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Son lost iPhone in Italy, can he buy replacement there?

My son is studying abroad in Florence, Italy and lost his iPhone. If he goes to Apple store and buys an Unlocked phone, and a SIM card for TIM or other Italian carrier, can he then use it with our Verizon plan when he returns home in four months? We are getting mixed response on this, and need to be sure before he makes purchase. Help?

Posted by
3283 posts

My daughter's was stolen out of her coat pocket in Barcelona. Her sister who doesn't use her phone much lent her hers. Does he need the phone (probably a stupid question given the phones are just a part of young adults lives now) Does he have an ipod? Would it work to buy an ipod touch which does have internet capabilities? Just thought I'd throw those ideas out there in case they'd work. Hopefully, someone on the forum would have info specific to Verizon. I also think if he or you, even, went to an Apple store, they'd be able to assist.

Posted by
4686 posts

I'm guessing that the answer is probably "no, he can't use an Italian-purchased iPhone" on Verizon back at home.

The reason is that Verizon's default wireless connection at home is called CDMA. (Sprint too.) In Europe, they use GSM. AT&T and T-Mobile in the US also use GSM. So if you had asked, "Can my son buy an iPhone in Italy and use it on T-Mobile at home?" I'd say "probably." But not on Verizon. They (and Sprint) are picky about who is allowed on their networks, and some phones still just will never be able to connect to them. Even some US phones that work fine on T-Mobile and AT&T will never work on Verizon or Sprint.

It's POSSIBLE you might find a iPhone in Italy that will work on Verizon at home. But I would never trust the advice of the store employee in Italy on this, especially for what is surely not going to be a cheap purchase. I would first find out the exact model of iPhone you'd be buying In Italy...then chat with a Verizon rep online (or even call, but chat might be easier) and say, "Will this specific iPhone work on the Verizon network?" He may even be able to get the IMEI number (serial number) of the iPhone he's about to buy and check it with Verizon first.

Here's a Verizon page where you can enter an IMEI number to check Verizon compatibility. For fun, check your own phone's first (if you have an iPhone):

https://www.verizonwireless.com/prospect/bring-your-own-device/#/checkDevice

If it will work on Verizon, he'll also need a Verizon SIM card specifically for that iPhone. I doubt an Apple store in Italy would have one, but an Apple store in the US would give him one.

Posted by
13 posts

Wow, thank you so much! Everything you stated synchs with what I'm learning, and our suspicions, and honestly, that IS what the first sales person in Florence Apple store indicated to him (said would only work on AT&T once home). BUT I called Apple support last night, and they said that if we buy an unlocked iphone from Apple.com italy sight - OR better yet he walks into the apple store in Florence, and buys an unlocked phone, that he can then use a SIM card from over there with TIM or other Italian provider, and it will then work once home if he replaces that with a Verizon SIM.

But my husband doesn't trust it YET, so I'm still researching. Apple U.S. cannot mail to Italy, and it's not suggested that we buy one here and ship to him (import/export rules, etc). So.... he may just have to get a flip phone, but of course he loses all the cool stuff of smart phone (maps, uber, venmo, www - where is a good restaurant, how do I get to museum... ) and only surf net when in his room on his MAC. uggh. OR maybe we get this iphone over there, and then HE alone needs to use AT&T plan upon return. But that's not a great solution.

Will try your suggestions. THank you.

Posted by
4686 posts

Well, at worst, your son can buy the iPhone in Italy, then check the IMEI on the site above...and if it is rejected as not compatible, return the phone to the store in Italy for a refund. Or check all of this before even leaving the store. If Verizon says it's compatible, save a screenshot but it then ought to work.

FYI, you could also probably ship your son a Verizon SIM if need be so he could use his Verizon plan there with the new phone, if he's going to be there much longer. But yeah, obviously a TIM or Vodafone, etc. SIM bought in Italy would work, too, to use while there.

Posted by
16766 posts

I know it may amount to throwing away money for short-term use of a smartphone, but aren't their low-end Android phones that are much less expensive than iPhones? With some effort, he might be able to sell the used phone in Italy before he returns home, thereby recovering some of the cost.

I suspect Andrew is right that the Italian phone won't work on Verizon in the US.

Posted by
921 posts

The phone has to be unlocked and work on a 4G LTE Network. Verizon is dumping CDMA soon. As long as you do not live in some obscure place in the USA, you should be on the LTE network yourself now, check with your people. New SIM card when he returns.

Try and talk him out of it, though. The following is much closer to the truth than most would like to believe:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wUW1wjlKvmY

Posted by
13 posts

AndrewH - thank you again, that's a good idea. May give him that option, for sure would like him to verify it first, I just did mine and very cool tool... However, just saw Gunderson's response, and he may be onto something! My son just emailed us that they took the group on day trip to Tuscany and his description of it was spot on... he paid attention! and wasn't staring at phone. YET of course he couldn't take pics, but his friends did, and he's sending them to us. Via email. May have him buy a disposable camera, lol.

Posted by
9411 posts

Andrew's response is right on. When we lived in Rome, I had an unlocked Italian phone (although Android) and when we returned to the U.S., I had to go to AT&T as it would not work on Verizon.

Posted by
13 posts

acraven - not sure but will fish around for info on that. I wondered the same thing...

Posted by
13 posts

Gunderson - thank you, and WILL check with local Verizon to see if that is the case. Would for sure want to do the IMEI check that Andrew recommended before buying, if we do that. THANK you for that video. I'm very impressed... may just let him experience Europe (4 months there studying w/college), the way I did back in the day. with his EYES! and a map... almost always a friend with him to do the SmartPhone stuff ;)

Posted by
9 posts

I used my Iphone in Italy last summer with a special two-month International plan offered by T-Mobile with unlimited text and voice and data for about $50 extra a month. This was purchased on my normal T-Mobile USA plan. Maybe Verizon offers something like that. Then I just cancelled it after the two months in Europe. Worked great. I mostly used it in the hotel for internet connection but I don't remember it costing more than the flat fee.

Posted by
13 posts

cslux - yes, that's what he was doing until he lost his phone on Tuesday night. It's figuring out a replacement for him that's the issue right now. Not so simple ;(

Posted by
13 posts

Philip - my husband called Verizon. They could not commit without knowing exactly which phone (EXACTLY, prob using that ID that Andrew mentioned) he would have.... it's a shame it's so complicated and they are not all interchangeable.

Posted by
5397 posts

I would do what acraven suggests and have him get a much cheaper android something that he can use for the rest of th time in Italy with a TIM or other local sim and monthly PaYg plan. He can still get almost all the same apps in the Android system for maps, etc. getting online, although obviously he won’t be able to access his iTunes for whatever music or movies or whatever he already has. Then again, maybe that consequence will remind him to keep a better handle on his phone. If he gets a bright shiny new iPhone right away, he has no incentive to take better care of it than the last one.

Posted by
6133 posts

Why not buy one in US and ship it to him? Presumably the one he lost was a US model? He will survive for a few days

Posted by
23402 posts

Just if you do ship it be sure there is sufficient insurance - and declared for the correct value or he could have problems. He'll have to pay duty most likely.

Posted by
4686 posts

The phone has to be unlocked and work on a 4G LTE Network. Verizon is dumping CDMA soon. As long as you do not live in some obscure place in the USA, you should be on the LTE network yourself now, check with your people. New SIM card when he returns.

This is true but beside the point. Verizon still has to let the phone onto their network. If they won't, whether you are on LTE or not is irrelevant.

Verizon has their own rules about which phones are allowed onto their network, even if they can do CDMA. Example: I have a prepaid Verizon Android phone that I got unlocked so I could use it on other carriers. Works great on AT&T, T-Mobile (on LTE and even 2G/3G GSM). But...Verizon has blacklisted their own phone! That's because I didn't properly pay it off as a prepaid phone. It certainly has the right CDMA radios, because it's a Verizon-branded phone!

This phone also clearly has the CDMA radios to work on Sprint...but Sprint, too, will never allow this phone on their network. Not sure exactly the reason - but, again, they have their own rules.

Some Italian-bought iPhone? Maybe, maybe not. I wouldn't make any assumptions. Just check the IMEI on Verizon's website as I have described above - that will give you the definitive "yes or no, we will or won't allow it on our network." No point in overthinking it.

Posted by
30932 posts

NJ,

To begin with, an iPhone purchased outright and not on a term plan, is going to be very expensive. As long as you're OK with that, an Italian phone should also work in the U.S. However, phones sold in different markets are configured with different frequency bands and capabilities, so the phone may not work as well in the U.S. as one bought from Verizon, especially if it doesn't have CDMA capability.

A few thoughts.....

  • If the Verizon phone used a SIM card, it's highly likely that it operated on their 4G / LTE network. CDMA phones do not use a SIM card, so that's a clue.
  • Which model iPhone was he using? He might try finding a pre-owned iPhone in Florence, as that would mean less cost and would provide something he could use for the next few months. A flip phone just isn't the same, and it's nice to have the apps and other features of a smartphone.
  • Could you obtain another phone for him from Verizon, and send it over by next-day FedEx or UPS? He could then use either an Italian SIM card or use a Verizon roaming plan. This is probably the easiest and most practical long term solution. Be sure the phone is unlocked.

I've got a few things to do this afternoon, and would have to look at this in more detail.

Good luck!

Posted by
13 posts

Thanks all for your ideas. We are not going to buy one here and ship to him in Italy - everything we've read about sending electronics it is too risky. You have to indicate value of phone, it goes through customs, has to be labeled that it has lithium battery, may pass/may not - IF it gets through there is some sort of tariff/ tax/surcharge on other end that could be substantial, AND it may take a while to reach him anyway, AND they seem to get 'lost' in the system. His school also recommends not having things sent to them there ... not sure why but they could potentially refuse it and then we're stuck again.

SO ... buying phone in Italy is prob best option, but will cost $200 more than if we bought it here (iPhone 6, only 32GB), and may not work with Verizon when he gets home (will only do this if we can do "andrew's" method of verifying first). My son knows he screwed up by somehow losing the phone (or having it stolen, still not sure), and says he's willing to buy a burner/flip phone. We may just let that happen for now, and he can use his MAC back in room to communicate, his friends can take the pics and pass along to him. He's actually not complaining and they went to a Tuscany winery today and ... he survived without a smart phone! AND we received a fantastic pic of him and the hills of tuscany from his friend.

Posted by
13 posts

Ken, I think the same phone here in US was going to be $449, but in Italy it would be $613. He would def have to pay for it himself, but it's a huge expense, and I honestly think he's even nervous about it now. Only 20 but legal in bars in Europe so quite enjoying himself there, and too easy to become distracted ... he has learned a big lesson, but - four months to go.

Posted by
9411 posts

You asked how long ago I had my experience. It was Nov2016.

While buying an unlocked phone is expensive, you can get amazingly inexpensive service when you are not paying for the phone in your Plan. I pay $40/month to AT&T since I own my own phone and I have virtually unlimited data with rollover, with ample calling and text. I will never get a phone on a carrier’s plan again.

Posted by
13 posts

Thanks Laurel. Ya, that's what I was thinking, asked my husband what would be so bad about him going with AT&T when he came home with the phone bought in Italy? He wants us all on family/verizon plan. I think it's a default answer and he's really not sure, but we're exhausted from overthinking this. lol

Posted by
4686 posts

Laurel, $40/month seems expensive to me. After my Sprint 1 year unlimited everything free trial expires at the end of this month (I've been paying $3.70/month in taxes in fees for unlimited talk, text, and data for a year), I'll be switching back to Tello, which runs on Sprint anyway, for $15 to $20 per month for unlimited talk and text some data (the amount of data is what changes the price; I can probably get away with 2GB per month). True, no international roaming option with Tello, but I use my Dutch Vodafone SIM anyway when I go to Europe, and that's very cheap to use.

There are other cheap prepaid phone services besides Tello, e.g. Mint Mobile ($15/month if prepaid for a year) and RedPocket, among many others.

Last year I bought a Moto E4 fully unlocked for only $105 on sale - I needed this phone to qualify for Sprint's 1 year promo deal (which is still available, if you have a Sprint-compatible phone FYI). So the phone basically paid for itself by making me eligible for the free Sprint plan.

Last month, I spent a whopping $165 (a lot for me!) on a brand new Moto X4 fully unlocked (will work on Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, AT&T, and on all of the MVNOs like Tello). I bought this only because Mom needed a new smart phone, so I gave her my E4 and bought the X4 for myself. This is quite a snappy phone for the money. I know the more expensive phones have better cameras, but the X4's (two front cameras) isn't bad, and the phone has plenty of storage and is expandable. I still wonder why people pay so much for their phones.

Posted by
921 posts

NJShoreFan, if you are still unsure then tell your son to buy a cheap phone, as suggested. For photos, I have a Kodak pocket instamatic (1979?) I can sell him for about sixty percent of the price of an iphone, with two rolls of film included for free. A grainy statue of David camouflages all Michelangelo's mistakes.

Posted by
13 posts

Gunderson, how badly I want to hit a silly, laughing emoticon right now! Thanks for the tip, and the visual ... I just might have that same camera, AND for sure the David photo from 1980 in an old album!

Posted by
741 posts

NJShoreFan: I can't answer your question, but I can commiserate. Our 20-year-old son landed in Scotland Jan. 9 for his semester abroad and is enjoying the pubs of Edinburgh carrying his new iPhone 8. We're also all on Verizon and all have iPhones, which makes staying in touch through iMessage and FaceTime easier. Verizon's international plans are pretty lousy for long-term, so he bought a SIM card and a relatively inexpensive plan upon arrival, so he's covered for data and any calls/texts around Europe. All good, right?

But what if he loses his phone or has it stolen? When we got the phone, I reluctantly bought the $8-per-month insurance so we could replace the phone if something happened. But after following this thread, I'm honestly not sure how that would work in Scotland. I assume there aren't Verizon stores on every corner like there are here. And if we were able to replace the phone here, sounds like shipping it to him would be less than ideal.

I guess it's fingers crossed for now and hope we don't have to cross that proverbial bridge. I'll be following this thread to see how it all works out for you. Good luck!

Posted by
4686 posts

stoutfella, Verizon doesn't have service in Europe, so there aren't any Verizon stores there. However, I don't think shipping him a replacement phone would really big that big of a deal, other than the delay until he receives it. It would cost some money to ship it - but so be it, not the end of the world.

Posted by
5397 posts

And some money for him to receive it — he'd have to pay customs duty on it to pick it up.

Posted by
13 posts

Ah! I should have given the final update... he bought a $200 Android from a store that his school in Florence directed him too. Apple store and this place both told him that the iPhones bought in Italy would only work with AT&T once back home. So ... this was the best option, and he's very happy with it. We're using WhatsApp to text with him, he's taking and sending beautiful pictures, and life moves on without an iPhone - imagine that?! Thanks for all the helpful tips!

Posted by
5397 posts

Excellent!! Glad you all found a reasonable solution that keeps you in contact.

Posted by
23402 posts

That sounds like a good resolution... keep enjoying his time there with him. Remember Dick Tracey wrist watch phones? We have it, but the pictures and sound are much clearer. Who would have known?

Posted by
741 posts

Yes, glad it worked out. So far, our son in Scotland has managed to hang onto his phone. Hope we won't have to repeat your experience. Cheers!

Posted by
9411 posts

Andrew just saw your comment about $40/month seeming high, but it is 4GB of data and that rolls over so I can use it as much as I want. Worth it to me and a far cry from what one pays monthly when a high end phone is included in the contract.

Posted by
103 posts

FYI, the Italian Apple store folks aren't entirely right. While Sprint and Verizon are problematic, an unlocked iPhone from an Apple store in Europe will also work on T-Mobile (which also uses GSM, instead of CDMA) and some other, smaller carriers that use GSM.

Posted by
4686 posts

Andrew just saw your comment about $40/month seeming high, but it is 4GB of data and that rolls over so I can use it as much as I want. Worth it to me and a far cry from what one pays monthly when a high end phone is included in the contract.

If $40/month is acceptable to you, that's fine. It's just too expensive for my phone needs. I just switched to Mint Mobile (uses the T-Mobile network) and they charge $15/month for unlimited talk, text, and 3GB of data per month (more than I use) if you prepay for a year (3 month trial at same price - or less). The only downside I'd see is no international roaming. If I went overseas more than once a year, maybe it would be easier and more worth it, but otherwise my Dutch Vodafone SIM works great for the 1X a year I travel outside the US. The extra $25/month or $300/year isn't worth it to me just for international roaming. Some people use more than 3GB of data per month, but I just don't.