How to Check What Cellular Carrier Network an iPhone Uses (or Used)
Knowing what network an iPhone uses can be important for trying to repurpose an old device, buying a used iPhone, or simply to determine if a particular iPhone will work on a network of choice. While the iPhones top status bar will show the carrier name of an active cellular network, if the device isn’t activated or doesn’t have a SIM card, it won’t display anything other than “No Service” in the status bar. That doesn’t mean you can’t find out what network the device is locked to or last used though.
Even if an iPhone has no service, no SIM card, and no activation on a CDMA network, you can still find out what cell carrier network the device was recently using or attached to by going to the device Settings.
How to Check What Carrier an iPhone Uses
Here’s how quickly check this in iOS on an iPhone:
- Open the Settings app on the iPhone and choose ‘General’ and then go to “About”
- Scroll down to find the following two items in the list, these may be different:
- Network: This is the currently active network if one is available – this is not necessarily what the device will be locked to however, it’s only what cell network it is actively connected to – this will show as blank if there is no active network or no SIM card
- Carrier: This is what you’re looking for to show you what network the iPhone last used, and in most cases, what network the iPhone is actually locked to. Carrier will also show the carrier settings version, sometimes carrier updates arrive separately from the general iOS software version to enable certain functionality
In the example screenshot, the Carrier of this particular iPhone shows AT&T (followed by the carrier software version) – this is the last network that the iPhone used, was bought with, and wants to join.
So you may be wondering about phones that are bought unlocked, and maybe about an iPhone that has been unlocked through AT&T (like the phone in this screenshot), in these cases, the “Carrier” setting will show the last cellular carrier network that was joined or used. In other words, if you have an unlocked iPhone that was bought off contract at full price, and you mostly recently used a T-Mobile SIM, it would show that. Or if the iPhone was mostly recently using Verizon or Sprint, it would show that. This all matters for who and what can use a particular iPhone on a given network, though it’s important to point out that unlocking an iPhone makes the preferred cellular carrier irrelevant, if it’s an option. You can always check to see if an iPhone is unlocked by trying to use a different provider SIM card, if it works immediately, you’ll know the device is unlocked.
Aside from casual use and figuring out what network an iPhone can use, this can also be helpful for using ipcc files correctly. For those interested in gathering even more information an iPhone carrier (an active one, anyway), entering into Field Test Mode settings has some much more technical details available, far beyond just telling you which cell provider a device is actively using.