Apple is now offering certified refurbished iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus models.
Whether you're a frequent international traveller or just want to be able to switch domestic carriers more easily, carrying an unlocked iPhone offers more flexibility and less hassle than using one locked to a particular carrier. And while many carriers sell iPhones that are locked to their particular network, there are still a number of options for buying unlocked.
So if you're looking to get an iPhone 7 that's unlocked right out of the box, here's how you can do so.
You can now purchase refurbished iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus models directly from Apple. The devices, which are offered in 32GB, 128GB, and 256GB variants, are certified by Apple. Here's Apple's explanation of its certification:
Curious about pricing? Here's what you'll pay!
- iPhone 7 32GB: $499
- iPhone 7 128GB: $589
- iPhone 7 256GB: $679
- iPhone 7 Plus 32GB: $599
- iPhone 7 Plus 128GB: $689
Your most straight-forward option for getting an unlocked iPhone 7 is to buy a SIM-free model directly from Apple, either online or in an Apple Retail Store. The SIM-free model comes unlocked and, because it uses the Qualcomm radio, it''s compatible with all U.S. carriers, CMDA and GSM.
Be prepared though: you'll be paying the full price for your iPhone 7 up front, which starts at $649 for the 32GB model, or $749 for the 128GB model if you're looking to get Space Black, which doesn't come in the lower storage capacity.
iPhone Upgrade Program
Apple's own iPhone Upgrade Program offers customers an unlocked phone no matter which carrier they use. You pay in monthly installments and are eligible for one iPhone upgrade per year after 12 payments. The program also includes the AppleCare+ protection program in its cost.
Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint customers can purchase enroll in the program online, while T-Mobile customers can head to their nearest Apple Store in order to get on the program.
If you buy your iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus through Verizon, that device should be SIM unlocked at the time of purchase. The carrier says that it's policy not to lock their LTE-enabled phones, saying:
So whether you buy your iPhone on a Verizon installment plan or pay for it all up front, you can simply pop out the Verizon SIM card and insert another one. That lets you jump between CDMA and GSM, thanks to the Qualcomm radio inside.
Just remember that if you bought your iPhone from Verizon on an installment plan, then later want to switch to another carrier you'll need to pay off the remaining cost of your phone before you do so.
T-Mobile and AT&T
iPhones sold directly by T-Mobile and AT&T can be unlocked if you follow the right procedures, but there's an important caveat here: while the SIM-free iPhone 7 will work with CDMA carriers (like Verizon and Sprint) and GSM carriers (like AT&T and T-Mobile), thanks to it's Intel radio, the iPhone 7 for T-Mobile and AT&T will only work with other GSM carriers.
So while you're fine if you need to use the phone with AT&T and T-Mobile, or most other GSM carriers around the world, if you decide to move to Verizon or Sprint, you'll need to shell out for a new phone.
If you have any questions about buying an unlocked iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus, be sure to ask us in the comments!
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Joseph Keller is the former Editor in Chief of iMore. An Apple user for almost 20 years, he spends his time learning the ins and outs of iOS and macOS, always finding ways of getting the most out of his iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Mac.