Can You Use Subsidy Locked Phones Across the Different Tracfone Brands

YouTuber, _W_ , asks

Can you use these locked phones on any of TracFone brands, or does each of them have their own subsidy lock?

that is a good question. I decided to answer this comment here on smartphonematters.com, so I can reference it again when someone else asks.

Tracfone owns a number of prepaid wireless brands including Straight Talk, Tracfone, Simple Mobile, Total Wireless, and Net10 Wireless. Each brand sells smartphones that are locked for use with their own service until you meet the terms was conditions of their Unlocking Policy.

The question is can you buy a locked phone from one Tracfone brand and use it with another? For example, buy a phone from Straight Talk and use it with Tracfone?

If you were to ask Tracfone, they would tell you no. In my own experience the answer is “sort of”. There is one last piece of information you need to take into account. Tracfone brands operatore their service using either the AT&T, T-mobile, Verizon, and Sprint towers. Straight Talk and Net 10 offer service on one of those four. Tracfone on Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile. Total Wireless exclusively uses Verizon, and Simple Mobile exclusively uses t-Mobile.

I have bought iPhone’s from Straight Talk, Total Wireless, Simple Mobile, and most recently Tracfone itself. Here is what I have found. SIM cards AT&T, Verizon, an T-Mobile do not work in those iPhones (because the phones are locked!). However, I was able to move the Straight Talk, Simple Mobile, and Total Wireless SIMs between the iPhones and they all worked.

Further, I have tried Tracfone AT&T BYOP SIMS in all the phone and they work Tracfone T-mobile BYOP SIMs did not work, even in the iPhone from Simple Mobile. I suspect a Tracfone Verizon BYOP SIM would work too. However you need to provide the phone’s MEID / IMEI to tracfone to activate their Verizon BYOP SIM and that did not work. The site’s return a message like pending activation on another network or something like that.

Some of my readers claim they have bought iPhones and other phones from Straight Talk and activated them on Tracfone’s Verizon network by calling Tracfone and insisting they activate it but I have never been able to verify that myself. A surprising number of people would buy an iPhone or Samsung from Straight Talk to use with Tracfone because Straight Talk has a better selection of phones and offered a better discount.

When you by a phone from Total Wireless or Straight Talk, they come with a plan card in the box and there used to be a sticker on the back of the box claiming the phone could be activated on either network. The plans cards are not interchangeable. The latest iPhone SE 2020 I bought from Total Wireless came with a plan card in the box. A latest Tracfone iPhone SE 2020 I bought did not, the plan was automatically added at activation time. If I recall the latter was true for a previous iPhone SE I bough from Simple Mobile.

My past experience is not guarantee that you will see the same results in the future. So I’ll add all the usual disclaimers. You mileage may vary. Do not remove tag under penalty of federal law. Objects in mirror may be closer than they appear.

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