A lot of people may be confused about what CDMA and GSM mean in terms of phone types and phone carriers.
And, though the answers to what these terms stand for maybe a bit complex, it’s important to understand whether your phone is a CDMA or GSM type because some phone carriers only support one type or the other.
Verizon Wireless is one phone carrier that is even pickier about which CDMA and GSM phones it accepts on its network, especially when it comes to older devices.
Is Verizon Wireless a CDMA or GSM Phone Carrier?
Traditionally, Verizon is known as a CDMA carrier, but some GSM phones still work on the Verizon network. Prior to the 2010s, Verizon only allowed CDMA-only phones onto its network, but today, almost any 4G phone, whether it uses CDMA or GSM technology, is compatible with Verizon.
Some popular phone models that may use GSM tech but still work with Verizon include all iPhone 6s and later models, all Google Pixels, all Samsung Galaxy S7s, and later models, all OnePlus 8s and later models, all BlackBerry Key2s and later models, and all Motorola Moto G4s, E4s, and later models.
To understand further, it helps to know what in the world GSM and CDMA means.
GSM stands for Global System for Mobile communication while CDMA stands for Code Division Multiple Access, and the main difference between these 2 types is that GSM phones usually use SIM cards while CDMA phones do not.
You may also hear that GSM is another way to refer to the old 2G network of phones while CDMA is another way to refer to the old 3G networks.
However, since 4G and even 5G are the norms now, GSM and CDMA no longer represent 2G and 3G phones because those phone types are pretty much extinct.
If you buy a phone directly through Verizon, it will automatically be compatible with the Verizon network, and it will probably be a CDMA phone.
Since CDMA phones do not use SIM cards, they connect directly to the network, and that network will have to be CDMA-compatible.
If you buy a CDMA phone from another phone carrier, you will more than likely be able to switch it to the Verizon network, too, because it will be compatible.
However, it is not as straightforward when trying to connect a GSM phone to the Verizon network.
Older GSM phones that were actually from the 2G era will not work on the current Verizon CDMA network.
Also, a lot of newer GSM phones that are bought directly from other carriers, like AT&T and T-Mobile, cannot be switched over to the Verizon CDMA network.
If you bought your phone as an unlocked model or directly from a phone manufacturer, though, such as from an Apple Store or Best Buy, then the phone will be compatible with both GSM and CDMA networks, meaning it will definitely work with Verizon.
There are some simple steps you can take to figure out whether your phone works with CDMA or GSM technology, from researching the model number to checking for a SIM card slot.
There are also some general rules to know about Verizon’s compatibility with older and newer GSM phones.
How Can I Tell if My Phone is CDMA or GSM?
One hint as to whether your current phone works with CDMA or GSM technology is to remember where you actually got the phone from originally.
If you bought your device directly through Sprint, then it will be CDMA-compatible and probably only be CDMA-compatible.
If you bought it through AT&T or T-Mobile, then it’s going to be on GSM technology and it will only work with GSM technology networks.
If you actually got your phone through Verizon, then it will definitely be CDMA-compatible, but it may also be GSM-compatible, too, because Verizon sells phones that are flexible with both types of networks.
If you did not get your phone through a phone carrier, then you may have to do some more research on the phone itself.
If you bought your device as an unlocked phone, then it will be both CDMA and GSM-compatible, but if you bought it off of someone else or secondhand, then you can figure out its tech compatibility by looking up the phone’s model number online, and this number will be found in your phone’s settings, usually under an “about” tab.
You may want to look to see if the phone has a SIM card slot, too, since all GSM-compatible phones have one.
Keep in mind that, because your phone has a SIM card slot, it doesn’t mean it isn’t compatible with CDMA networks, too, though, since a lot of newer phones can use SIM cards even on a CDMA network.
You can always check your phone’s settings to see if it’s currently using GSM or CDMA technology too.
For both iPhone and Android users, this information can be found in the phone’s settings, under an “about” or “about phone” section.
Somewhere in this section’s information, you may see either a MEID, ESN, or IMEI number.
It doesn’t matter what the number actually is, but if you see the term MEID or ESN anywhere, then your phone is using CDMA technology right now.
If you see IMEI anywhere, then it’s using GSM technology.
Some phones may even show more than one of these numbers, which will mean that the phone works with both types of networks.
Can I use a GSM phone on Verizon?
If your phone is a GSM phone compatible with 4G data technology, then it is likely compatible with Verizon Wireless. If your phone is a 2G or 3G phone that uses GSM technology, then it will not be compatible with Verizon Wireless.
Can I use a Verizon SIM card in a GSM phone?
Yes, you can use a Verizon SIM card in a GSM phone, so long as you use the SIM card to connect to only the Verizon network.
What are GSM phones?
GSM phones are Global System for Mobile communication phones that must use a SIM card to work. Phone carriers that work with GSM devices include T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon Wireless.
What are CDMA phones?
CDMA phones are Code Division Multiple Access phones that do not use SIM cards and instead connect to cellular networks directly without a card. Phone carriers that work with CDMA phones include Sprint and Verizon Wireless.