or should I buy a new SIM and yearly renewal card for the iPhone and let it sit in a drawer for a year, or what.

  2. #2
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    The bottom line:

    1) None. Everything iOS related works just like the normal retail version.
    2) The new TF iPhone will be SIM slot unlocked after 1 year of continuous use with the SIM card that comes in it. There's no getting around the 1 year usage. Based on what I know, the iPhone WILL be unlocked after 1 year.
    3) You won't lose any service units or days if you switch from Vzw to AT&T. However, I don't know if doing that will affect the 1 year of continuous usage for SIM slot unlocking.

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    If you need your phone SIM slot unlocked for international SIM use before 1 year of continuous usage on TF with the included SIM card, a TF branded phone will not work for you.

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    A Tracfone branded phone will usually come with a Verizon SIM, which it will be locked to. Not sure if they would let you change the carrier at activation...would need a different SIM There may have been versions running on AT&T sold by the other Tracfone companies that could be rebranded to Tracfone. Not sure how you can tell with an iPhone.

    It seems that they require a full 365 days of continuous service before they'll unlock. Can I transfer my existing account/SIM over and have that count? Various pages on the net indicate "no" and that I need to activate a brand new SIM, is that true?
    Yes, unlock is for new branded phones only.

    Not much chance the 3G SIM will work in the SE...different size.

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    Quote Originally Posted by loboheeler View Post
    A Tracfone branded phone will usually come with a Verizon SIM, which it will be locked to. Not sure if they would let you change the carrier at activation
    Ergh, I was afraid of something like that. It used to be that you could tell what carrier the phone was on ahead of time based on the UPC or something, is that still possible?

    Quote Originally Posted by loboheeler View Post
    Not much chance the 3G SIM will work in the SE...different size.
    I had to double check this. My current phone uses the micro-SIM size and I forgot that iPhones use nano-SIM. Bleh. Oh well, the SIM itself isn't important as long as I can keep my units and due date.

    What would people suggest is the best course of action? Should I just throw a card on it and leave it in a drawer for a year? Also, what do you mean the unlock is for branded phones.... that's what I'd be getting, isn't it?

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    Quote Originally Posted by loboheeler View Post
    Not sure if they would let you change the carrier at activation
    I mean, you'd think if the phone supports AT&T and I'm trying to keep using Tracfone on it via my existing account that this would be allowed, but we all know TFs "support"....

    On that note, I try to deal with them as infrequently as humanly possible. Their frontline phone minions are historically worthless about giving valid info. Is there anyone I can contact these days who would actually know the answer to this question? Every time one of their 3rd-tier support emails gets out into the while they kill it, so I dunno if it's worth wading through mountains of old info searching myself.

  7. #7
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    I’m using an iPhone 7 purchased last December, Verizon sim came with it, transferred all buckets easily, phone works great for my personal use.

    Plan to try to get it unlocked at end of the year.

    Your situation is different though - international needs and employer involvement probably negates your buying a TF branded iPhone IMHO.

    Maybe the employer will purchase a phone for the OP ?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Boz1 View Post
    1) None. Everything iOS related works just like the normal retail version.
    It's 100% stock? They don't add any wallpaper or the Tracfone app or anything?

    Quote Originally Posted by trek83 View Post
    I’m using an iPhone 7 purchased last December, Verizon sim came with it, transferred all buckets easily
    Transferred from where? Was your previous phone on AT&T's side like mine?

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    Quote Originally Posted by centum_calicate View Post
    It used to be that you could tell what carrier the phone was on ahead of time based on the UPC or something, is that still possible?
    You can tell the carrier on a TF Android phone from the complete model number on the retail packaging. The iPhones come in Apple packaging and not sure how to tell the carrier other than looking at the SIM card.

    Also, what do you mean the unlock is for branded phones.... that's what I'd be getting, isn't it?
    Yes, a stock phone activated with it's original SIM is a branded phone. If you get it rebranded to change carriers at activation, it may be unlockable later. I was thinking of the possibility of using a BYOP SIM to activate, which would likely remove it from the unlocking program.

    I don't think it's worth using a locked down branded phone for your needs. There is no time crunch with AT&T, so save a little more to get an unlocked phone.

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    Quote Originally Posted by loboheeler View Post
    not sure how to tell the carrier other than looking at the SIM card.
    Well I can always check when I go to the store and see it. What numbers am I looking for?

    Quote Originally Posted by loboheeler View Post
    Yes, a stock phone activated with it's original SIM is a branded phone. If you get it rebranded to change carriers at activation, it may be unlockable later.
    ...ok... but that doesn't really answer my original question. What I'm asking is if I can just transfer my current account over at activation and then still be allowed to unlock the phone after a year, or if I'm required to activate it with a new unique SIM before I can qualify.

    Quote Originally Posted by loboheeler View Post
    I was thinking of the possibility of using a BYOP SIM to activate, which would likely remove it from the unlocking program.
    Hmm. At one point there were two different BYOP LTE SIMs for AT&T and Verizon, is that still the case?

    Quote Originally Posted by loboheeler View Post
    I don't think it's worth using a locked down branded phone for your needs. There is no time crunch with AT&T, so save a little more to get an unlocked phone.
    Well there kinda is, they're already starting to shut down 3G in my area. I really like the idea of the iPhone SE since I prefer the smaller size and the headphone jack. Unfortunately trying to find unlocked SEs that AREN'T from sketchy Chinese eBay sellers is proving extremely difficult. Since I'm already on Tracfone anyway and will be using them for quite a while I feel like just getting a branded iPhone from them isn't that big of a deal as long as I can really truly unlock it after a year and not get the runaround.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by centum_calicate View Post
    It's 100% stock? They don't add any wallpaper or the Tracfone app or anything?


    Transferred from where? Was your previous phone on AT&T's side like mine?
    I transferred from a Verizon BYOP SIM with a hefty balance >> to the Iphone 7 & the Verizon SIM that came with it.
    So no, did not transfer to or from ATT - and..... I too wonder if transferring to an ATT BYOP SIM will mess with the unlocking time frame - which is no big deal if done soon after purchasing the phone....... but does it make it unlockable ? Like you said, no big deal as long as you stay on TF service.
    In my case, I may give the iphone 7 to a family member at some point, so unlocking is reasonably important to me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by centum_calicate View Post
    ......ok... but that doesn't really answer my original question. What I'm asking is if I can just transfer my current account over at activation and then still be allowed to unlock the phone after a year, or if I'm required to activate it with a new unique SIM before I can qualify.
    A Tracfone branded phone will have to be activated with the SIM that came with it. During activation you will be offered the option to transfer your existing phone number and service units. This would not effect the unlock date for the phone.

    Hmm. At one point there were two different BYOP LTE SIMs for AT&T and Verizon, is that still the case?
    Yes.

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    Quote Originally Posted by centum_calicate View Post
    Well I can always check when I go to the store and see it. What numbers am I looking for?
    Model number will look like this example for an iPhone 6s: TFAPI6SC32GY3PWPET3. The "TF" is for Tracfone,and it will be something else for the sister companies (ST, NT, etc.). The "3P" is for Verizon. P4 is AT&T and P5 is T-Mobile. This is on the retail packaging for Android models, but not sure for an iPhone.

    Where are you seeing Tracfone branded iPhone SEs for sale? I only see them on eBay.

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    Quote Originally Posted by centum_calicate View Post

    Well there kinda is, they're already starting to shut down 3G in my area.
    Who is starting to shut down 3G in your area...Verizon or AT&T? How do you know this?

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    Quote Originally Posted by loboheeler View Post
    The "3P" is for Verizon. P4 is AT&T and P5 is T-Mobile. This is on the retail packaging for Android models, but not sure for an iPhone.
    OK, thanks. I'll have to see if there's anything like that when I go in.

    Quote Originally Posted by loboheeler View Post
    Where are you seeing Tracfone branded iPhone SEs for sale? I only see them on eBay.
    Amazon and Walmart still sell them, as does Target. Not a lot of selection on size and color though.

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