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Risks of an Unlocked, International version smartphone

smitbret

Diamond Member
Jul 27, 2006
3,389
23
81
I am looking to upgrade a couple of phones for the T-Mobile network in the next few days. I haven't bought a phone in over 4 years and I've always bought them from the carrier's store but the prices elsewhere are so much better that I'd rather bring my own device.

So, as I browse, I keep seeing Unlocked International versions like this one:

http://www.amazon.com/Samsung-Galaxy...sung+galaxy+s3

What risks are there in such a device? After a bit of research I discovered that some of them will have different radios (i.e. BB Z10 has 4 different sub-models) and I'm OK with doing the research on those. What about warranty and things like that? Does being unlocked keep you from accessing certain features on a network?

For those that would say "Just get a Nexus 4"..... I already have one on the way and it will be here tomorrow, we just don't want 2 or 3 identical phones in the house cuz what fun is that? Also, knowing us, it would create confusion.

Back when I was heavy into photography there was a lot of noise about international, grey market lenses and cameras that were the same build and less expensive but came with limited warranty coverage and I wondered if this was a similar situation. Any tips or instructions would be awesome.
 
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Uppsala9496

Diamond Member
Nov 2, 2001
5,270
17
81
Wouldn't it be cheaper to just get some different cases for the N4's than to buy an international phone?
Cases can be had for $10/ Saves you over $100 per phone.

Wife and I both went from GN's to N4's. I don't use a case and she does. Have never gotten them confused (especially when unlocking since we have different home screens).
 

poofyhairguy

Lifer
Nov 20, 2005
14,610
316
126
For those that would say "Just get a Nexus 4"..... I already have one on the way and it will be here tomorrow, we just don't want 2 or 3 identical phones in the house cuz what phone is that and knowing us, it would create confusion.
Give her the N4, buy the N5 for yourself.
 

smitbret

Diamond Member
Jul 27, 2006
3,389
23
81
Wouldn't it be cheaper to just get some different cases for the N4's than to buy an international phone?
Cases can be had for $10/ Saves you over $100 per phone.

Wife and I both went from GN's to N4's. I don't use a case and she does. Have never gotten them confused (especially when unlocking since we have different home screens).
Yeah, that's what we've been doing with our Blackberry 9700 and 9780. She had a case for her phone the whole time. I just don't want the bulk on mine. It may be the direction we end up moving but I really want to stay with Blackberry (Z10 or Q10) if I can justify the price. However, the extra $$$ it would cost to move to a Q10 is keeping me from pulling the trigger and I just don't perceive the Q10 to be a $500 phone. There's some Z10s that can be had for low to mid $400 but then I keep thinking I might as well just go the Nexus 4 route if I decide to go all touch screen.

Basically, I've got it narrowed down to one of the following (think the 3rd phone is just gonna be an Optimus F3):

Nexus 4
GSIII
Q10
Z10

Also, what's up with these "mini" phones like the GSIII mini and HTC One mini? They seem very similar to their big bros at 2/3 the price. Are they a good deal for people that don't demand the latest and greatest?
 
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smitbret

Diamond Member
Jul 27, 2006
3,389
23
81
Still, Unlocked, International Version. In layman's terms, what does that mean?
 

evident

Lifer
Apr 5, 2005
11,625
182
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to me it means a phone model not sold in the us thats sold somewhere or everywhere else, for example the galaxy s2 gt-i9100 w/ the exynos proc or the galaxy s4 i9500 w/ exynos. it is unlocked meaning its not tied to any carrier so you can pop a sim in and use it as long as the phone supports the bands your carrier uses.

that gs3 you linked wont support lte for any us carrier i think. do your research as it varies per model number.
 

smitbret

Diamond Member
Jul 27, 2006
3,389
23
81
So the carrier bands are the only things I really have to worry about, then.

Thanks.
 

dawheat

Diamond Member
Sep 14, 2000
3,124
72
91
Who provides updates, assuming you don't load custom roms? If you use it on att or T-Mobile, to use it you may only have to update the apn, but will they then push newer versions? I assume no. So whose updates would be recognized?
 

evident

Lifer
Apr 5, 2005
11,625
182
106
Who provides updates, assuming you don't load custom roms? If you use it on att or T-Mobile, to use it you may only have to update the apn, but will they then push newer versions? I assume no. So whose updates would be recognized?
whatever your model number's updates would be recognized. so international versions tend to get much more support than carrier specific versions as those typically have to wait for updates from the carriers. in some cases, like the GS4, you can flash some international roms onto the carrier specific phones.
 

DLeRium

Lifer
Feb 19, 2001
20,158
20
81
Who provides updates, assuming you don't load custom roms? If you use it on att or T-Mobile, to use it you may only have to update the apn, but will they then push newer versions? I assume no. So whose updates would be recognized?
I haven't done an OTA before, but I know with the GS2 you just connect to your computer and Kies would tell you to update.

My Motorola Milestone was updated through the Motorola utility.
 

cronos

Diamond Member
Nov 7, 2001
9,380
24
91
Who provides updates, assuming you don't load custom roms? If you use it on att or T-Mobile, to use it you may only have to update the apn, but will they then push newer versions? I assume no. So whose updates would be recognized?
You get direct update from the manufacturer. You can also bet that it's going to be months earlier than the carrier's updates.

A great example is the international version of HTC One Developer Edition. It received the 4.2.2 update months ago even if you use it on AT&T in the US, while all US-carrier-based HTC Ones are still on 4.1.2.

Unfortunately this example include a very bad situation as the above doesn't apply to HTC One Developer Edition that was bought on the US website of HTC. These units although are not branded and directly bought from HTC, has not gotten the update yet, presumably because it is following AT&T's update schedule (which at this point is still up in the air).
 
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vshah

Lifer
Sep 20, 2003
18,998
20
81
Who provides updates, assuming you don't load custom roms? If you use it on att or T-Mobile, to use it you may only have to update the apn, but will they then push newer versions? I assume no. So whose updates would be recognized?
international devices are usually updated directly from the manufacturer (samsung/htc etc)
 

dawheat

Diamond Member
Sep 14, 2000
3,124
72
91
Thanks all for the answers - a surprising plus to me (in most cases) since AT&T seems to tack on a couple months after a OEM update.
 

evident

Lifer
Apr 5, 2005
11,625
182
106
international devices are usually updated directly from the manufacturer (samsung/htc etc)

yep. the international S2 originally shipped with gingerbread and samsung supported it all the way up to jellybean.

The only reason why i opted for the TMO S4 was because of the LTE support. none of the international versions had LTE support in the US, but a good thing is since the hardware is almost all the same, roms from the international versions can be used on it.
 

LostPassword

Member
Dec 2, 2007
197
1
81
most international phones don't support tmobile 3g bands. you need pentaband phones.
the only popular pentaband phones out right now are the nexus series.
i believe there are also a couple of sony xperia models that are also pentaband.
also LTE support seems to be a crapshoot.
 

smitbret

Diamond Member
Jul 27, 2006
3,389
23
81
most international phones don't support tmobile 3g bands. you need pentaband phones.
the only popular pentaband phones out right now are the nexus series.
i believe there are also a couple of sony xperia models that are also pentaband.
also LTE support seems to be a crapshoot.
Sorry for being dense. I don't know what pentaband is. From what I read on the specs of the phone I posted, it supports (octoband?):

2G Network GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
3G Network HSDPA 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100
4G Network Region Based

From what I have read, most of the 4G and HSPA+ runs on 2100MHz and sometimes on 1700MHz. Wikipedia says that T-Mobile is moving its HSPA+ to 1900MHz:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T-Mobile_US

The only band that seems to be missing is 1700MHz. You're saying that if I want HSPA+ with T-Mobile, I have to have 1700MHz.

I'm not worried about LTE since it is not available in my area and probably won't be for a few years. The salesman that I spoke with said that they were setting up backhauls on 2 towers in the area for LTE but I live in East Idaho. I heard that same story about regular 3G when I first signed up with T-Mobile in 2007 ("just a couple more months"). We finally got 3G in 2011.

This Z10 seems to fit the description of Quad Band vs. Pentaband:

http://www.amazon.com/BLACKBERRY-Z10-BLACK-FACTORY-UNLOCKED/dp/tech-data/B00BC0WNUC/ref=de_a_smtd

850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 Mhz
No 1700MHz or 2100MHz.

Is that a correct observation?
 
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Trombe

Senior member
Jun 30, 2007
213
2
81
GSM 2G only uses 850, 900, 1800, 1900 and pretty much every GSM phone will have all of them at this point.

GSM 3G only uses 850, 900, 1700, 1900, 2100. If a phone has all five, it's considered a "pentaband" phone. TMo primarily uses 1700 on both 3G and LTE, 1900 3G is something they've been actively converting but right now it's nowhere near as widespread as 1700. Just check out this map for user submitted 1900 3G availability: http://airportal.de/ As you can see it's pretty much only in metropolis areas. FYI 1700 for 3G is pretty much only used in the Americas (Canada and South America included); it's not common at all on any other continents, hence why it's frequently excluded from international phones.

As for that Z10, they're just posting the 2G frequencies which is not really helpful.
 
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DLeRium

Lifer
Feb 19, 2001
20,158
20
81
Sorry for being dense. I don't know what pentaband is. From what I read on the specs of the phone I posted, it supports (octoband?):

2G Network GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
3G Network HSDPA 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100
4G Network Region Based

From what I have read, most of the 4G and HSPA+ runs on 2100MHz and sometimes on 1700MHz. Wikipedia says that T-Mobile is moving its HSPA+ to 1900MHz:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T-Mobile_US

The only band that seems to be missing is 1700MHz. You're saying that if I want HSPA+ with T-Mobile, I have to have 1700MHz.

I'm not worried about LTE since it is not available in my area and probably won't be for a few years. The salesman that I spoke with said that they were setting up backhauls on 2 towers in the area for LTE but I live in East Idaho. I heard that same story about regular 3G when I first signed up with T-Mobile in 2007 ("just a couple more months"). We finally got 3G in 2011.

This Z10 seems to fit the description of Quad Band vs. Pentaband:

http://www.amazon.com/BLACKBERRY-Z10.../ref=de_a_smtd

850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 Mhz
No 1700MHz or 2100MHz.

Is that a correct observation?
1) By Pentaband he meant 3G bands. In general quad band 2G covers the world. Pentaband 3G covers the world. LTE needs 829734x bands or something like that, but I think it's more like 7-8 bands to cover most of the world.

2) Most of HSPA runs on 2100 around the world. 1700 is only used by Fido, Wind and T-Mobile I believe. This is why very few phones make sure to include AWS.

3) The Z10 won't work on T-Mobile 3G.
 

smitbret

Diamond Member
Jul 27, 2006
3,389
23
81
GSM 2G only uses 850, 900, 1800, 1900 and pretty much every GSM phone will have all of them at this point.

GSM 3G only uses 850, 900, 1700, 1900, 2100. If a phone has all five, it's considered a "pentaband" phone. TMo primarily uses 1700 on both 3G and LTE, 1900 3G is something they've been actively converting but right now it's nowhere near as widespread as 1700. Just check out this map for user submitted 1900 3G availability: http://airportal.de/ As you can see it's pretty much only in metropolis areas.
That makes sense. This is great info and definitely moving me away from the Unlocked, International phones. I really appreciate your response to this thread.
 

DLeRium

Lifer
Feb 19, 2001
20,158
20
81
That makes sense. This is great info and definitely moving me away from the Unlocked, International phones. I really appreciate your response to this thread.
Well I think you should still consider unlocked, international phones--just that your options are limited as you can only search for AWS phones. I used to be in that boat when very few 3G phones were quad band. For a non-carrier phone you had to find a tri band 3G 850/1900/2100 phone to work in the US. That meant importing from Canada. I ran with a Motorola Milestone from Telus and a Nexus S from Canada. Worked great on AT&T. Boy was I glad when the Galaxy S2 went to quad band 3G.

Here's a list of what you can get
 

apathy_next2

Member
Jun 15, 2010
166
0
71
My GS2 international version I updated to 4.1 via kies and it locked it. Took me a great deal of aggravation to get it back unlocked. These aren't so 'unlocked' as they are claimed.
 

LostPassword

Member
Dec 2, 2007
197
1
81
well, you can still just get another nexus 4, or wait for the 5 to come out.
at least then you'll be guaranteed android kitkat.
 
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WelshBloke

Lifer
Jan 12, 2005
28,262
5,308
126
My GS2 international version I updated to 4.1 via kies and it locked it. Took me a great deal of aggravation to get it back unlocked. These aren't so 'unlocked' as they are claimed.
Locked to what? Did kies just pick a random carrier to lock you to?

I've updated a few phones through kies and OTA. Locked ones stayed locked (barring some CSC voodoo) and unlocked ones stayed unlocked (unless they were shoddily hacked to be unlocked).
 

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