3 Lies That Sprint Employees “Tell” (+ My Success Activating Sprint iPhone on Net10)

Note: Consider reading Part 1 of this ongoing saga here. This is a continuation of that earlier article.

Let me say, at the start, that I currently have, in my hands, an iPhone 4s that originated with Sprint, and it is currently activated on the Net10 carrier and functioning, and the device has never been “jailbroken,” nor has any GPP chip, or any other strange, after-market SIM card, been used or needed. That’s just for sake of clarity and so you can trust that this article is not leading you on any wild goose chase.

Before we ever left Sprint, I called them to talk about options for lowering our monthly bill. We had been excellent Sprint customers for between 9 and 10 years.  I was told that there was no way to lower our bill on their post-paid service, but that by going with their pre-paid service we could get a better deal. However, I was told that our current iPhones (two of them, a 4 and a 4s), which were purchased through Sprint contracts and were fully paid-for and owned by us, would not be accepted on Sprint’s pre-paid service; I was told by the Sprint rep that we would need to buy new phones. Seriously? Furthermore, I was told there was absolutely no way to switch us over from Sprint post-paid to Sprint pre-paid by a phone call to Sprint: the only option was to physically go to a Sprint store.

At that point I pressed until I was permitted to speak to a proclaimed supervisor. He indicated that it was perhaps possible that I might be able to get our current iPhones switched over (unlocked) for use with Sprint’s pre-paid service, but, if so, it would only be by physically going to a Sprint store. I pressed more. He insisted, supporting the earlier rep’s claim that there was absolutely no way to switch us over to pre-paid without physically going to a Sprint store. (While that may be Sprint’s policy decision, it is not because of any genuine technological need to physically go to a store. They could do this over the phone if they wanted to.) I made clear to him that if Sprint did not lower our monthly bill during that current call, I would soon be leaving Sprint by porting our numbers to another carrier. He essentially conveyed, so sorry; no can do; so long.

I then called back (connecting with a different employee, of course) and said I wanted to have my Sprint iPhone 4 and Sprint iPhone 4s unlocked. I was still in service with them at that time, with the account paid up and in good standing. I told the rep that both phones were fully paid for, their contracts were satisfied, and I wanted them unlocked. The rep put me on hold, then eventually came back and verbally gave me an “unlock code” for the iPhone 4.

  • Error/Deception #1:
    “Let us get you that MSL code.”
    For an iPhone, an “unlock code” (also known as an “MSL code”) is worthless. The MSL code cannot be used to unlock an iPhone. According to Apple’s websitethe only way to unlock an iPhone is for the carrier of the device’s origin to send in a request to Apple to unlock the device, which results in a change in a database maintained by Apple. Anyone who knows their stuff knows this. So, is this offer (made to me by multiple Sprint employees) merely an indication of their ignorance? Or is this a less-than-honest tactic? Whether through deceit or ignorance, often Sprint employees seem to think that giving out the MSL code is the thing to do. It usually satisfies the caller and gets them off the line!

Interestingly, after more hold time, the rep told me that he could not get the “unlock code” (MSL code) for my iPhone 4s.  He said it could not be unlocked except for international use on Sprint’s overseas network (which uses a GSM network instead of a CDMA network). The key point here is that when I asked about it being unlocked, while I was still in service with them, I was told no.

Over time, I have been given a litany of so-called “reasons” by various Sprint employees as to why they either could not, or would not, unlock my iPhone 4s. All were either “mistaken” statements or outright lies. I made requests both while I was in service with them (with the contract satisfied and the account paid up and in good standing) and after having left Sprint. Here are a couple of examples:

  • Error/Deception #2:
    “It’s impossible to switch an iPhone to another carrier, due to incompatibility.”
    In the alternate reality where Sprint and its mal-trained employees live, an iPhone that originated with Sprint can only communicate with Sprint’s network, which is a CDMA network, therefore the phone can only work as a Sprint device. They imply that the device’s hardwired frequencies are supposedly unique to Sprint. This is a clever deception. The truth is, other carriers can and do provide service for devices that originated with Sprint, some by the fact that they lease cell tower time from Sprint. Thus, you can do business with other carriers, such as Net10 or Ting, using a device that came from Sprint, and have smartphone service for about half the money you were paying to Sprint. Yet the Sprint employee, reading from a carefully-crafted narrative written either by the devil himself or a lawyer that is a close cousin to the devil, would have you believe that, basically, outside of their network, a Sprint iPhone 4 is good for nothing; an expensive paperweight (it is not large enough or heavy enough to be a doorstop). The way Sprint treats its customers over this causes their devices to be less valuable in the resale market. Regardless, I would never want to resell it to someone (resulting in another Sprint customer), because I would not wish Sprint’s service and policies on my worst enemy! Bottom line: Sprint leaves one with the understanding that the device’s only possible use is via wi-fi as an expensive, makeshift “iPod.” The Sprint iPhone 4 has only a CDMA radio. The 4s is the same regarding its CDMA radio and its frequencies, but different because it has a GSM radio too, which was placed there for overseas use. However, in theory its GSM radio could be used domestically, yet only if one can get it freed up by Sprint.

After porting my numbers away from Sprint, I did some more online research and found claims (for instance, here) of people saying they convinced Sprint to  unlock a 4s. However, disregard all such mentions of Sprint having given out an “unlock code,” as those codes are useless. One post I found spoke of the need to have Sprint remove a “CDMA carrier flag” from the iPhone 4s, and, regarding the GSM radio in the 4s, asking Sprint to send in a request to Apple to unlock the phone. That seems like the valid way to do it, but all my direct requests to Sprint employees for that, have resulted in flat refusals. Some reports have mistakenly indicated that all unlocking has to be done while the phone is still in service with Sprint. That is incorrect. That policy only applies to Sprint unlocking the GSM radio in an iPhone for overseas use on foreign carriers via SIM card. Still, it is noteworthy that I had requested an unlock of my 4s while it was still in service with Sprint, yet I was refused. (Regarding the fact that I later tried some more, calling Sprint again after porting my number out, it also should be noted that a Sprint employee could, if they wanted to, temporarily and remotely reactivate any deactivated Sprint phone that has been unaffected since deactivation. One of their employees had done that for me before in unrelated work.) However, the ultimate answer to that is the policy only applies to requests for Sprint to unlock the GSM radio for overseas use, which has nothing to do with unlocking it for domestic use.

Sprint employees have told me they “have never contacted Apple,” that “it is not something [they] do,” that they “don’t have any way to do that,” and they “don’t have any procedure for doing that,” and finally, the grand poobah of all such lies: one Sprint employee actually told me “it’s against the law” for him to have Apple unlock the device!

  • Error/Deception #3:
    “It’s illegal for us to have Apple unlock the iPhone for you.”
    There is a decent law currently on the books, that, in effect, prevents, say, Carrier B from causing Apple to unlock a device that is still with Carrier A—the device’s carrier of origin. However, nothing in that law prevents Sprint from having Apple unlock a device that originated with Sprint! Yet in the alternate reality in which Sprint and its mal-trained employees live, some employees claim that the law actually prevents Carrier A from unlocking a device that originated with Carrier A. Ludicrous!

On Sunday, February 2, 2014, I spent more time on the phone (and on hold several times) with Sprint, eventually speaking to three different people, of which the first (Chloe) and third (Amanda) were those whose names I could understand well enough to include here.

Previously, a rep named Kimberly had given me what she said was “the direct number for the Tech Team” (855-899-7924). I decided to call that number. Not surprisingly, it did not lead to the Tech Team, but rather to a normal rep, named Chloe. She listened to my explanation and plea, found my account record, validated my identity, and then told me I needed to speak to the Tech Team. She put me through. After some time on hold, someone (ostensibly from the Tech Team) answered. She also (again) listened to my explanation and plea, found my account record, validated my identity, and then told me I needed to speak to the International Team. She put me through. After some more time on hold, someone from the International Team picked up. Her name was Amanda. She also (for my third time in that call) listened to my explanation and plea, found my account record, validated my identity, and then spent some time trying to discern exactly which device in their system I was calling about. She then set about trying to find out when it was purchased.

Based on my research, I had mentioned the FCC chairman’s letter and the subsequent announcement by the major carriers to voluntarily comply, and I had then asked for the “CDMA carrier flag” to be removed from my iPhone 4s, and, regarding its GSM radio, I asked for her to send in a request to Apple to unlock the phone. Amanda flatly told me that she does not ever send in requests to Apple. She said it’s not something they do.

Amanda then stated that if my phone was purchased and shipped on or before November 11, 2011 (easy to remember: 11-11-11) that my phone already had its GSM radio unlocked by the Apple factory before shipment—though only for international use, not for domestic use. Pay attention to that last part. She was not telling me that Apple has my phone listed as unlocked. Apple only has it listed such that an overseas SIM card will work, and that can only happen if I actually have the phone overseas and activate a foreign-bought SIM card for overseas use.

I told Amanda that I had read of other carriers routinely sending unlock requests to Apple to modify the database record of a certain phone [which facilitates what in this industry is called a “factory unlock”] and I indicated that was what I wanted to be done for my iPhone. She indicated that they just don’t do that. I advised her that, based on my reading of the joint announcement by major carriers including hers, her information seemed obsolete. She stated that she “apologized.” She still refused to offer to contact Apple.

After I hung up, I went to the Net10 website and ordered a domestic SIM card and activation kit on the chance that it just might work for this iPhone 4s. (If not, the items would be useful for some other device in the future.) Net10’s limited-time promotion offered free overnight shipping. The SIM card and service activation kit arrived Wednesday, February 5.

Update (as of Thursday, February 6):

Yesterday and today (Feb. 5-6) have been a techno-yoyo, a bit of a roller coaster, regarding cell phone activation efforts and hopes. When the SIM card arrived yesterday, I installed it according the instructions, and I called Net10, a carrier that supports both GSM network access and CDMA network access (basically via cell tower time leased from major carriers such as AT&T, Sprint, etc). Some of my reasoning for going ahead and ordering the SIM card was this: while I’m no mobile-network expert, it seemed that if a SIM card can reprogram the radio, then it can reprogram the radio. I figured that if I was wrong, and I found that the phone is still domestically limited to Sprint-only use (because of a database somewhere, apparently at Apple), then I will continue to pursue having Sprint unlock it. I figured that sooner or later I would need the SIM card anyway. I fully expected to get this 4s working on some GSM carrier (some company other than Sprint) sooner or later—hopefully sooner.

The SIM card was immediately recognized by the iPhone, but the SIM was found to be “not valid.”  I called Net10, and a helpful employee told me that I needed to abandon the GSM approach, and let Net10 use the iPhone’s CDMA radio. She said this would work. It would require an access code that costs $14.99 (with tax and fees it came to $15.89). I used a credit card over the phone and bought that code. She went through the steps to transfer the desired number to the iPhone. We ended the call with certain instructions about what I was to do.

I followed the directions, but the phone never started working, and continued to say “Sprint” in the connection area. I called Net10 back. After I was transferred from one to another, and then another, of Net10’s help staff, one of them finally told me that he thought it would never work, because, he feared, the iPhone had never been unlocked.

By this time it was too late at night to keep bothering with it. I decided to wait until the next day and try to have Net10 switch our number back to the Net10 Android we were using for it.

The next day, Feb. 6, I called Net10 back for the above stated purpose. I wish I had just checked the iPhone. I wish I had just tried to dial a call. Unbeknown to me, it had activated during the night, and it was working! But the night before, the Net10 website had told me the pairing (of the phone number to the phone) was classed as a “fail.” That, combined with the words of the tech support agent who told me it would not work, caused me to give up on it.

I had Net10 switch the number away from the iPhone. As soon as I hung up from doing so, I noticed some text messages had arrived on the iPhone during the night. They seemed to be intended for my wife. (It’s her number that we had moved to the iPhone.) I grew hopeful. I picked up the phone, and dialed my own cell. The call went through, and the caller ID showed my wife’s number as the incoming caller!

I then called Net10 back and asked them to cancel the re-moving of the number. They did not succeed in that, but they were willing to do a re-re-moving of the number! (Is that even a word?) I don’t remember how many Net10 customer service reps I spoke to on this date, but it was somewhere around three to four. I do remember which one finally got it done for me: Kendra. Kudos to you madam!

Important note about the “service update code” supplied by Net10 employees:

All the Net10 employees told me to use the following code to get the service update to happen on the phone:

Dial ##72786# and press the “send” button. — NO GOOD. 

However, that does not do anything of value. I remembered that during my many previous calls to Sprint, one of the reps had told me a service update code as follows:

Dial ##873283# and press the “send” button. — WORKS.

Whenever the former code is used then a call gets placed, and a prerecorded voice tells you that you’re not able to place a call. Whenever the latter code is used, you see this hope-inspiring message:


Honestly, I don’t know whether that service update code helped or was in any way necessary, but if so, then my article would be incomplete without it. So, I am including it here.

Within about 90 minutes of Kendra (of Net10) making the number switch back to the iPhone (and after me repeatedly applying the latter service update code mentioned above), I got the following message on the iPhone in focus:


Notice that in the service area it again states “Sprint” as the network, but the phone is with Net10, for about half the price of Sprint! The mention of Sprint in the service area (upper left corner) is apparently due to the fact that Net10 is leasing cell tower time from Sprint. I’m fine with that.

I should add two important notes:

  • After successful activation of an iPhone on Net10’s “BYOP” (Bring Your Own Phone) option, you need to make another call to them and have them help you do something called “update the APN” so you get full advantage of services on the iPhone.
  • While I was on the phone in the latest call with Net10, Kendra told me that a memo had come through just today, saying that Sprint iPhone 4 and Sprint iPhone 4s devices were compatible with Net10. This was presumably a result of high-level negotiations between Sprint and Net10’s parent company.
  • It seems clear that Sprint can somehow convey to Net10 whether a formerly Sprint device is cleared (contract satisfied, bill paid) and allowed to be used in service with Net10. A full and proper unlocking (a factory unlock from Sprint via Apple) is not needed to use the device with such companies that buy wholesale minutes on Sprint’s towers. A full unlock is still the right thing for Sprint to do, but it is unneeded for use on Ting and Net10, etc.
  • I will now be working to activate my iPhone 4 that also originated with Sprint.

Final update:

I later succeeded in getting our iPhone 4 (note: now both 4s and 4) activated with Net10 also. On both these phones I did not need to bother with convincing Sprint to admit to me that they had contacted Apple. (After many tries, I’m convinced their corporate culture won’t allow it.)  Net10 apparently has an agreement with Sprint that makes it unnecessary, but both phones are now fully functional on a different carrier, for about half the cost of Sprint.

97 thoughts on “3 Lies That Sprint Employees “Tell” (+ My Success Activating Sprint iPhone on Net10)”

    1. If you have a device and you want to find out if it will work on Net10 in your area, just visit their site and click on the “Bring Your Own Phone” (BYOP) link. Or, you can call them. Either way, you will need the phone’s MEID number, which is a type of serial number. You can get that number from the device itself. They have directions and help.

      1. Thank you for this article. I went through a similarly horrific experience that cost me an entire day as well. I, like you, have an iPhone 4S purchased from Sprint, completed my 2 year contract but continued month-to-month with the same plan. Today, I decided to try switching to the no-contract plans offered at Walmarts/Targets… I learned so much. Straight-talk does not work with our phones. I actually unlocked my Sprint phone through Pangu via jailbreaking, which was free, but I fear it was a mistake as I later learned that jailbreaking is a bad idea for iPhones preventing future updates etc… As well, you did not have to unlock your iPhone to obtain service with net10. I also obtained that code: ##72786# for activating my phone, but it failed to recognize it. It was only after reading your article that I was able to activate my phone, now with net10 via Sprint cell towers, by using the latter code you mentioned: ##873283#. You were exactly right. Thank you for saving me another day of frustrating telephone calls Mr. Joseph.

        P.S. I agree, Sprint is evil, greedy, peedy, and the worst! Never again.

  1. I have gone through the same process as you, and the iPhone is still not activated.

    I purchased the network access code, activated with a plan and all was successful on that part.

    On the iPhone 4 I dialed every number I have found and still no change.
    I have tried both ##72786# and ##873283#.

    The last one causes the iPhone 4 to display starting service update but nothing else happens. Sprint is not displayed in the signal area and any calls I attempt send me to a recorded messages that says “your phone is not yet activated.

    Is there any steps I am missing here? I have opened two tickets with Net10 and still nada.

  2. It has been 5 days. I ended up calling them today and having them transfer the account to a BYOP Sim card. Will not be trying to do a Sprint device again! What a headache! Glad you managed to get it to work for you!

  3. Hi, I’m going through the same issue…
    I activated my Sprint iPhone 4 with the network access code and what not, and Net10 tells me that it shows as active in their system, but the phone is still not working. I also had someone from Net10 tell me that it wont work if the phone isn’t unlocked.
    I talked to Sprint (worst life experience) and they told me to call Apple.
    Apple said they didn’t unlock iPhones and they directly redirected me to Sprint. The girl said it was impossible to unlock a sprint iPhone. I asked to be transferred to a supervisor who after I asked to call Apple and ask them to unlock the phone to be used with another carrier, hung up on me.
    What should I do????

    1. If you give it some time, the phone should start working. Remember that my article lists a different “##” reset sequence (other than the one Net10 gives). Try that (see above). If the phone doesn’t start working after 24-48 hours, I don’t know what else to tell you other than to be persistent and hold Sprint’s feet to the fire. I feel your pain! Sprint is being horrible about how they treat people over this.

      1. Thank you! I just spoke to Sprint again and the guy tried to tell me it was illegal, but after I made the argument that it wasn’t illegal for the original company to request unlocking, he told me if the phone is no longer in service, Sprint could have the cdma carrier flag removed but it should be done at a repair center…. Hope he was not just trying to get rid of me… it’s been 3 days.

  4. The Sprint agent who told you “it has to be done at a repair center” was either bold-faced lying to you or simply has NO clue what he is talking about!

    All such flags (“lock” entries or “CDMA Carrier” entries), are stored in a database at Apple! The removal of any such flags requires that a carrier contact Apple to get those database entries changed. (And only the original carrier for the device can do so, in this case, Sprint.)

    Couple of questions: Is your device attempting to use CDMA network access via Net10, or did you try to use a SIM card to enable GSM network access? Was the phone fully paid for at Sprint, and was your account in good standing?

    1. Woow! It is iphone 4 so i can only do cdma… I have an account with sprint but this phone is no longer active with them. It was at one point and i ended my contract and paid everything i had to pay for. At the beginning when i activated the phone with the network access code, it didnt work but still said sprint on the top left corner. Then i did a reset and now it doesnt say anything.

      Btw none of the codes work

  5. My experience was that enabling use of a formerly-Sprint phone on Net10 (assuming the device is qualifying by not having any outstanding balance due or unfulfilled contract) does not require contact between you and Sprint, but rather Net10 takes care of things.

    Your choices are to keep pressing Sprint to contact Apple to unlock, and keep pressing Net10 about the code you purchased for a qualifying device, and it not working. They are supposed to check before selling you to code, and tell you if the device does or does not qualify. If they told you it could be activated, hold their feet to the fire.

    1. Doug, I have an iphone 4s Sprint, I reset the phone but still has Sprint carrier on it, but not in left hand top corner. I was told by sprint I reset it to factory settings, it is not activated it states. Talked to Net 10 and they can’t activate it due to being still under sprint lock. I was given the MSL code. How can I get this phone onto Net 10?

      1. Sorry for delay. Your comment got buried somehow.

        The MSL code is not something that is meaningful on iPhones, but the fact that one was given would seem to indicate Sprint felt the phone was not under any outstanding debt — free to enroll with Net10. If Sprint is telling Net10 something else, then bugging Sprint and praying you get a kind person on their end is about the best I can tell you. Sorry!

  6. One other step that may or may not help: Connect your device to a computer and run iTunes. Updates to the Apple database get communicated to the iPhone through iTunes.

  7. As a former employee of Sprint, terminated for being honest with customers, I have to admit I have been told by many different supervisors and team leads to tell my customers the lies mentioned above. It was only my diligence in comprehension and wanting to resolve the customers issues that led me to honesty with them. It is very true Sprint is training their employees to lie and is firing them for anything else.

    1. Can you help get my iphone 4s activated? It is unlocked but the new sim says invalid sim what code do i need to enter.

      1. Duane: On what basis are you saying it is unlocked? Is your phone from Sprint? Note: “Invalid SIM” is what happened to me when my iPhone (originally from Sprint) was _not_ unlocked, and I tried to use a SIM instead of using the CDMA radio inside it.

  8. You are wrong about Apple having anything to do with unlocking phones – that is another lie that a carrier will tell you. That link you put with that statement even confirms that only your carrier can unlock the phone.

    1. Paula:

      My article is not wrong. Consider two key points in the Apple article:

      First, notice that it says your carrier submits an unlock request [i.e. to Apple] and it can take up to seven days [i.e. for Apple to edit the database on your carrier’s request]. Consider the part in bold, in the following quote from the Apple article:

      Start the process to unlock your iPhone:

      1. See if your carrier offers unlocking. Only your carrier can unlock your iPhone.
      2. Contact your carrier and request an unlock. You might need to meet requirements to qualify for unlocking. After your carrier submits the unlocking request, it may take up to seven days.
      3. After your carrier confirms that your iPhone unlock has been processed, go to the next section.

      Second, notice (in the Apple article) the reference to:

      “If you … see the following message in iTunes.”

      The reason for this is because iTunes is used to convey lock or unlock status. iTunes gets that info directly from communication with the Apple “home base.”

      Let me try to restate this for you. To unlock, you first contact your provider. (The article above stresses this.) If you can get them to unlock the device, doing so (on iDevices) consists of your provider changing an entry in a database maintained at Apple. This consists of transmitting the unlock request to Apple. In certain instances, Apple’s network conveys “unlocked” status to your iPhone through Apple’s iTunes software. Hope this restatement helps you.

  9. Hi Doug, I thought I’d clarify what happened for your iPhone and for others. Your iPhone IS NOT UNLOCKED. It is still locked to the SPRINT network of cell phone towers. Because Net10 resells network coverage they offer service on AT&T, Sprint, or Verizon networks, not universally, but based on your chosen network per account.

    So Net10 set your account to use the CDMA network owned by Sprint, and your phone is locked to Sprint’s network, all is well.

    If your iPhone 4S were truly unlocked, you could pop in a SIM from a different carrier like AT&T and have it work.

    Besides Net10, Ting.com is another reseller of Sprint’s network offering pre-paid service for Sprint-locked phones.

    Hopefully someday the FCC or Congress will get their act together and make it required to FULLY CARRIER UNLOCK handsets after the contract terms (duration or ETF) have been satisfied. Until then I’m stuck with a Sprint-locked iPhone 4S, currently with Ting pre-paid. Same crappy Sprint network, but at least I’m not paying premium Sprint prices.

    1. Erik in TX: Thanks. I’ve been aware for quite some time that such is the case. Thanks for taking time to post this clarification for the benefit of others! The decision by the major carriers to voluntarily comply with the FCC’s request (in order to keep it from becoming an FCC demand) was accompanied by a delay of months (for some of the statements of the agreement) and up to a year (for the rest of the statements). That pledge by the major carriers was made earlier this year, so we’re likely still some time away from any hope of Sprint doing right — if ever. I’m not holding my breath, because Sprint is anti-trust in their practices & private policies.

  10. Hey there. I want to switch over to net10 as well but I am not sure if I am eligible under the sim card or HDMA. I have a sprint iphone 5. Which one would I be using?

    1. Easiest is to use CDMA because Net10 can do that without your phone being unlocked by Sprint (via Apple’s database). Just call Net10 and tell them what you have and they will check it out for you. Be sure you don’t owe any money to Sprint on the account related to that device.

  11. Hi Doug,

    i need some help with a iphone 5c Sprint… i am here in Germany and got some serious problems using this sprint Phone here …

    I could need your help!


    1. Your situation is outside my own country and beyond my expertise. I’m not likely to be able to help, but if you ask a specific question I will do my best to answer.

  12. Wow!! what a great article. Anyways, I Have a sprint Iphone 5s and was on contract for a few months then I decided to terminate it but before that I called customer services and told me about my situation. The representative told me that they will unlock it for me after I pay the ETF =$350, which I did after they billed me. they provided me with a code six digits all zero. I don’t know how to use it or even if was right. call them back since mar 2014 until now and everyone whom I call was telling me something different. I cleared my balance but they still won’t unlock my iphone. talked to sprint supervisor and was really nice, but helped me with nothing and advice me to go to Apple to unlock it for me. I went to Apple today and talked to the manger and he told me it is possible to unlock for me but they won’t do it because it is the policy even though I showed him my last bill of sprint $350. the manager of Apple store was willing to help in anything. ended up saying to me either sprint send us email to unlock your Iphone or sell it at CL.

    Sprint is not good and I am pissed off of their lies and their ignorance. If I would have balance on my account it is their right to hold the phone, but they have no reason to do that except they just won’t unlock the phone for fun. they think it is funny to do that.

    last thing today. when I called to Unlock my Iphone they said I have to go to one of their store near by and they will provide me with the MSL code which I think is another lie to get rid off me.

    Not giving up Sprint I swear to god. You promised me to Unlock and you will do.

    end of story

    I just would like to ask. does sprint email Apple to unlock phones ?

    I want to know that.

    1. Based on the Apple website’s info about unlocking, there is apparently a database at Apple that stores a record for each iPhone, which lists whether a given device is locked to a carrier or not. That database may or may not be edited by Apple employees; they could be providing carriers with online access to that database, or they could have employees editing it in response to requests from carriers. Either way, Apple won’t edit that database without the carrier requesting it. Sprint cares nothing for right and wrong (morally). They only care about cheating customers out of more money, and former customers get burned on that too. Sprint (along with other major carriers) has publicly promised (via press release) to voluntarily comply with a multipoint policy of customers’ rights to have their paid-for device unlocked, in order to keep the FCC from forcing it upon them. However, the voluntarily plan involved requiring up to a year before full compliance was in place. That means, even if they finally start treating people decently, it is not likely to happen until the end of 2014, or early 2015, depending on when they started their “clock” ticking on their year of delay time.

      Once the Apple database record for an iPhone is edited to show that the iPhone is no longer locked to a carrier, the “unlock” gets transmitted to the phone when it touches base with Apple via connection through iTunes. Pay no attention at all to “MSL” unlock codes. That was how all phones prior to iPhones were unlocked, but it matters not at all with iPhones.

      Be aware that a Sprint iPhone can be operated on other carriers without it being unlocked, if the other carrier is leasing air-tower time from Sprint. Some companies that do so include Net10 and Ting Mobile. I hope this helps you understand your options more clearly.

      1. Thanks for all your help… I am really bad with all this technology stuff but I’m still trying to keep my iPhone that was originally with sprint but tired of the prices so as my contract just expired I’m tying to connect it before I give up and get a new phone ( which I really do not want to do). Anyway my question, i went to net 10 online and they give me several different options of SIM cards and I’m not sure which one to get since none of them specify sprint…. Can you help?

        1. Tamara: You do not need a Sim card to use your Sprint phone with Net10. Your best course of action is to call Net10 and they walk with you over the phone to ensure that your device is compatible and to help you get the code that you need to activate on their system. Your Sprint phone would use its CDMA radio, not its GSM radio, so you do not need a Sim card.

  13. Hey Doug,
    Great article. Just wanted to do an update. I have an iPhone 5, from Sprint, and when I went to the “is my phone compatible with Net10” webpage it said it wasn’t. I thought this wasn’t correct, so I called Net10 and once I got the guy, he asked if I had purchased a Sim Card. I said that I just wanted to the use the CDMA network, and not use the sim card approach.
    He then checked my phone and found that it was not compatible with Net10, when I asked why he said that iPhone 5’s with a “removable sim card slot from Sprint, are not compatible with Net10).
    I said that I thought that all iPhone 5’s had removable Sim card slots. He responded that it differed by manufacturer. I told him that all iPhones where made by the same manufacturer (apple).
    He said the same thing again, and after another comment about “sorry he couldn’t help” hung up.
    Is what he was saying true?
    Are there 2 different types of iPhone 5s (one with a built in sim card and one with a sim card not built in)?
    And Is it true that an iPhone 5 with a sim card slot is not usable on the Net10 network?

    Thanks again for the article, really helpful.

    1. With a Sprint iPhone, you won’t be able to use a SIM card for service in America, unless Sprint has sent an unlock request to Apple, which Sprint has always been unwilling to do. Unless you get Sprint to initiate a “factory unlock” of the device via request to Apple, the only way that the Sprint iPhone would work with Net10 is via the phone’s CDMA radio (for which no SIM is needed, as SIM cards are for using the GSM radio) and it would still be using Sprint towers (at about half the price), and would still technically be locked to Sprint. It sounds like the agent you got does not know what’s up. You could try again. If you cannot get Sprint to unlock it (for GSM / SIM), and you cannot get Net10 to activate it using the CDMA radio, then you will be out of luck.

      1. print gave me that 6′ zeros code for free but I live in the Dominican Republic and my 5 s is still locked to sprint. What to do?

          1. Iris: Everything is in the articles I posted here. Depending on what kind of code you’re talking about, it is likely the code is meaningless. Read the article to see what I mean.

  14. I have a Sprint Samsung Galaxy 4. Not able to activate it on Net10. I called to day and was told that because it has a removable sim card I can’t use on Net10. What a joke!

  15. Sprint gave me that 6′ zeros code for free but I live in the Dominican Republic and mi 5 s is still locked to sprint. What to do?

    1. Call Net10. They can tell you fairly quickly if they can activate your iPhone in their system (an option which may be available without the iPhone being unlocked at all).

          1. The people at Ting are very nice people and they had no trouble activating my 4s they are part of sprint I believe because I am still on sprints network, but cost less!!!

          2. Good for you, Duane. Please note: Ting Mobile is not part of Sprint, but they do buy wholesale air-time from other companies, including Sprint. That’s how they can activate a formerly Sprint phone — it’s still connecting via Sprint’s towers.

  16. Thanks for the info Doug. Trying to do the exact same thing with my wife’s out of contract SPRINT iPhone 4S and it is VERY frustrating. Every time I think NET10 will solve it another roadblock pops up. Question: do you still have your old sim card from SPRINT in your phone or the GSM card you bought later?

    1. Hello! My Sprint iPhone 4s is indeed connecting (via Net10) to Sprint’s CDMA network. It is not using GSM or any SIM card. I think the iPhone came from Spirit with a little SIM card in it, which only served to allow for overseas service. I think that card is still in there, but unused. The SIM card I had bought from Net10 is not being used in it at all. Hope this helps!

  17. Hi Doug
    I wanted to ask you this, I have an iPhone 5s currently working with sprint month to month, in order for me to get it activate it with net10 do I have to get and unlock code from sprint ? Do I even need to unlock it at all since I want to use with with net10, and net10 uses the same sprint towers? Or do I just buy an activation code from net10?
    When I go to net10’s website on byop it says that my phone is compatible to use it on their network

    1. Earlier I had heard that iPhone 5 was not yet permitted on their system (only iPhone 4), but now that the new iPhone 6 is out, they may be allowing 5’s to be activated. If that device will indeed work with Net10, you won’t need any unlock code and you would need an activation code from Net10. I would advise calling Net10 and telling them the iPhone’s MEID and let them personally verify if it can be activated, as (if it can) they can sell you the activation code over the phone and set things up for you.

      1. I will call them tomorrow for sure. I didn’t do that today because it was already too late, but thank you for taking the time replying to this post.
        I suppose there should be no problem as their on website says my phone is compatible to activate with net10, my only concern was that if I needed to have my phone unlocked, and you said “no”
        I’m happy with that answer , I honestly dont want to call sprint and deal with them because I know they will eventually tell me they can’t unlock iPhones for domestic use

  18. My under age daughter was allowed to add an iphone 5 to my account even after I had told the rep not to let her charge any phone to my account. After 10 or so calls to get it removed I gave up. Now I have a sprint phone under contract that was used a month…. Wondering if it’s possible to use this phone on Net 10…. Their is no phone number tied to this phone because we moved the number to a Verizon before Sprint could cancel service for non payment. I have a big balance because they will not take the iphone 5 back. I was told I could press criminal charges on the rep that charged it to my account. At any rate I have an new iphone 5 and would like to try to use it on Net 10… Any suggestions?

    1. It does seem that you would have a case for suing Sprint in a small claims court to get the unwanted phone off your record and returned. If you do, and you win, they will probably want and accept the phone back. If you don’t sue, or your suit is unsuccessful, you will still have a phone that they list on an unfulfilled contract. Net10 cannot activate service on a Sprint device unless Sprint shows the device’s contract as having been fulfilled. Either way, it does not look good for getting this device on Net10. One exception might be if a small claims court awarded you the phone and directed Sprint to consider the phone as free-and-clear, not locked, and not showing as under an unfulfilled contract.

      The case for suing is that you cannot be held liable for a contract into which you never entered, and your underage daughter was not authorized to represent you in entering the contract on your behalf. It does not hurt that Sprint had been told so, but even if they had not, they should not have permitted a minor to represent you without first verifying with you that it was authorized. When and if you sue, press them to present your signature on a contract, or a recording of your voice agreeing to the contract.

  19. I was eligible for an upgrade the next day and would have only had to pay $100 and stay in my contract. Instead they gave my daughter a iphone 5 at full price set up on payment plan…, who in there right mind would do that. My daughter gave them the $100 and thought that was all we had to pay. My mistake was not looking at the paperwork until 3 weeks later. Still it wasn’t authorized… I am now in a contract with Verizon. I guess I own a very expensive brick lol
    I wanted to say that several years ago I put my iphone 4 on Net 10 and am still using it today…. You can’t beat the price for unlimited data text talk and internet speed is very good! My daughter’s phone is the only one under contract. Oh and my iphone 4 was still under contract when I switched to Net 10…. No problems 🙂

    1. It absolutely could not hurt to call Net10 and give them the iPhone’s MEID and have them check availability of activation. They will tell you yes or no, and there is no cost for having them check. Only if there is a yes would you be asked to pay an activation fee of around $15. No harm in trying.

  20. Hi Doug. I’m Brian D. I was wondering if it was possible for me to activate my old Sprint iPhone 4s on Net10. I got my iPhone Feb 2012, and I kept it up until about March of this year. I stopped paying the bill because Sprint service really sucked in my area and dropped calls on a regular basis. When I reached out to Sprint they lied telling me they were working on towers in the area. So after about 6 months of the lies I went to another service with a different phone. Now all I have is an iPhone “iPod” because it’s pretty much useless… I did the BYOP and even talked to a Net10 rep, and they told me my phone was indeed compatible and didn’t need a SIM card, but I wasn’t sure since I hadn’t paid the bill… Any insight at all on unpaid contracts switching over???

    1. If yours was a 2-year contract that started in February 2012, that contract would have been completed in February 2014. If you paid up through March, you may indeed have satisfied your contract with them. Any later instance of not paying them should not affect a previously satisfied contract! I can vouch for the fact that a Sprint iPhone 4s can be activated on Net10 without any SIM card.

      The Net10 folks should be able to tell you whether the phone is eligible before you have to pay the $14.95 for the activation code. So, go for it! Please note that compatible and eligible don’t mean the same. Compatible is whether the device will work on their setup. Eligible is whether the device is “free” to do so per prior contract with Sprint, etc.

  21. Hello again,

    I called net10 a few days ago about my Iphone5s sprint network.
    rep told me since my iPhone has the sim card on it they would be unable to activate my cellphone under their network?

    any ideas please let me know because I feel they did not tell me the truth

    1. Since Net10 wants to gain customers, not turn them away, they have no reason to lie in saying your iPhone 5s cannot be activated. If you think a Net10 agent was not knowledgeable or was incorrect, you can always use their online system to check your phone’s MEID for compatibility and eligibility, or call back and get a second opinion from a different Net10 employee. Even if your iPhone 5s contract with Sprint was satisfied, that does not guarantee that it can work on Net10, since Net10 would need to have an agreement with Sprint permitting iPhone 5s models to be utilized in this way. That agreement may or may not exist.

  22. Doug, thank you for this article. I have been a Sprint customer since 2006 and the service was fine until this year.

    I went to a Sprint store last week and my first visit was OK, taking into account they gave me all information I needed. An employee told me it was possible to use my iPhone 4S overseas if I could change the SIM card. I wanted to continue with Sprint, but I am hesitating now because in my second visit, the same employee told me I must get a new phone to change my plan.

    My idea was to continue using Sprint with another Iphone 4S that I could get supposedly because I’m ready to upgrade my cell phone (and I don’t really need all the data the iPhone 6 offers. So I wanted to get another iphone 4S with Sprint, sign the contract with them, but also use the old iPhone for a relative who can use it abroad)….this employee told me they could not do that when he said it was possible at first.

    This employee changed all the information he gave me in my first visit, so I assume he was advised to “lie” to me.

    I will try to follow the steps you said to unlock my iPhone and hopefully to change carriers…

    Thank you,

    1. Natalia: I’m so for the delay in approving your comment. For some unknown reason, the system automatically classed your comment as spam, and I only just now happened to glance through the “spammed” comments and found yours.

      According to Sprint’s own policy, published on their site, if you have an iPhone from them you can call their “international office” and have the GSM unlocked for use overseas. It’s been a while since I read the details, and I cannot remember whether the contract must have been satisfied. Either way yours should be OK for that.

      Please closely read the articles I posted. Based on the experiences of others, and my own experience with Sprint, you seemingly would have zero chance of getting them to unlock a device for US domestic use on another carrier, via GSM. Your options are overseas use with another carrier on GSM, or US domestic use on CDMA radio with companies such as Net10, StraightTalk, or Ting Mobile, all of which buy wholesale talk minutes and data from carriers such as Sprint, AT&T, Verizon, etc, and sell to their customers at prices deeply discounted from regular price. On Net10, we use Sprint devices connecting to Sprint towers for about half what we were paying to Sprint.

  23. Hi Doug just giving you a update,I got the net10 plan working on my sprint iphone4s…it took 30 minutes to do….I am still in shock it actually worked.thanks for the info and your help

  24. I inserted the NeT10 sim and my iPhone 4s (sprint) phone now says sIM not valid….I called net10 but the lady I spoke with was not helpful…what would be my next action step? It went through 2 years of contract and spring unlocked it for international use and I have used it the past year overseas. I just want to use the net10 for a month before I return. If I am reading your post correctly, I need to contact net10 again and see if I am compatible and eligible to for the network access code? Is,that correct? Thanks…I’m still hopeful

    1. Elizabeth: My blog post article explains that the SIM card I purchased was not ever necessary, as Sprint iPhone 4 and 4s can work on Net10 without a SIM card, by use of the CDMA radio (not the GSM radio that SIM cards affect). You seem to be of a correct understanding now. I’m sorry you purchased a SIM card, as it was not ever needed, and I hope my article was not a contributing factor to buying it. The fact that Sprint unlocked your GSM radio for international use never meant your iPhone was unlocked for US domestic use. Sprint simply refuses to unlock their devices’ GSM radios for domestic use. They seem to lie and obfuscate, sometimes even claiming the hardware to operate the GSM radio domestically was not installed at the factory, while we clearly see the GSM hardware is still there, as the GSM radio can work overseas. Even if they are correct that some GSM-needed hardware was not installed, such an act would have been at Sprint’s insistence, and in such an insistence, they created a sub-par iPhone with its insufficiencies not divulged to customers who thought they were buying a normal and fully functional device. If so, it would seem there is grounds for a class action lawsuit against them for this, and I would happily be the first plaintiff.

  25. Doug,

    I’ve read through your stuff twice, but I’m still unclear on if I can get this Sprint iPhone 4s and iPhone 6 and use it on T-Mobile. I’ve called Sprint 3x (4 hours total) and even had them call Apple. Apple said they had nothing to do with it.

    One time, the girl asked Apple to remove the CDMA flag, but Apple said they couldn’t and had no control.

    Basically, Sprint kept saying “they had no way of unlocking the phone.” Apple said the request had to come from Sprint (I think this is the truth) but Sprint said they didn’t do unlocks and had no technology to do so.

    So what has to happen? Sprint has to make a request of Apple to unlock it? And if so, how they heck do they do that? Am I missing something?

    Thanks so much for your help!



    1. Travis: Based on my experience, you will not be able to get Sprint to be honest and unlock your device. My article revealed options to get the device working elsewhere without unlocking, and which cost about half of Sprint’s normal rates. This is because the device would still be connecting to Sprint towers, using wholesale talk minutes and data bought by a large reseller, and provided to you at deep discount. The three resellers I mentioned are Ting, Straight Talk, and Net10. There may be others, but I don’t think T-Mobile is one. Bear in mind that the resellers’ negotiations with Sprint determine which newer devices can function this way. iPhone 6 is probably not going to happen for a while, but you can try.

  26. I purchased a sharp aquos crystal from sprint prepaid, I’m trying to transfer to my straighttalk account. I’m being told my aquos is active with straighttalk_, yet I can’t use internet or receive and make calls. When I try to call out it tells me my phone is not activated yet. I have asked sprint prepaid to unlock my phone with msl code and they tell me they can’t give me the code for 1 full year. Any advice? I’m so frustrated been trying to get this up and going since last Tuesday!!!!! Thanks, Stacey

    1. Based on my understanding of the way StraightTalk and Net10 work (they are both owned by the same company), you should not need an MSL code, nor to unlock the device with one, in order to use with either StraightTalk or Net10. What is needed is that the phone be free of any contract or any owed debt. When you first approach StraightTalk or Net10 with the device, they have ways of making sure the phone is free to make the move. The fact that you are already on with them indicates it passed their checks. My best advice is ignore Sprint (don’t contact them at all) and call your new provider, StraightTalk, and hold their feet to the fire on getting the problems resolved. If the problems cannot be resolved, it means they should never have accepted the device into their system. But since they did, I am confident that given either enough time or enough expertise from them, your device will get to working properly.

    2. How did you get this done? I have the Sharp also, and would like the steps, mainly which card and programming details to get it onto Straighttalk. Thanks in advance, Brian Tucker

      1. Brian: My article was about Apple iPhones. I don’t know anything about Sharp devices. I encourage to contact StraightTalk for details on how to get your device active on their system.

  27. Hello , I recently bought an iPhone 4s locked in Sprint . Am from Greece and plan to use it with Greek carrier.today I contacted Sprint to unlock it And they write me that my phone was never activated in Sprint. Also they wrote me to contact their sales services thrue call to activate phone, and after 90 days of that they can unlock it . Is all this true? Activation includes also contract with Sprint? Will they unlock it later or its all lies to make me pay something? (Is it fair to keep me tided with them but am not even live in the U.S? Thanks for your time

    1. Sounds like you were fed a bunch of “sprint” (aka bologna). Lately, “sprint” has become synonymous with bologna. My advice is to simply go to your preferred carrier and have them to work on activating it. If your carrier is using a SIM card to activate the device, very likely they will have success without needing to bother Sprint with anything. If they are not able to activate the phone, I seriously doubt that you giving a little money or a lot of money to Sprint will ever help, and anyone from Bologna-Sprint who tells you different is simply lying to get you off the phone. When was the phone manufactured?

  28. Did you keep your sprint sim card or did you utilize a different sim card included in the net 10 activation kit?

  29. Hello
    Until last week my iphone 5s locked to sprint won’t work for Net 10 or any other company. even though I tried many times. Anyways, 2 days ago I got my iphone factory unlocked I bought it from ebay. since my phone was clean ESN and no money or bills holding my account with sprint they got it unlocked. I am not sure how they did it, but it worked perfectly. I tried many sim cards and all of them worked.

      1. Bye the way… it is not factory unlocked! it is just internationally unlocked (sim Unlocked)… CDMA is still sprint locked. GSM is unlocked. Like mine… i am in Germany…. But gsm unlocked is fine for me as CDMA is not working in Europe.


        1. It cost me $35.
          My iPhone 5s model is A1453 and this model is designed for both sprint CDMA and GSM global. Maybe CDMA is still locked to sprint but I don’t care since I am using GSM SIM card like att, t-mobile and ting.
          I tried t-mobile, att, and ting SIM card and all work perfect. I even tried overseas SIM card and also worked fine.
          After they unlocked my iPhone I did restore it by iTunes and the congratulation message came up and it showed as factory unlocked.


          1. hi. like mine. i am able to use any sim card. it costs me 39 USD less than 24 hours.

            Have fun with your device and let sprint ruin itself 😀

  30. All this are pretty cool… Unfortunately mine is locked to SPRINT but never registrated.. So even eBay unlock services can’t do nothing 🙁 (am using it with rsim, but no sms and no internet 🙁 ) cheers

  31. O wish I found this article sooner, but the internet is so vast. I have an old Sprint Iphone4 (no sim card slot). I called StraightTalk to inquire about a pay-as-you-Go plan and firstly, whether they could unlock it. I gave them my MEID and they said it was eligible. I offered them that bs MSL Lock # that I previously pried out of Sprint. Sprint was really convincing that I really needed that UnLock code. So go figure, StraightTalk said they didn’t need it. So automatically I realize someone is lying to me. I had to join Straight Talk and buy a plan, over the phone… Sense I was already on the phone with them and they said EVERYTHING was cool, I went with it. It’s been a huge mess ever sense. The phone never activated. I’ve been on the phone with their Tech Support for the past two days, turning my phone on & off and dialing their activation # until I had enough and cancelled “service” and demanded my money be reimbursed. What’s the definition of crazy? So I came across this actual article, and tried with Net10, only to find out BOTH companies are somehow related and I can’t use Net10 because my phone’s serial# is now registered with Straight Talk, even though it was never actually activated. They say it is, but it wasn’t. Companies like to change a definition when it suites them evidently. Soooo… What’s the good word on Ting? Thanx :/

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