International travelers: Here is how to SIM unlock your Verizon Apple iPhone 4S

International travelers: Here is how to SIM unlock your Verizon Apple iPhone 4S

Summary: The Apple iPhone 4S is promoted as a world phone, but international travelers should be aware of what that means. I also went through the process and can answer your questions.


One of the promoted specifications on the new Apple iPhone 4S is the "world phone" capability, but it isn't quite the world phone that many international travelers who use GSM phones are used too. Macworld has a good article explaining how "worldly" your new iPhone 4S really is and as you can see it turns out the Verizon iPhone 4S may actually be the best option for international travelers. Given that I am traveling to Nokia World in London in just over a week, I just went through the entire SIM unlock process with Verizon on my new 32GB White iPhone 4S and wanted to explain the process in detail for you.

Options for international usage

There are two ways you can use your new iPhone 4S internationally, (1) roaming directly through your US carrier partner agreements or (2) by using an international/local microSIM card with coverage in the country you are visiting. The easiest, and most expensive, option is to simply call up your carrier and enable the global option on your phone. Sprint and Verizon include global microSIM cards in your phones already so you are set after enabling the service.

I personally have and enjoy using a Truphone Local Anywhere SIM that gives me a local Seattle phone number with excellent international rates. This SIM allows me to travel all over the world with the same number and enjoy competitive rates without having to search around for local SIM cards. I get voice, data, and text with this SIM and can test it before I leave on my trips.

At this time Truphone only has standard SIM cards so I purchased this microSIM cutter from Amazon. Don't worry, it comes with two microSIM to SIM card adapters so you can always use it with other phones with standard SIM card slots. I cut down my Truphone SIM and was ready to go.

Step-by-step to SIM unlock

Here are the steps I took to unlock my Verizon iPhone 4S and test it with my Truphone SIM.

  1. Call up Verizon customer service
  2. Tell them that you wish to perform an "international unlock" so that you can use a "SIM card from an international carrier" and you do NOT want the Verizon global option that uses their own SIM with roaming agreements. They will tell you that you can only perform one SIM unlock once every 10 months and if you haven't done it in the last 10 months you should be good to go.
  3. Verizon will email you an unlock agreement that you must read and then verbally agree too.
  4. The Verizon rep will then have you turn off your iPhone. They will then do some things on their end that takes about 5 minutes.
  5. The rep will then tell you that you need to put your international SIM in your phone and then connect via a computer and iTunes or via WiFi to perform the activation. As you can see in my screenshot, I performed the activation via WiFi and after that you are good to go.
  6. I put in my Truphone SIM and after a couple seconds it roamed to T-Mobile USA and confirmed my SIM card slot was unlocked.

I will be able to fully test and confirm this works outside the US too in just over a week. As Gloria also points out in this ZDNet article, there is some confusion around the Sprint SIM card unlocking capability.

FYI, I tried putting in an AT&T microSIM card and it will not activate in the Verizon iPhone 4S. You need a valid international or international service card like my Truphone SIM to use the SIM card slot.

Topics: Hardware, iPhone, Mobility, Verizon

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  • What do you mean by:

    "They will tell you that you can only perform one SIM unlock once every 10 months" ... ? Does the handset relock itself?
    Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
    • No, they limit how many phones you can unlock

      @Adrian Kingsley-Hughes I understand that if your phone breaks or gets replaced you can get it unlocked, but they don't want people buying and unlocking like crazy just to resell them online. It was my first unlock of a CDMA phone and it was a breeze.
      palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller)
      • RE: International travelers: Here is how to SIM unlock your Verizon Apple iPhone 4S

        @palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller) === How come this picture doesn't match the one at the top of the page?
    • It is similar to Sprint's explanation

      @Adrian Kingsley-Hughes:

      1) when you buy iPhone 4S, it will be unlocked;
      2) but shortly after that autolocked;
      3) if you behave, you may ask to manually unlock it for international travels;
      4) they then (auto?)lock you again once you come back (not sure how soon, though).
      • RE: International travelers: Here is how to SIM unlock your Verizon Apple iPhone 4S


        I've never heard of being able to re-lock a phone after it has been unlocked, every other phone I have seen, SIM unlocks are permanent and cannot be reversed. If they have actually made it so that the iPhone 4S can be re-locked after being unlocked, that is really a jackass move by Apple, Verizon or whoever may be responsible for it.
        Doctor Demento
  • buy a phone in europe, africa or asia...

    only in you have to jump through heaps of hoops to use a piece of hardware as you wish to use it.
    So much for the big freedom!
    • Re: buy a phone in europe, africa or asia...

      @Bradish@... They simply have no concept of actually <B>owning</B> a phone in the US.
  • RE: International travelers: Here is how to SIM unlock your Verizon Apple iPhone 4S

    So if i get my Verizon iPhone unlocked... Technically i should be able to pop in my AT&T or T-Mobile sim and it should work? Or does VZW just unlock the phone for non-us SIMs?
  • RE: International travelers: Here is how to SIM unlock your Verizon Apple iPhone 4S

    The iPhone 4S isn't the king of cell phones, but it's part of the royal family nonetheless. Even without 4G and a giant screen, this phone's smart(ass) voice assistant, Siri, the benefits of iOS 5, and its spectacular camera make it a top choice for anyone ready to upgrade.-<a href="">Dr. Jerry M. Foster</a>
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  • Double checking facts in Verizon store

    The sales-girl was super experienced - 8 years in mobile technologies. Verizon phones are not relocked on return, they stay un-sim-locked. Good standing, is in fact, 60 days into the contract. The trouble is that Verizon have not actually decided yet whether they are going to allow unlocking of the iPhone4S's SIM. No memos from head office yet on the topic.
    Ihatea Teanantea
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  • Truphone beware.

    FYI: I used to use Truphone, until I found out they had been billing me for months after I'd turned off the service via their web site. They claimed unless I could tell them the exact date I turned it off, then there was no way they would refund the fraudulent charges. (I'd not used the SIM in months, and they admitted that.) They make sure to never email you a bill so that you never know they are billing you.
  • RE: International travelers: Here is how to SIM unlock your Verizon Apple iPhone 4S

    Terrific and timely post, Matthew. Being an international man of mystery, Doc does a lot of travelling overseas and is tired of carrying around two different devices. And though your process seems a bit complicated, it???s well worth the effort. Thanks again for letting us know what we???re in for as we take our iPhones across the pond.
    DocuMentor (Doc)
  • RE: International travelers: Here is how to SIM unlock your Verizon Apple iPhone 4S

    Can you use a local SIM card for this? For instance, I am traveling to Australia, would I be able to use one of the local phone networks there? Or do I need to purchase something like Tru SIM? Thanks!
    • International SIM

      Hey I know it's been a while since you posted. But I have the same question now. Can you tell me what you ended up doing?
      I unlocked my phone but now idk what kind of SIM card I need. I'll be going to Australia as well but will also be backpacking around Europe and Asia. I don't want to come home with a huge bill
      Samantha Jimenez