Tall, dark, unlocked: Tello Phone Compatibility
Sometimes, looking for a compatible phone for a new wireless provider is a lot like dating, especially when stating your expectations.
In order to enroll your phone to Tello it should be unlocked, CDMA, Sprint ready and free of any contract – aka tall, dark & handsome, right?
Let’s ease the process and take it one term at a time.
Unlocked phone (available)
An unlocked cell phone is not tied into a certain carrier’s network so it will work with more than one provider, but it’s not quite like an open relationship, but more as a no strings attached situation.
Most phones are like that – locked – to a certain cellular carrier because it makes sense: you receive a sweet discount on the handset in exchange for signing a service contract with them. And, in addition to the discount, you also get the voice & data to actually use the phone in case – yes, the devil is always in the details, but this is how the system works.
But not everyone is into this, for a variety of reasons: if you frequently travel abroad, to be tied to a phone that won’t work internationally (or one that will cost you an arm and a leg to use in foreign countries), for example, doesn’t sound that great! Other people simply prefer freedom and are unwilling to sign the lengthy service contracts (of two years, typically) that many carriers require.
Good news: Tello’s philosophy is that contracts should be extinct, so you’re in the right place!
CDMA (your type)
In what compatibility is concerned, one of the most important things to consider is if your speak the same language and whether the other one is your type to begin with.
CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) and GSM (Global System for Mobiles) are shorthand for the two major radio systems used in cell phones. Unlike competing systems, such as GSM, CDMA does not assign a specific frequency to each user. CDMA provides better capacity for voice & data communications than other mobile technologies, allowing more subscribers to connect at any given time.
How is this info important to you? It matters when it comes to changing your phone.
It’s easier to swap phones on GSM networks because GSM carriers put customer information on a removable SIM card. That’s not the case with CDMA. In the U.S., CDMA carriers use network-based white lists to verify their subscribers. That means you can only switch phones with your carrier’s permission.
Sprint ready (good chemistry)
Tello runs on Sprint, so it’s only natural for us to point out the obvious: you can enroll into our network any CDMA device free of contract, developed for Sprint or for any Sprint MVNO.
If your device comes from other carriers, aside from Sprint, no need to worry, since we have here a list of devices that can join:
iPhones purchased through Apple stores, big box stores or carrier retail channels:
- AT&T & T-Mobile: 6, 6+, 6S, 6S+, SE
- Verizon: 5S, 5C, 6, 6+, 6S, 6S+, SE, 7, 7 Plus
iPads purchased through Apple stores, big box stores or carrier retail channels:
- AT&T & T-Mobile: iPad Mini 3, iPad Air 2
- Verizon: iPad Mini Retina, iPad Mini 3, iPad Air, iPad Air 2
Nexus devices purchased through Google Play, big box stores or carrier retail channels:
- AT&T & Verizon: Nexus 5, 5X, 6, 6P
- T-Mobile: Nexus 5X, 6, 6P
Please note, that only Apple devices manufactured for the USA or designed to be sold within the USA will work on the Tello network.
To cover this as well, there are only a handful of devices that can’t join Tello. Devices like the following are not Tello friendly: Palm, RIM (Blackberry), Ready Link/PTT, Q-Chat, 13K Vocoder or Power Source.
Free of contract (willing)
We don’t really feel the need to explain this term, as it stands for pure freedom and not being tied to a legal agreement for a specific period of time.
If you don’t actually buy a phone from a carrier, there is always the option of getting one from the manufacturer. More and more of manufacturers are selling “unlocked” phones – devices that can easily be used among the four major wireless carriers – directly from their websites or stores through payment plans, so maybe this is something you can see into.
Magic solution for compatibility check (spark)
And if you’re still not sure, you only need your IMEI (also known as ESN/MEID code) to check for yourself on our Bring Your Own Phone page. The process is simple and does all the work for you.
Once you enter your IMEI, you will follow several steps:
- Find out if your phone can join Tello or not
- Find out if you need a CDMA SIM card to enable 4G LTE Data (you can buy one online from Tello.com)
- Decide whether you want to port in your old number or get a new one from Tello