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Will My Phone Work on My Network?

BY: Editors | Feb 8, 2018

If you're about to buy a new phone and are wondering "will my phone work on my network?", just consult this compatibility tool. Start by selecting your carrier from the dropdown menu of US and Canadian cellular service providers, then select whether the phone is GSM unlocked, CDMA unlocked, or both, to see if it's compatible. This phone check should work for just about any cell-phone provider you have.

Still have questions? Scroll below to see the answers to FAQ.

FAQ: Cellular Carriers and Compatibility

How they can send information to your phone without using a tethered soup can is confusing enough, but the compatibility of GSM and CDMA data technologies with certain phones can be even more baffling. Use this FAQ to learn the basics of cellular-data standards and find a phone that will work for you.

Q: What's the difference between GSM and CDMA?

A: GSM and CDMA are two different technologies used by cellular carriers to transmit voice and data to and from your phone. While the differences between the two are highly technical, GSM and CDMA carriers all provide the same services: phone plans with high-speed mobile data, voice, and text. The primary feature distinguishing these two technologies is that they're not cross-compatible. If you've a GSM phone, it has to be used with a GSM carrier; same for CDMA phones and carriers. This is why you should do a phone unlocked check before you purchase.

Q: What does "GSM/CDMA Unlocked" mean?

A: If you buy a phone from a carrier, it can only be used with that carrier. AT&T locked phones can only be used on AT&T's network, for example. If you buy an unlocked phone, though, it can be used with any carrier that supports a wireless technology compatible with the phone's. For GSM, that includes carriers such as AT&T and T-Mobile. CDMA carriers include Verizon and Sprint. Click here for a complete list of GSM and CDMA carriers.

Q: Do GSM/CDMA smartphones work internationally?

A: If you have cellular service with a US-based carrier, international service depends on the details of your specific plan. If you're trying to activate service on an unlocked phone outside the US, however, there are GSM and CDMA carriers in most countries that can be used to activate a smartphone — it's just a matter of finding one with a plan that best suits your needs. GSM is overwhelmingly used internationally.

Q: What if my phone is LTE compatible?

A: If you're wondering "will my phone work on my network?" and come across something called "LTE," that might make you even more confused. The newest network in the smartphone world is 4G LTE—the 4G means "4th generation" and LTE stands for "Long Term Evolution." Basically, this is the newest and best mobile-network technology. If your phone is LTE compatible, then contact your carrier if it will work with any 4G networks it might have available.