Some of the most affordable phones in the world come unlocked, meaning they're not programmed for any specific carrier. That's great because you have the freedom to choose your provider, but you first have to make sure your phone is compatible with the carrier of your choice.

If you're wanting to use Verizon, you first have to make sure that your unlocked phone supports the same radio bands that Verizon uses. Radio bands are the radio frequencies on which carriers transmit their service. If your phone doesn't support a carrier's main frequency, then you may not receive LTE in your area.

You may want to consider another provider

Verizon isn't exactly the best network for unlocked phones. In fact, there are only a handful phones that you can bring to Verizon's table.

This is because Verizon uses a different radio system than AT&T and T-Mobile. Without getting too complicated, Verizon is still using an older technology, called CDMA, while most of the rest of the world is on GSM. This doesn't mean that Verizon customers aren't getting LTE; it just means that the way Verizon phones access Verizon's network for authentication and voice calls (until it rolls out VoLTE nationwide) is different than the way, say, AT&T phones access the AT&T network.

Further, it means that Verizon has to approve of the device that connects to its network if you intend to make phone calls, which is a big hurdle for unlocked phones.

What does that mean for unlocked phones?

Most unlocked phones use GSM, since LTE is taking over, so finding phones that fully support CDMA and LTE is pretty difficult. If you're not rocking the right phone model, then you basically just have a data device and nothing more.

At the moment, the only unlocked phones that work on Verizon are the iPhone 6s (models A1634 and A1687), the Nexus 6 and 6P, and the Moto X Pure edition.

However, keep in mind that Verizon may not let you sign up for using an unlocked phone (unless it's an iPhone and if you're reading this, you're probably not using an iPhone). You might have to already have a line and pop your SIM in your unlocked phone yourself. And even at that point, you can't expect to get support from Verizon if you're using an unlocked and unbranded phone on its network.

Which bands does Verizon use?

Unlike AT&T, Verizon no longer supports 2G and only uses five bands.

3G bands

  • 0
  • 1

4G (LTE) bands

  • 2
  • 4
  • 13 — Verizon's main LTE band

You might be missing out

Always remember, with any unlocked phone on any carrier, that you may be missing out on call features, like Wi-Fi Calling and Voice over LTE (VoLTE). If a phone isn't programmed for a specific carrier you may not have access to all of that carrier's goodies.

But that's really the least of your concerns when bringing an unlocked phone to Verizon. A general rule of thumb is to consider another carrier if you want to go with an unlocked phone. Choosing to go with Verizon is a "last resort" sort of situation.