Compatible Phones with Tracfone – A Quick Run Down

So you’re looking at Tracfone’s mobile service to save money. That’s the primary come-on of their plans. You can save even more when you bring your own phone — that’s if your device is supported on their network.

Tracfone’s requirement for compatible phones, like their name, is pretty straight. It all boils down to two things:

* An unlocked GSM phone on an 850 or 1900Mhz frequency
* A Tracfone SIM card

That sounds simple enough, and it’s simple to check out, too. If you’ve got a phone from AT&T or T-Mobile, you’re all set. Tracfone utilizes networks provided by these two carriers, and that means that their equipment is 100% compatible by default.

GSM versus CDMA

If you bought your handset somewhere else, you’ll need to investigate the device. What you’ll want to do is determine if you have a phone that uses the GSM protocol (that stands for Global System for Mobile Communications). That sounds fancy — and the technology is plenty fancy — but it’s really just about the specific way network communications are handled. GSM is the European standard for mobile communications.

The other protocol used in the states is CDMA, which stands for Code Division Multiple Access. Carriers such as Verizon and Sprint employ CDMA technology.

The difference between the two protocols comes down to this: CDMA makes it especially easy for carriers to create proprietary, locked devices; GSM phones are much more open and flexible, and they can be transferred from carrier to carrier with ease.

Checking it out

You can determine if you have a GSM or a CDMA handset in just a minute or two. Smartphone users should make sure they save any open work or other documents before starting.

What’ll you need to do is remove your phone’s battery. Go ahead and pop off the back cover of your device and carefully take out the battery. If you’re in luck, you’ll find a small, removable card underneath the battery. That little card makes all the difference.

That SIM card carries all the dedicated, system information about you and your phone. SIMs, which stands for Subscriber Identity Modules, come in two sizes — a one-inch standard and a half-inch micro. By swapping out the SIM card you can mix and match phones and carriers.

If you don’t find a SIM card, you’re dead in the water as far as Tracfone is concerned. You’re stuck with a CDMA phone that won’t work on their networks.


With a GSM phone in hand, all that’s left to do is purchase a new SIM card from Tracfone. Their SIMs are $14.99 and can be purchased either separately or bundled with a service plan.

One more thing might come up: If you’re using a smartphone for browsing and sending multimedia/picture messages, you’ll need to update the APN settings on your phone. Most users can get this done in a few steps by following the guide on Tracfone’s website. IPhone users will have a tougher go of it — Tracfone currently offers no update documentation for Apple devices. (You should also note that the iPhone visual voicemail doesn’t work on the Tracfone networks.)

The last choice

Maybe it turns out you’ve got a CDMA phone after all, one of those “evil phones” that’s not supported by Tracfone. Or maybe you wanted a new phone anyway. That’s OK — you can always buy a phone directly from Tracfone. The catch is that you’ll be paying full price, and that means a smartphone will run you into the hundreds of dollars. Your other option is to shop around for an unlocked GSM handset — the World-Wide Web is your best resource here.

Tracfone service plans promise a huge budget cut for you, in a good way. It’s hard to get any lower for a monthly plan ranging from $30 to $45. Now that you know what kind of device operates on their networks, you can save plenty on the phone itself, too.