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Making Your Phone Work With Your Carrier

Navigating the world of mobile carriers and phone compatibility can be a challenge. This guide aims to help you understand the dynamics between phone carriers, locked and unlocked phones, and how to activate your phone with your carrier.

Updated: July 29th, 2023

Making Your Phone Work With Your Carrier

US Service Providers: A Closer Look

In the US, the telecommunications landscape is primarily dominated by three major carriers – AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile. They’re known as Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) as they own and operate their wireless network infrastructure.

Other carriers like Mint, Straight Talk, US Mobile, and others are known as Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs). Unlike MNOs, MVNOs don’t own any network infrastructure. Instead, they “rent space” from the major carriers to provide their services.

Despite their lack of infrastructure, MVNOs offer some considerable benefits, such as budget-friendly plans and less complex contracts. However, they might have restrictions on data usage and coverage areas. Want to know which major network your MVNO carrier uses?

To discern the network that your MVNO carrier utilizes, see here.

Boost MobileT-Mobile
Consumer CellularT-Mobile, AT&T
CREDO MobileVerizon
Gen MobileT-Mobile 
Good2Go MobileAT&T
Google FiT-Mobile, U.S. Cellular
H2O WirelessAT&T
I3 MobileAT&T
Metro by T-MobileT-Mobile
Mint MobileT-Mobile
Net10T-Mobile, Verizon, AT&T
Page PlusVerizon
Pix Wireless T-Mobile, AT&T
Pure TalkUSAAT&T
Reach MobileVerizon, AT&T
Red PocketT-Mobile, Verizon, AT&T
Republic WirelessT-Mobile
Rok MobileAT&T
Simple MobileT-Mobile
Spectrum MobileVerizon
Straight TalkT-Mobile, Verizon, AT&T
Text NowT-Mobile
Total WirelessVerizon
TracFoneT-Mobile, Verizon, AT&T 
The People's Operator (TPO)T-Mobile
U.S. CellularU.S. Cellular
Ultra MobileT-Mobile
US MobileT-Mobile, Verizon
Virgin MobileT-Mobile
Wing MobileT-Mobile, AT&T
Xfinity MobileVerizon

Locked vs Unlocked Phones: What’s the Difference?

When buying a phone, particularly a refurbished one, you might encounter the terms “locked” and “unlocked”. But what do they mean?

Unlocked phones can be used with any carrier, providing flexibility and freedom. On the other hand, locked phones are tied to a specific carrier, limiting their use to that provider’s network only.

Devices associated with a specific carrier might function with others, but it may not deliver the best service.

While unlocked phones give you the advantage of flexibility, using a locked phone with the intended carrier can often provide a more optimized service. You can easily check if a phone on Gophermods is locked or unlocked on the product’s “Technical specifications” section.

If You Already Have a Mobile Plan/Carrier

If you’re already tied to a mobile plan or carrier, we recommend filtering phone listings by carrier compatibility. You can do this by selecting the “Carrier compatibility” filter and choosing between locked or unlocked phones.

Remember, if you’re already with a carrier, buying a locked phone could save you some money.

If You Don’t Have a Mobile Plan/Carrier

No worries if you’re new to mobile plans or carriers. When choosing a phone, simply check the listing’s carrier compatibility. The product page will clearly indicate if the phone is unlocked (works with all carriers) or locked (works with specific carriers).

Activating Your Phone: A Step-By-Step Guide

Here’s a quick guide to help you connect your new phone to your chosen carrier:

Step 1: Locate your phone’s IMEI number. The IMEI is a unique identifier for every cellphone. Here’s how to find it:

  • iPhone: “Settings” > “General” > “About”
  • Android: “Settings” > “About Device” > “Status”
  • All phones: Dial #06# and press call

Step 2: Visit your carrier’s Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) page and enter your IMEI number. This step ensures that your device is compatible with your chosen carrier. Below are links to the BYOD pages of some major carriers: