How To Identify Whether a Phone is GSM or CDMA

Not all mobile operators use the same band. GSM and CDMA networks are very different, and it is not always possible to use one device for each other.

For example, if you use AT&T or T-Mobile, you may not be able to switch to Verizon without also changing your phone.

But suppose you don’t buy a phone from your carrier. Can you see which network your phone is compatible with?

You can and there are several ways to find out.

Method 1 – Check the SIM Slot

If you’re using an older generation phone, looking at the SIM card slot is the fastest way to determine if it’s locked to a GSM or CDMA network.

Traditionally, CDMA phones came without SIM cards. They didn’t need them because the phone number used to be tied directly to the device. Hence, a SIM card slot indicated the compatibility of the GSM network.

However, this method is less efficient on newer phones, especially phones compatible with 4G and 5G technology.

These almost always come with SIM card slots and you may need to use a different authentication method.

Method 2 – Go to the Settings app

Your phone contains all the information you may need about itself and its network compatibility.

It’s just a matter of going to the right tab to get the information.

You are looking for something related to a MEID, ESN or IMEI number. MEID and ESN numbers are associated with CDMA networks. Finding an IMEI number means that the phone is configured for GSM networks.

Search the network on an Android phone

Here’s how to find the MEID, ESN, or IMEI on an Android device.

  1. Go to the “Settings” app.
  2. Scroll down to the “About Phone” section.
  3. Tap and select ‘Status’.

Find the network on an iPhone

Here’s how to find network information on your iPhone.

  1. Go to the “Settings” app.
  2. Select ‘General’.
  3. Go to the “About” tab.

Please note that the exact path to reach the desired tab may vary slightly depending on your exact model and how the menu is structured.

Method 3 – Find the Model Number

A quick online search for your phone’s model number is another quick way to find out if it’s GSM or CDMA compatible.

Usually the model number is on the package. This can be useful if your battery is dead and you can’t get to the Settings app.

Method 4 – Check Documentation

Each phone comes with extensive documentation from the manufacturer with a full list of features, how to use them, etc.

The phone paperwork should also include information about compatible networks. But this is probably the slowest method you can use to determine if you have a GSM or CDMA phone.

Method 5 – Contact your carrier

If you are not sure what type of network your carrier has, you can always contact them for information. This is a reliable way to find out what you need when buying a phone directly from the carrier.

Many mobile phones are linked to a specific network. This is not necessarily necessary, but it is an effective way to keep customers longer.

Another reason to contact the carrier is that some of them sell phones that are compatible with both networks.

For example, Verizon often sells phones that can be used on a GSM and CDMA network, despite being solely a CDMA provider.


Are the manufacturer’s phones connected to a network?

Buying a phone directly from the manufacturer is the best way to ensure that you are not tied to a particular network and that you can easily use your phone almost anywhere in the world.

Neither Samsung, Apple, Huawei, or any other major manufacturer typically locks down their devices on GSM or CDMA networks.

Only a few mobile carriers tend to do this. But carriers like Verizon offer unlocked phones, meaning you can switch to a different carrier and network if you end the contract.

Consider upgrading your stand

GSM and CDMA 2G and 3G networks have seen a lot of use, but that’s about to change soon. Since the introduction of 4G, more and more carriers have made the switch to the newer LTE standard.

Unless your phone can’t handle more than 2G or 3G, it probably uses LTE and only reverts to GSM or CDMA if you can’t get LTE coverage.

But GSM and CDMA are quickly becoming obsolete, especially given the rapid adoption of 5G technology. In the coming years, it is unlikely that many 2G and 3G phones will be sold or that there will be coverage for GSM and CDMA networks.

Some carriers have even announced that they may shut down 3G networks to upgrade to the faster 4G LTE standard before going all-in on 5G.

Therefore, it may not matter soon enough whether your phone is GSM or CDMA compatible.

Let us know in the comments section below if you believe that GSM and CDMA should continue to have long-term support or that spending money on 4G and 5G infrastructure is the best course of action.

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