iPhone 5 Works on T-Mobile Network With Four Days of Preparation

NEWS ANALYSIS: After the T-Mobile announcement that the company would carry the iPhone in 2013, I decided to take matters into my own hands see how hard it was to get an iPhone running on T-Mobile these days.

It was big news on when T-Mobile, the fourth-largest U.S. carrier confirmed on Dec. 6 that the company would begin selling the Apple iPhone in 2013.

But, of course, it’s always been possible to use an iPhone on the T-Mobile network, but most people don’t know that. And even if they knew it, many didn’t know how to get an iPhone running on T-Mobile’s network. I decided to find out just what’s involved.

Right after I finished writing the story about T-Mobile CEO John Legere’s announcement in Bonn, I decided it was about time to make the move and sign up for a T-Mobile iPhone myself. The good news is that it works and everything is up and running. The bad news is that it’s not as easy to make the move as it might seem.

I decided that the first task would be to locate a nano-SIM at a T-Mobile store in the Washington, DC area. I knew that you can theoretically order one online, but the ordering area for pre-paid SIM cards on the T-Mobile website doesn’t seem to have nano-SIMs available for order, even though it has photos of them. So, I started calling T-Mobile stores to see if I could get the nano-SIM required by the iPhone 5.

It turns out that nano-SIMs are in short supply at some T-Mobile stores. The store that’s just upstairs from the Apple store at a suburban DC shopping mall is perpetually out of stock. I kept calling T-Mobile stores until I found a nano-SIM at a tiny T-Mobile corporate store in the historic town of Manassas, Virginia.

The next challenge was finding an iPhone. While I know that it’s possible to buy unlocked iPhones on the Web, I wanted an iPhone 5 because I plan to use LTE when it shows up. I found that unlocked iPhones are also in short supply, but located one in the same shopping mall that has the T-Mobile store that didn’t have nano-SIMs. I picked up the nano-SIM, then headed for the Apple store and bought a 16 GB black unlocked iPhone 5.

The folks at the Apple store showed me how to install the nano-SIM, which mostly requires a mild level of dexterity and a paper clip. The phone showed that it was connected to the T-Mobile network, but there’s more to a smartphone than being on a voice network. You also have to get the data stuff running.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...