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How Do You Swap SIM Cards and Switch Carriers on Your Unlocked BlackBerry Phones?

Ulnl;ocked BlackBerry Passport

For many people, buying a subsidized, on-contract phone from a carrier feels like a can’t-go-wrong move. After all, a subsidized, locked phone is usually several hundred dollars cheaper than an unlocked phone. But consider this: an unlocked phone lets you choose which carrier to use, and that can result in hundreds of dollars of savings over two years (the typical life of a mobile contract). You’ll also enjoy the chance to pick the best carrier for where you live, work as well as travel. Data roaming is a cinch when you go unlocked.

Maybe you’ve heard all this. But when you started considering actually going out and buying an unlocked phone, you stopped yourself, plagued by nebulous fears of technical headaches.

As I’ll explain, getting an unlocked phone and activating it really isn’t very complicated.


Now is a pretty awesome time to get an unlocked phone from Why? Because we have a serious, time-limited deal on select BlackBerry 10 devices.

That’s right – shop now, and save up to 55% on select devices during the month of November.

Eligible Devices Regular ShopBB Price (US$) ShopBB Discount Offer (US$)
BlackBerry Z30 $499 $299
BlackBerry Q10 $399 $199
BlackBerry Q5 $349 $159


The deal applies to customers in the US, Canada, the UK, France, and Germany.

And don’t forget, the unlocked BlackBerry Passport is still $100 off (subject to availability).

Now that I’ve got your attention, let’s answer your burning questions about unlocked phones.

What Exactly IS an Unlocked Phone, Anyway, and Why Should I Care?

An unlocked phone isn’t tied to a single carrier. You can easily move among carriers that use the same basic wireless technology that your phone supports. This is either GSM or CDMA.

(Note: Most of the world operates on GSM, with the exception of a few CDMA carriers, mostly located in the United States, such as Verizon, Sprint, and US Cellular.)

Switching carriers requires changing your phone’s SIM card. Think of a SIM card as your phone’s driver’s license – it identifies the user to the network, allowing calls and texts to be routed properly, and bills to be charged to the right person. It used to be that only GSM phones required SIM cards, but with the advent of faster 4G LTE networks, even CDMA carriers such as Verizon require SIM cards.

With unlocked phones, users can switch networks by swapping in and out SIM cards from different carriers. Locked phones don’t allow that. There are other benefits to having an unlocked phone, as well. For instance, they eliminate expensive roaming charges when you’re traveling abroad. With an unlocked phone, you can buy a prepaid SIM card at your destination and insert it into your phone to start making local calls at local rates while still retaining your personal information.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at getting unlocked BB 10 devices up and running on some of the major GSM carriers in the United States and Canada. The experience should be similar in other countries.

Which BlackBerry 10 OS GSM Phones Are Available on ShopBlackBerry? has the following BlackBerry 10 devices available for GSM carriers.

Click each for a link to the device on ShopBlackBerry. The sale applies to the Q5, Q10, and Z30.

Removing and Inserting SIM Cards in Your BB 10 Devices

The slots for the SIM cards vary in location by device. Here’s a quick how-to by device.


BlackBerry Z10 How-To

You’ll need to remove the battery cover by pulling up on the bottom of it. (It’s flexible.)

Then slide in the Micro SIM card as shown.

Z10 SIM Insertion



BlackBerry Z30 How-To

From the bottom of your BlackBerry device, pull up the back cover. With the metal contacts pointing toward the back of the device, insert the SIM card into the slot on the left side of your device.

Z30 SIM Card Insertion


BlackBerry Q5 How-To

On the Q5, the back cover release is on the left side of the device as you’re looking at the front. Remove the battery cover, and slide in the SIM as shown.

Q5 SIM Insertion



BlackBerry Q10 How-To

To remove the battery door, press and slide down the battery door, then slide in the SIM as shown.

Q10 SIM Insertion

BlackBerry Passport:

BlackBerry Passport How-To

With the back of your device facing you, use the indentation on the top of the device to pull the top part of the cover toward you. With the metal contacts facing away from you, insert the Nano SIM card into the right slot as shown.

BlackBerry Passport SIM Insertion


How to Activate Your Unlocked Phone on AT&T (US):

AT&T’s page on their “BYOP” (Bring Your Own Phone) plan details the information:

AT&T Unlocked

AT&T says to check that the unlocked device works with a SIM card on an AT&T GSM network frequency:

  • 3G UMTS network 850 / 1900MHz bands
  • 4G LTE network AWS / 700 / 850 / 1900MHz bands

You then select a SIM card and an AT&T Mobile Share plan. Here are your SIM card choices. The one you want is the SIM for 4G LTE BlackBerry, which I’ve highlighted in the picture below.

AT&T SIM Cards screen

Here’s the link for the SIM card for a 4G LTE BlackBerry:

The SIM card is free. You can order it online from AT&T, or get it at an AT&T store.

Once you have your plan set up and obtain your SIM card, slide it into your device, and you’re ready to go.

I myself am on a two-year plan, and had no trouble having the unlocked BlackBerry Passport work right away by just swapping in the Nano SIM (a smaller version of a SIM card) from another phone. As long as the SIM is compatible and the devices are on the same type of data plan, you should have no problem switching between devices with the same SIM.

Just “pop-and-swap.”

How to Activate Your Unlocked Phone on TELUS (Canada):

Similar story here, except you get your SIM in-store, with either $20 off your monthly bill for their TELUS SharePlus plan or 10% off any monthly smartphone plan. TELUS already offers the BlackBerry Z30 and BlackBerry Passport, but you can also get them unlocked from ShopBlackBerry.



Rogers (Canada)

Rogers offers $10 off your monthly bill for their BYOD plan. You’ll need to activate your unlocked BlackBerry device in-store.

Rogers 1

Here are the links for the SIM cards:

Micro SIM

Nano SIM

Rogers 2

Unlocked Phones Getting Greater Distribution Via Ingram Micro

BlackBerry’s recent distribution deal with Ingram Micro means greater access to unlocked BlackBerry 10 devices in both Canada  and Latin America.

The agreement equips BlackBerry with broader distribution of its products and services throughout the Canada and the Latin American region by leveraging Ingram Micro’s supply chain expertise, extensive infrastructure and unique channel reach to value-added resellers (VARs), system integrators, wireless carriers, retailers and other services providers.

Canadian and Latin retailers will hive a direct pipeline to unlocked devices via Ingram Micro, and customers will have an easier time finding them.

Unlock Your Wallet

As you can see by these examples, it’s not that much more complicated to get an unlocked device for your GSM carrier than signing up for a two-year subsidized plan.

You have to decide which works best for you, but it’s good to have the information to make the best decision, and buying an unlocked phone could be your best path for real savings and freedom.

Be sure to take advantage of our November sale while it’s still going. You’ll be glad you did.

Matt Young

About Matt Young

Matt Young is a writer and editor with experience in tech, music, news and entertainment. A current Performance Evangelist for Radware, Matt has previous experience with BlackBerry, and Avaya. He has a degree in Journalism from San Jose State University. Follow Matt on Twitter @techunraveler.