unlocked iPhone 6 works great in the uk.

unlocked iPhone 6 works great in the uk.

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  • December 29, 2014

The short ver­sion: This arti­cle from MacWorld UK is wrong. A US-pur­chased unlocked iPhone 6 works just fine in the UK. (If that’s all you wanted to know, I fig­ured I’d spare you the details. If you want to know more, read on…)

your u.s. iPhone 6 will work fine in the UK: the whole story.

contract-free unlocked iPhone 6First off, you should know: Apple sells a dif­fer­ent ver­sion of the iPhone in the US (and some other parts of North, Central, and South America) than it does else­where in the world. Apple has a snazzy chart explain­ing, but don’t pay too much atten­tion to it. It’s a lit­tle con­fus­ing (if not misleading).

I have an unlocked iPhone 6, model A1549 (GSM). Apple’s a lit­tle cagey about this, since they don’t tech­ni­cally adver­tise it as an “unlocked” phone. Rather, it’s adver­tised as a T‑Mobile “con­tract free” phone. (If you buy the same phone from T‑Mobile, it’ll be locked to their ser­vice. They’ll unlock, I’m told, after you use it on their net­work for 45 days. But if you buy direct from Apple, it’s not locked to any car­rier.) In the U.S., the “con­tract free” (unlocked!) iPhone 6 will work great on T‑Mobile, AT&T, and any other GSM carrier.

[Alternatively, you can buy the Verizon CDMA ver­sion of the iPhone 6. That phone also has abil­ity to work on GSM net­works — since Verizon wants its users to be able to use the phone over­seas — and it even comes “unlocked” for usage on those net­works. But to get that phone, you need to buy the phone from Verizon, which means you’ll be stuck with their net­work (and a two-year con­tract) in the U.S. Of course, if you’re already a Verizon cus­tomer, then no need to buy the full-price con­tract-free T‑Mobile ver­sion. Overseas, you have an unlocked GSM phone, so every­thing that fol­lows applies to you too.]

The non-US ver­sion of the iPhone 6 is designed to work with the wider range of LTE bands, some of which are in use by non-US car­ri­ers. And if you’re going to cer­tain parts of Asia, or you want to use some less-com­mon European car­ri­ers, this is impor­tant. But here’s the kicker: The US iPhone 6 (again, model A1549) does is indeed capa­ble of uti­liz­ing the LTE bands that are uti­lized by the main UK car­ri­ers. That means — con­trary to what the MacWorld UK arti­cle sug­gests, and what Apple is kind of sug­gest­ing on its LTE cov­er­age table — an unlocked US iPhone 6 will work fine, LTE included, with the UK sim card you pick up at Heathrow Airport or at a kiosk in any major British city.

I stopped into a shop at Heathrow Terminal 5. I bought a sim card from British cell car­rier Three that offered a month of unlim­ited data, 3000 texts, and a cou­ple hun­dred min­utes of UK talk time for £30. I popped it into my iPhone, and the guys in the store helped me acti­vate it. I walked out of the ter­mi­nal (UK LTE isn’t quite as ubiq­ui­tous as in the US, so I needed to get out­side get a decent sig­nal), and there it was: a lit­tle “LTE” sym­bol in my iPhone menubar next to the cell sig­nal icon. The iPhone gave me speeds to match.

(I can’t guar­an­tee any­thing. I’m just post­ing my own expe­ri­ence here because I found con­flict­ing infor­ma­tion when I went search­ing for answers before traveling.)