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T-Mobile may not get the iPhone 5, but it’s getting its SIM cards

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Even though it’s never officially offered the device, T-Mobile has long supported the iPhone(s aapl) on its 2G networks by simply selling its customers SIM cards they can slot into their handsets. The new iPhone 5, however, uses new nano-SIM technology – try as hard as you like but you won’t be able to cram a T-Mo SIM into the Apple(s aapl) device.

Apparently that will change in mid-October. Both TMoNews and The Verge have tracked down information suggesting T-Mobile will begin selling the nano-SIM in mid-October. TMoNews got its hands on internal T-Mobile SIM materials that show that nano-card will be available mid-next month, and The Verge spotted a tweet from T-Mobile customer service stating T-Mobile is “looking at getting them mid October.”

This is hardly a surprise since T-Mobile has been actively luring iPhone owners of all makes over to its network where they can wallow in the carrier’s unlimited and cheap big-bucket data plans. The big catch is that in most of T-Mobile’s footprint customers can only access 2G speeds on the iPhone. Gobs of cheap data aren’t much use if you can only download them at sub-dial-up speeds.

But that’s changing, and quickly. T-Mobile is overhauling its networks, aligning them with the 3G and 4G radios embedded in the iPhone and most other North American GSM devices. iPhone customers can already access its HSPA+ network in New York City, Las Vegas and Seattle, and T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray has said the carrier will have a “material” footprint of HSPA+ in iPhone friendly bands by the end of the year. (Ray will share more details on T-Mobile’s network transformation at GigaOM’s Mobilize conference next week).

In the second half of 2013, T-Mobile’s LTE network will be online, giving it full compatibility with all of the iPhone’s radios. So if you can’t wait until T-Mobile officially lands an iPhone distribution deal and are willing to shell out the hefty price for an unlocked device, we suggest you buy the AT&T(s t)/North American version of the device. It’s the iPhone that will be exactly where T-Mobile’s networks are in 2013.

21 Responses to “T-Mobile may not get the iPhone 5, but it’s getting its SIM cards”

  1. just crusing

    i am in nyc and already getting 3g on iphone 4s with speed upto 5mbps on simple mobile $40 plan.
    I still have one line with att on my iphone 5 with LTE and it sucks all the time. Videos freeze midway, youtube there is no hd, it plays on low resolution on LTE. I am on grandfather plan and pay 430 separate just for internet. while i use my iphone 4s for all business related work, text,call and now super fast internet all for $40 a month, Time to kick off my att service for which i pay $98 a month.

  2. So does this mean that T-Mobile will be getting sim cards that we can buy and then just buy an iphone 5 from the apple store put the sim card inside then we have an iphone but we will still be on T-Mobiles plan?

  3. I am an iphone 4 user, been with att for over 2 year contract… everthing I have researched so far, tells me I SHOULD switch to the walmart prepaid. ( I forget the name!) why not? please tell me.. I am scared to do it, and be unsatisfied, then go back… I have a grandfathered plan, and wont be able to get it then. I hear data speed, etc.. is the same.. [email protected]

  4. Babak Mir-Eschghi

    If AT&T doesn’t unlock your iPhone so you can switch to T-Mobile, you can use UnlockStreak activations for iTunes, which basically turns iTunes into iPhone unlock software. The UnlockStreak activation is executed through iTunes and does a permanent unlock just like the unlock from AT&T.

  5. Maung Moe

    I would have waited to drop a few large on an unlock version of iphone5 but i just couldn’t wait T-Mo to “refarm” the spectrum to convert to 4G and pass up now on average of 10-15Mbps Downlink with a SGS 3 where I live. Perhaps I will consider iphone5 again when T-Mo entirely gets its “refarming” done. In the mean time, who can pass up a 4G speed without any data cap for half the price of Big Red or AT&T.

    • Kevin Fitchard

      Hi Maung, If you’re willing to pay the unsubsidized price you can sign up for a no contract plan with AT&T you can switch whenever you like. It’s hard to resist the allure of that hefty subsidy though. AT&T’s network is nothing to scoff at either if you the pricing plans work out. LTE is a whole new network.

  6. That’s great for T-mobile, they don’t have to pay handset subsidies. I bought my teenage son an unlocked Nexus S on eBay for $120, a couple of months ago. It’s now on a T-Mobile $30 prepaid plan. So far so good, it’s a great phone and plan.

    • Kevin Fitchard

      Hey Dan,

      Yeah, those value plans are a great deal, but it’s going to be a while before you get a $120 iPhone 5 on eBay. :) Now is the time to get a good deal on an iPhone 4 or 4S. Just make sure it’s unlocked before you buy