A reader, Josh, asks
I bought this phone on craigslist and was wondering if I would be able to use at&t on it? I have an iPhone 5 that says the carrier is TFW 15.5
If your iPhone 5 is the A1429 model, you should be able to use it on the AT&T, T-Mobile, or any prepaid wireless service that uses the AT&T or T-Mobile network such as Straight Talk, Net10 Wireless, H20 Wireless, Simple Mobile, etc.
The model number is printed on the back side of the phone. If your iPhone 5 is the A1429, you will get 4G data using the AT&T network but not 4G LTE. The A1429 is the Verizon GSM/CMDA model iPhone 5. If your carrier is TFW 15.5, the original owner bought this iPhone from directly from Straight Talk or Net10 and it was used on their Verizon-compatible network.
You won’t get 4G LTE with this phone with AT&T because the A1429 only supports LTE on the Verizon network. The phone doesn’t support the radio frequencies, LTE bands 4 and 17, that ATT and T-Mobile use.
4G data service is fast, but 4G LTE is much faster. You’ll need to decide if this is an issue for you. If I were paying AT&T $90-$100 a month to use an iPhone 5 on their network, I personally would not settle for 4G. If I were using this phone with a $40 to $50 a month Straight Talk or Net10 Wireless plan, and I got a really good deal on the phone, I might decide this is good enough. Many smartphonematters readers use the A1429 with Straight Talk’s AT&T-network compatible SIM and are ok with getting 4G service, and not 4G LTE service.
If you want 4G LTE using the AT&T network, get the iPhone 5 A1428. An ATT locked phone will work with ATT or Straight Talk’s ATT compatible network. I recommend getting an unlocked phone, its one less thing to cause a problem when using prepaid.
You can sell the phone you bought on Craig’s List or eBay, and buy a used A1428 model. I am not sure but you might be able to use A1429 with Verizon wireless and you would get 4G LTE. I don’t know if Verizon will activate the phone on their network for you. I think they have a business relationship with Straight Talk that stipulates they don’t activate each others iPhones. You could also use this phone on Straight Talk’s Verizon compatible network but you would only get 3G service. Verizon doesn’t let prepaid wireless companies like Straight Talk use their 4G LTE network yet.
You can find some great deals on used iPhone 5 models listed for sale on Craig’s List. As long as you are comfortable with the Craig’s List buying experience (e.g. meeting strangers face to face). I also tell people to make sure your are buying a model that will work well on your wireless companies network.
I hope this helps. Feel free to let me know if you have any more questions.