Buying iPhone 12 or iPhone 12 Pro In the US For Use In Another Country

In this article I want to talk about buying the full priced unlocked SIM-free iPhone 12 or iPhone 12 Pro in row United States for use outside the US or another country.

Every year I create a video about the new unlocked iPhone models in the US for use with prepaid wireless, and every year I get a bunch of questions and comments about buying an unlocked iPhone in the US and for use in another country.

For those of you who don’t know, it turns out that the iPhone is often less expensive in the US than other countries. When you convert iPhone 12’s price in Chinese renminbi or Indian rupee to US dollars it is often more than the price

For example, iPhone 12’s price is RMB 8499 in China, which converts to about $1270 in the US compared to the US starting price of $999. That’s 27% more.

In India, the iPhone 12 Pro starts at or ₹1,19,900 which converts to about $1605 USD compared to the starting price of $999 in the US that is a 61% more.

Ouch.

Before going further, while I bought an iPhone 12 Pro this year. I have not used it in any other country other than the US. And it is impossible for me to tell you with 100 percent certainty what will work in your country with your specific carrier or mobile operator. All that said, for what its worth, here is my advice.

First, I’d say make sure your carrier supports iPhone 12 / 12 Pro in your country. Next, make sure your mobile operator allows Bring Your Own Phone (BYOP).

Next up you should check to see if their are any differences in features between the iPhone 12 model sold in the US compared to the iPhone 12 sold in the country you want to use it.

For example, iPhone 12 Pro in the US is model number A2341 and iPhone 12 Pro sold in China is model number A2408. While both the US and Chinese models support dual SIM, the US model supports 1 nano DSIM and one eSIM while the Chinese model supports two nano SIM cards. Review the tech specs between models to see if there are any other differences.

Now, the main think you want to check between the US model and the model sold in the country you use the phone is that cellular compatibility.

Based on my research, there are 4 different model numbers for the iPhone 12 Pro. And the US model, support all of the 5G and 4G LTE bands used by the other model with the exception for the 4G LTE bands 11 and 21 on the Canadian iPhone 12 Pro.

In general, iPhone is usually mostly compatible with cellular networks in most countries. But if it’s not fully compatible, you may experience worse coverage.

All iPhone 12 models have added 5G cellular support. The models sold in the US support 5G mmwave that is used in the US. These models are specifically for the US, the models for other countries do not support the 5G mmwave. This likely isn’t an issue because your countiry may not use those bands.

What you want to compare is the list of 4G LTE annd 5G bands supported by the iPhone model sold in your country to the ones used by the iPhone models sold in the US. If the phone for your country supports bands that are not supported by the US model than the use iPhone is potentially less compatible in your country if your carrier uses those bands.

Below are some useful links.

You can find the tech specs for the iPhone 12 model you are interested by visiting the Apple website for your country. Click on the iPhone 12 you are interested in and in the top right corner their should be a link to the tech specs, or technical specifications. Scroll down the page to see the model numbers.

Apple also has a page that lists all the model numbers for iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 12, and earlier models.
See Identify Your iPhone Model

Apple also has a page that specifically shows the 4G LTE and 5G bands supported by model and region, See iPhone – Supported 5G and LTE networks

iPhone Carrier Support & Features

4 Comments

  1. Randy | | Reply

    Puerto Rico . . . hmmm. I had no idea they would use the 2296 there.

    Unfortunately, I suspect even if I could order from Puerto Rico, they would not ship to mainland US for the same reason that Apple’s French website or stores won’t ship to the US.

  2. Randy | | Reply

    I spend a lot of time in France each year, other than a Covid year. My French provider is Free.fr. They have two plans that are amazingly cheap. Nothing like it in the US.

    I can use any US version of iPhone SE, and could use an SE 2020 on most of Free.fr’s LTE bands. However, their preferred band (28) is one not available on a US iPhone. I tried to buy a French version of the new SE here in the US. No way, according to Apple. The only way to get the French (European) version is to buy it in France. The SE costs about 20% more in France than in the US. Cannot be ordered from France for shipment to the US, neither from Apple.fr nor from eBay.fr.

    I do have a French original SE that I bought on eBay.fr a few years ago, when I was in France . It works fine in the US, as well as in France. It’s too early to look for used SE 2020 phones on eBay.. They are sold on Amazon.fr but cannot be shipped to the US.

    I know I could ask a French friend to buy one for me and ship it. But then I won’t get the détaxe (sales tax refund). I’ll just keep using my old SE until I can get back to France.

    • Bob Thompson | | Reply

      Interesting. I took a look at this. The US model iPhone SE 2nd Gen is A2275. The French is the A2296. So you’d need to find a way to buy the A2296, and at a price as close to the US price as possible. The A2296 is used in a lot of places, including Puerto Rico which may be the same or closest to the US price.

      Nice to see you back in the comments. Take care.

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