Freedom Mobile and iPhones: 5 things you need to know
Among the Canadian carriers out there, Freedom Mobile (previously Wind Mobile) offers the cheapest unlimited talk, text, and data plans. Freedom is great if you spend most of your time in major urban areas, where coverage is the most solid. Outside of these zones, you might find yourself hit by high roaming fees and even network blackouts in rural areas.
Freedom uses the AWS (Advanced Wireless Services) frequency and only certain smartphones are equipped to work on an AWS network. Pro Tip: T-Mobile uses this frequency for its network, so most of their phones are compatible with Freedom.
If you’re an iPhone user who is thinking about switching to Freedom Mobile, here is everything you need to know before making the move.
5 things to know about Freedom Mobile
1) You can’t buy an iPhone from Freedom Mobile (anymore)
And that’s not for lack of trying. There was a brief period where Freedom sold refurbished handsets, but they have faced issues from both Apple and consumers. For the foreseeable future, you’ll have to supply your own iPhone to run on Freedom, also known as BYOP. As luck would have it, Orchard sells a range of used iPhones that are compatible with the Freedom network. Click here to see our full selection.
2) Your iPhone needs to be unlocked
Canadian carriers can be a little jealous so any phone they’ll sell you will have a software lock installed. This means the phone can only be used on that one carrier’s network. How to get your hands on an unlocked iPhone? You have two options. You can buy an unlocked iPhone directly from Apple (i.e. factory unlocked). Otherwise, you can get your phone unlocked by the carrier you bought it from. You can read more about how to get an unlocked iPhone here. Once unlocked, you’ll be able to use your iPhone with Freedom Mobile… with some exceptions (see point 3 and 4).
3) iPhone 4S and earlier models do not work with Freedom
They’re simply not compatible with Freedom’s network. It might be hard for us to imagine now, but the early iPhone models came out during a time when Apple wasn’t investing in making the iPhone accessible to a wide range of wireless subscribers. The first iPhone was only sold through AT&T, after all. As time went on, the iPhone was able to support more network frequencies and wireless technologies that carriers use across the globe. So, basically, absolutely no iPhones older than the iPhone 5 will be able to pick up the AWS frequency that Freedom uses.
4) While only some iPhone 5 models are compatible, all newer iPhones sold by Canadian carriers will work (if unlocked)
Here is where things get tricky. Around half way through the year or so that Apple was manufacturing and selling the iPhone 5, they added support for the AWS frequency that Freedom Mobile uses.
You can tell which iPhone 5 models are compatible by looking at the serial number at the back. For example, if the serial number for your 16GB iPhone 5 ends in FH1C (White), or FH19 (Black), then you’re in business. But remember – it still has to be unlocked to work. Of course, you can avoid the whole mess of checking serial numbers by buying an iPhone 5 from Orchard that is guaranteed to be Freedom-compatible. See our selection!
That being said, the worry about serial numbers pretty much goes away for the iPhone 5s, 6, 6s, 7, and SE models. Anything newer than the 5c will be compatible if it’s unlocked and bought in Canada. You can see if your device is supported here.
5) Any compatible iPhone will run on Freedom’s 3G Network, not LTE
If you’re after those lightning fast upload speeds, Freedom Mobile probably isn’t the carrier for you. Yes, this is changing, but it won’t change anytime soon for iPhone users.
While Freedom has rolled out an LTE network, it operates on a fairly obscure frequency called AWS-3, which no iPhone out there will be able to pick up. Even your Android options are limited, with about 5 compatible devices currently on offer by the carrier. That means the rest of us are stuck using Freedom’s existing 3G network, which can often lag even more because of the high volume of people using this network at once.
Is this the end of the world? No. You probably won’t even notice a difference between 3G and LTE speeds, all other things being equal. There’s a lot that goes into how speedy your service is and the type of network is only one. And, who knows, the iPhone 8 could open the doors to Freedom’s LTE network. Time will tell!
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Note: Since the writing of this article, Freedom has upgrade their LTE services to include a wider selection of phones.
Freedom has long been hustling to improve their coverage, so keep that in mind if you’re thinking about switching and you’re concerned about the quality of their network. They are not so much a no-frills discount carrier. Rather, we think of them as a young carrier playing catch-up with more well established (and more expensive) brands. So, while not a guarantee, you can probably expect to see improvements to their service as time goes on. We’re optimistic.