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While I hate Sounding Like a Complete Newb (Unlocked Phone Question)

Discussion in 'US Cellular Forum' started by KheldarLars, May 7, 2008.

  1. KheldarLars

    KheldarLars New Member

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    My Phone:
    Nokia 6256i
    Wireless Provider(s):
    US Cellular
    I was told in attempting to purchase a new cellphone online, I needed to find one enabled for US Cellular and that it needed to have a specific configuration to work on their setup. Unfortunately, when i search for US Cellular on any website, I only get results for 'unlocked phones'. Will these work, despite the salesperson's reiterated statements in the store, or am I screwed and looking at buying a phone straight from USCC? I'm so perplexed...
     
  2. Jay2TheRescue

    Jay2TheRescue Resident Spamslayer
    Super Moderator Senior Member

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    AT&Tingular 310-410
    Since USCC is a CDMA carrier you pretty much need to get a phone from them. Its not like GSM carriers like AT&T or T-Mobile that you can just buy any unlocked phone, insert your SIM card & go.

    -Jay
     
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  3. KheldarLars

    KheldarLars New Member

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    My Phone:
    Nokia 6256i
    Wireless Provider(s):
    US Cellular
    Then why is it every time I search for US Cellular I find unlocked CDMA phones? Is there a place to get them programmed for US Cellular?
     
  4. Telekom

    Telekom Bronze Senior Member
    Senior Member

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    Location:
    Seattle, Washington USA
    My Phone:
    Nokia 5310, iPhone 3G[S]
    Wireless Provider(s):
    T-Mobile US, Fido CA, T-Mobile NL, Orange IL
    Theoretically CDMA phones should be able to be used on any CDMA network. Part of the problem is with the "home" network since networks often refuse to activate service with any device that they have not sold. That means that you could get a phone that someone else on US Cellular had on their service, but you could not say try to activate a CDMA phone that was on the Verizon or Alltel networks. Part of that is that in the activation process you have to register an "ESN" (serial number) to activate where with GSM (AT&T, T-Mobile and others) all you have to do is to take the SIM "smart card" from one phone and put it in another phone provided that the phone is either from that carrier or is "unlocked." GSM carriers commonly lock their phones so only SIMs from that carrier can be used only. If you wish to use it with another carrier's SIM you have to have the "SIM lock" defeated or "unlocked." Since CDMA phones in the US/Canada do not use SIMs and use the ESN to activate a carrier has control over what can be authorized on their network. Some carriers such as Verizon and Sprint have said that they are going to "open" their networks to devices outside of their provided equipment we'll see how that goes.

    Bottom line though is that unless your carrier lets you use equipment other than what they provide you're stuck with using phones from just that carrier.
     
  5. KheldarLars

    KheldarLars New Member

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    My Phone:
    Nokia 6256i
    Wireless Provider(s):
    US Cellular
    Alright, I know the SIM card issue, but.. what you're saying is if I can get a CDMA phone activated with US Cellular's ESN, I can have any phone... But that's if and only if I can get that.

    Otherwise, is it possible to buy a phone US Cellular offers from a different site and get that one activated?
     
  6. Telekom

    Telekom Bronze Senior Member
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    T-Mobile US, Fido CA, T-Mobile NL, Orange IL
    Just so you understand you have to use the ESN of the phone you intend to activate on the network.

    As to where to get phones the most common place likely would be someplace like eBay (734 items at this time under "US Cellular phone") or craigslist. On eBay right now you can get phones as chap as $25 "buy it now."
     
  7. KheldarLars

    KheldarLars New Member

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    My Phone:
    Nokia 6256i
    Wireless Provider(s):
    US Cellular
    Thanks Telekom, I actually finally ended up calling the company technical support. Had to get a supervisor, but I was informed that as long as I get an 'unflashed' unlocked CDMA phone, I should be fine getting it activated. My local US Cellular chapter has never been stocked with a real helpful staff (nice people, just poorly trained), so I was getting the same answer every time I asked, even though it wasn't the answer to my question, hence why I'd given up on using technical support. Wish I had earlier, woulda saved me a lot of confusion. But then again, if I hadn't done the research first, when I was told the phone had to be unflashed I would have been back in the same confusion anyway. :D
    Thank you very much, and I hope this thread helps anyone else in my predicament. I'm going phone shopping! ;)
     
  8. Telekom

    Telekom Bronze Senior Member
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    Location:
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    Nokia 5310, iPhone 3G[S]
    Wireless Provider(s):
    T-Mobile US, Fido CA, T-Mobile NL, Orange IL
    Pardon this, but it sounds like the "techs" that you talked to weren't totally with it either. "Unflashed" doesn't make any sense. You flash a phone to put certain firmware on it. All CDMA phones in order to be programmed on another network require that the "master subsidy lock" be unlocked in order to properly program the handset for another network. Not all handsets have the master subsidy lock. Verizon phones generally do not while Sprint phones do generally.
     
  9. KheldarLars

    KheldarLars New Member

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    My Phone:
    Nokia 6256i
    Wireless Provider(s):
    US Cellular
    ie, unflashed = no firmware from another company to get in the way
    no firmware from another company = good for Kheld
     
  10. tearsonurcheek

    tearsonurcheek Junior Member
    Junior Member

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    Location:
    Oklahoma
    My Phone:
    Motorola RAZR V3m
    Wireless Provider(s):
    U.S. Cellular
    I work for uscc (have for nearly 5 years now), so I'll try to sum up what Telekom has said, and add uscc policy to the mix.

    1) The phone needs to be uscc-branded (i.e. have uscc software)
    2) By policy, if the phone is not a uscc-branded phone, it can't be activated. If the phone was previously used on uscc, is not currently active, and has not been reported lost/stolen, then a simple call to CS will get it activated for you. If the phone has never been on uscc before, you'll have to take it into the store.
    3) With the exception of smartphones (which can only be activated on postpay), any uscc phone that is CDMA and e911-capable can be activated.

    As a mod over on HoFo, I put together this FAQ post, which I'm quoting below, that should be helpful. It contains a complete list of phones that can be currently activated. One thing to be wary of when purchasing off eBay, is listings that show compatible with multiple carriers, especially sellers that are so lazy that they list every carrier in the U.S. Look for items that specifically state they are uscc-branded and/or were recently active on uscc. If the seller will give you an ESN/MEID, uscc CS can confirm whether the phone can be activated.

     

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