Can one unlock the Samsung Galaxy S4's SIM? If not, a different phone?

I'm about to sign up with Ting, and I'd like to get the Galaxy S4.  However, there's a good chance that I'll spend time in Europe, and  while there I'll want to use a SIM I buy there.  

 

Evidently, the S4 that Ting sells comes with locked SIM (see, for instance, https://help.ting.com/entries/24127622-World-phone-aka-phone-with-GSM-and-accessible-sim-card-slot- ).   That thread suggests that I buy a Motorola Photon from Ting -- unfortunately, it appears Ting no longer sells these.

 

But many phones sold locked can be unlocked.  Is this true of the S4?  Does anyone know of a world phone with unlockable SIM?

 

To ask a question that probably displays a great deal of ignorance: once you root an android phone, does that allow you to unlock the SIM?

 

Thanks!

Clifton

 

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27 comments
  • Hi Clifton, currently we don't have the capability to unlock the SIM card in the Samsung Galaxy S4. In terms of a Ting Motorola Photon, you can always try your luck with our buy and sell forum -> https://help.ting.com/forums/21098408-Buy-Sell

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  • Thanks Brennan!  I hadn't noticed the buy and sell forum.

     

    But the question remains.  I realize that Ting is not allowed to unlock the Galaxy S4.  But does this mean that I won't be able to do it myself?  Yes, I realize that this wouldn't be officially sanctioned by Ting, and that if I do it in the US instead of waiting until I get to Europe it may also be illegal.  After some research, it seems one can root the Galaxy S4.  Perhaps that allows me to unlock the SIM card as well?

     

    Does anyone have any experience with this?  Or with successfully unlocking (officially or otherwise) other android phones?

     

    Thanks,

    Clifton

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  • Hi Clifton, you won't be able to perform the unlock yourself. There are hard-coded settings built into the device and the network architecture, but our hacker army has proven quite resourceful before. I'll leave this post in their hands.

    I should also note that assuming you are able to break the SIM lock, it is conceivable that Sprint®* could catch it and shut down services to the phone.

    *Sprint is a trademark of Sprint.

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  • Great question, actually! I contacted Ting Support with just this question prior to signing up and purchasing an S4. I was assured by Lisa that an over-the-air (OTA) profile update would be pushed to Ting owners of the HTC One and Galaxy S4 sometime in the near future that would unlock the GSM radios and SIM card slot for international use. Domestic use (e.g. AT&T, T-Mobile) will continue to be officially unsupported, although there are sporadic reports of Sprint customers getting SIMs from those domestic carriers to work once they get the update from Sprint's International Department (but no guarantees on that front).

    I should note that the One and S4 cannot be unlocked with an "unlock code" as is usually possible with most global phones from other carriers or older Sprint phones like the Photon because there is no place to enter such a code into the phone once presented with the "SimLock Enabled" message. This is why such a network-side update is required from Sprint. So do not bother getting such a code from one of the many websites out there that will sell it to you, as there is no way as of yet to use it.

    Rooting in and of itself will not unlock the SIM slot, but it is possible that a community workaround will call for a rooted device for their method to work. However, for the time being, if this is the only reason you'd want to root your phone I would hold off on doing so until a working solution has been released to the internetz by some third party developers (such as the good folks as XDA) and confirmed to work.

    Hopefully Ting has requested from Sprint this unlock (at least for international GSM use) for their customers, and Sprint is busy on arranging that. Sprint themselves did not figure out how to unlock these devices until a couple of weeks ago (after a few confusing weeks of giving customers unlock instructions for the iPhone or simply pushing a PRL update to enable international roaming, and claiming the phones were unlocked when they really were not), so it's possible there's still some logistics being worked out on Sprint's end behind the scenes. Hopefully Ting will get this update soon and will unlock for both domestic and international GSM carriers so that such a third party "hack" is not called for.

    I for one will be very upset if Ting has changed their mind and will *not* be pushing an unlock update because that was the main reason I sprung for the S4 over a more affordable LTE device. I have not activated my S4 yet and may request a refund if Ting's stance on a forthcoming update has changed.

    Regarding the legality of unlocking a phone in the US, it is legal to do it yourself so long as you have your *carrier's permission*- usually this results in the carrier unlocking it themselves, but not necessarily. Since our carrier, Ting, supports phone unlocking (even if just through a wink and a nod), I think you'll be fine. With respect to what Sprint thinks of it, even if they did care I can't imagine how they would do anything about it since they can only ping the phone if it's connected to a Sprint tower (which it wouldn't be if it's in GSM/UMTS mode). Once the SIM card slot is unlocked, it's unlocked for good- they wouldn't be able to lock it down again unless they actually got their hands on it.

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  • Sorry for the wall of text. I had it nicely formatted in paragraphs but I guess the comment system didn't want to play ball. It sure would be nice if we could edit/delete our posts!

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  • Heh.  I've just spent four hours reading post after post on the xda forums only to find everything that I painstakingly pieced together nicely summarized for me back here.  (In case it's not clear, that's me saying "thanks" to Mitchell and Brennan.)

     

    Just in case someone else is reading this in a similar position, here are a few other things I've found out:  yes, one can buy sprint galaxy s4's that have been SIM-unlocked for international use (since Sprint does this for anyone who's a customer for 90 days), but the S4 is not currently on the BYOD whitelist.  Same goes for the HTC One.  The Motorola Photon Q has a SIM card, but the SIM card is soldered in place.  Same for the Samsung Note 2.  The Motorola Photon has a removable SIM card, but only runs Android 2.3.

     

    So the choices seem to be: buy the HTC One or Samsung S4 from Ting and hope for the update mentioned by Lisa to Mitchell or buy the Motorola Photon Q, and be stuck with Android 2.3.

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  • I was lucky enough to get an s4 from Sprint on to ting early. Can Sprint unlock my phone if I go to a corporate store?

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  • Hi Daniel, I'm not a Sprint employee®*, but my understanding is that you need an active Sprint®* account that is at least 90 days old before they consider unlocking your Samsung Galaxy S4.

    Also, I just want to clarify that you may experience functionality problems with your Sprint®* S4 on Ting, which is one reason why the phone isn't allowed to be activated on the Ting network.

    *Sprint is a trademark of Sprint.

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  • I'm aware of why they are no longer byod

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  • I'm aware of why they no longer byod the s4. Just an added tidbit which may have been needed.

    I'm going over seas soon and was hoping to be able to buy a sim card on my trip.

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  • Hi Daniel,

    Sorry we can't unlock the phone for you. The best advice would be to download an app like Google Voice or Skype and set up calling over WiFi. That way you'll have reception anywhere there's a hotspot, and it won't cost you a thing!

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  • there is a way to unlock the phone for international use. I unlocked mine, but it won't work for Tmobile or ATT.

    http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=2415587

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  • While my main goal would be to use international SIMs in the phone, what confuses me is that Ting sells the phone for an unsubsidized price.  Why should there be a subsidy lock at all, against any carrier?   Sure, if they sold the phone for $200 with a contractual requirement like the big carriers do, they would have a valid reason for having the subsidy lock, but that's not the case here.  Shouldn't Sprint just say, "Oh, duh, you're right, if you are paying $600 these phones should be coming out of the box unlocked."

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  • Hey Brad, there's actually a lot more to the story. You can read more detail about it in this thread following Harold Passonno's comments.

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  • No, that's not related to the point I was making.    Normally in the cell phone would you can buy either a subsidized phone (in the $0 to $200 range) which is much cheaper than the retail phone.  Due to the subsidy, it is locked so you can't just take it over to another carrier.  In the GSM world that means it reject SIM cards from other carriers, even European ones.

    The alternative was to pay retail for a phone, often not even through the carrier.  There, the phone is unlocked because you don't owe anybody anything on it, so why should it not work with whatever SIM you like.

    In the CDMA MVNO world, we have carriers controlling what phones the MVNOs can use on their networks.   Most MVNOs do not have BYOD for that reason.  There is no subsidy, but the MVNO monthly fees are lower and the price is stuff like not using the newest phones, or no LTE, or in the case of Ting, no roaming onto Verizon for data the way Sprint's direct customers can.

    However, there is no reason whatsoever for Sprint to want to block you from taking an S4 bought from Ting, and taking it to Europe and putting a Euro-SIM in it to use the local GSM networks there.    Well, almost no reason -- they may want their share of the obscene roaming rates.  That might be fair if they subsidized the phone, but if I pay $600 for it, I want the right to do that.   Sprint does do that for their customers (after 90 days on Sprint) but for unknown reasons does not do it for Ting users.

    This turns out to be a barrier to my joining Ting.   If I pay $600 for my S4, I want it to be mine, and when I go to Europe next month I want to put my European SIMs in it and pay local data rates, not $10,000/gigabyte or whatever Sprint charges.

    Sadly, it seems this makes AIO or Pageplus (with a flashed phone) better than Ting.  Higher rates, but without this strange restriction.   And more data coverage.      One annoyance of pure Sprint is that they have Wimax on the peninsula side of SF Bay, and LTE only on the east bay side.  But I live on the west side and everywhere I go is on the west side, so it would be 3G for me at home, with 4G visible outside my window but never usable.

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  • Brad, I see what you're saying. Currently, we can unlock the phone for international Voice and SMS, but it's a no-go for data. What you say makes sense and it's something we're hoping to have in the future. There isn't much we can provide beyond that, and not because we're trying to withhold information. This is as transparent as we can get on the topic. Stay tuned.

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  • Brad, I wholeheartedly agree with you. Just as we don't have to worry about digging up our MSL code for CDMA unlocks, we shouldn't have to worry about a locked SIM card slot for GSM unlocks, since we own these devices outright. However, since Ting gets the same phones Sprint does, and Sprint presumably won't let them activate phones that they know have been unlocked from the factory, their hands are tied. They must wait for Sprint to see the light and change their unlocking policies to align more closely with the rest of the big four (AT&T, T-Mobile, VZW), or at least wait for permission to try to unlock the phones themselves, with assurances that Sprint won't kick those phones off their network.

    Brennan, please clarify your comment "currently, we can unlock the phone for international voice and sms." Are you merely saying that you have managed to unlock the phones internally, or is there also an unlock that we can request from you now to be pushed to our phones? I have emailed two other CSR's and they both stated that this unlock was not yet available, as did Katie about 3 weeks ago in this thread. If this unlock is indeed now available from Ting, please let me know, as I'd rather not have to resort to jumping through all the hoops that the international unlock method posted on the XDA forums involves.

    As for data, once the SIM card slot is unlocked, you can get data working overseas by editing the phone's APN settings, but unfortunately this requires rooting the phone and editing the build.prop file. Obviously Ting is not going to ask their customers to root their phones to do anything, so hopefully they have asked Samsung to fix this in the next firmware update. That is something they may be willing to do, since older Samsung handsets allowed such access by default. I am hoping that this was merely an oversight on Samsung's part, rather than a change made at the behest of Sprint as another way to tie the handset to their network.

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  • And please allow us to edit or delete our posts. For some reason this message board does not like it when I try to organize my posts into paragraphs...

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  • We can unlock the phone with a request from you. There are currently restrictions that prevent domestic use of the SIM slot (read: legality). We don't have a problem with customers rooting their phones, in fact, we have a dedicated forum page for the Ting faithful to communicate.

    P.S. I edited your post to include paragraphs. I hope it suffices.

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  • Hi Brennan, thank you for making my previous post look neater. If there is some trick to getting paragraphs to work here that I'm not getting, please let me know! We'll see if it works this time...

    You may go ahead and send the OTA UICC unlock to my phone. I don't believe there is any federal or state law against using a phone with another domestic network's SIM, but I am aware that Sprint requested from HTC and Samsung that these handsets continue to block the MCC/MNC's for AT&T and T-Mobile even after they are otherwise unlocked. Until Sprint changes their minds or someone else finds a way around that, it is a limitation we'll have to live with. If you were alluding to the new DMCA limitation, that law still permits unlocking if you have your carrier's permission- in this context, it would seem that Ting would be considered my "carrier." I have no idea if or how the law governs agreements between two companies, but as long as Ting permits unlocking (explicitly for international, implicitly for domestic), I don't thing we Ting customers have anything to worry about legally in that regard.

    Regarding rooted phones, I know that Ting has no policy against them per se- that you provide an open forum for discussing rooting and other modifications is actually one of the reasons I like you guys! What I was saying is that in the context of troubleshooting an issue with a customer (e.g. guiding them through editing their APN so that MMS and data with a foreign SIM card would work), you wouldn't ask them to root their phone to solve the issue, since presumably neither Ting nor the phone's manufacturer would afterward honor the device's warranty if something (even if it is not related to the rooting process) goes wrong. Therefore, Ting can't help us with getting international data to work until Samsung provides another way to change those settings.

    Feel free to email me about the phone unlock if further action (beyond downloading the update and restarting the phone) is required on my end. You might consider going ahead and pushing this unlock to all One and S4 users, since we all had to purchase the phones outright. Thanks!

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  • Hi Mitchell, we can unlock the S4 internationally for you (voice+text). I submitted a help request on your behalf so we can track and communicate through that email request.

    That is correct in that we would typically never ask a customer to root their phone for troubleshooting problems. Right now, our goal is to provide international data on a network level so our customer base wouldn't need to access their APN settings.

    P.S. I also edited your last post with paragraphs.

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  • International data -- if by which you mean paying the common roaming rate of $15,000 per gigabyte for GSM, or even the $2,000 per gigabyte price you charge for CMDA data roaming in the bulk of the world -- is not going to be too popular with cost conscious Ting subscribers.

    I did not know you could even be unlocked for voice but not data, though perhaps it is just the inability to set up an APN that stands in the way of that?  I presume the norm of just pulling the APN from the sim card is not working.

    It is of course because of these super high data charges that people seek foreign SIMs.   We crave data now, feel lost without it, but don't want a $1,000 bill for a few days overseas, so we buy local country SIMs for GSM capable devices -- including we hope the new CDMA/LTE devices that use SIMs and have GSM radios like the S4 and others.

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  • Question for other Galaxy S4 users:

    Sorry to (sort-of) hijack the thread, but I can't PM, and I was hoping to get Mitchell's/Brad's thoughts/help (hopefuly they're subscribed to this thread) on a question I posted here:

    https://help.ting.com/entries/40609733-Ting-Samsung-Galaxy-S4-Reflash-to-Remove-Root-Custom-Recovery

    Any way we can get private messaging capabilities on these forums to get help from fellow users?

    Thanks!

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  • Oh, and while I have anyone attention in this thread... 

    Did the matter of no data with foreign SIM cards get sorted out, or is this a problem?

    Mitchell: Did the SIM unlock get pushed to your phone successfully? I assume you would need an official untooted ROM for the push to work. 

    I'm planning a foreign trip, and any help is appreciated! Thanks!

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  • ...  need an official *unrooted ROM for the [UICC Unlock] push to work. 

    Sorry for the multiple posts.

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  • You can unlock Samsung Galaxy S4 using unlock code that will be available at any vendors online like <link removed>

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  • hi roy,

     I think your  phone is not properly unlocked . so, get accurate unlock code from any of the providers like to unlock your phone . After that, you can use your  AT&T or T-mobile sim card with it .

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