Do I have to buy a phone from T-Mobile for all the T-Mobile features to work?


    I have the $30 prepaid plan.  I would like to buy a new phone.  I am looking at the Motorola Moto G 3 and the Samsung S4, neither of which are on the T-Mobile site.  In researching various features, I found that wi-fi calling, band 12 with voLTE, and E911 are not available if the phone is not purchased from T-Mobile.  Is that correct?  If I buy a Moto G3 from the Motorola site or a Samsung S4 from Wal-Mart will these features be unavailable even though both sites list them as T-Mobile phones?  Is this true for other brands of phones as well?

      All replies

      • drnewcomb2

        No but the list of phones where all the features work and which have all the bands is pretty short. The Nexus 5x and 6P are on the list as are the iPhones 6s & 6s+. Not sure which others. Moto X Pure? 

          • e2k

            I got my Samsung i747 (AT&T S3 variant) to work with WiFi calling & tethering (although I don't recommend it).


            All the models that drnewcomb2 mentioned plus iPhone 5s, 5c, 6 & 6+ work also.


            One of the biggest emerging "features" is band 12 compatibility. If coverage is at all of a concern, you should check the specs of any phone you are considering for band 12 capability.

              • gramps28

                Here's a link that shows all the compatible band 12 phones that works with Tmobile.


                Devices compatible with 700 MHz A block spectrum - Spectrum Gateway

                  • jmdebonis

                    I am confused since I am not tech savvy.  What exactly is band 12 with voLTE?  What do I need band 12 and voLTE for?  If I purchased a phone that was labeled 4G LTE will I get 4G LTE speeds if it did not have band 12 with voLTE.   Also what about wi-fi calling?  Do I have to purchase the phone through T-Mobile for that feature to work?  Thank you.

                      • gramps28

                        If it were me and I needed wifi calling I would buy a Tmobile branded phone, an unbranded iPhone 5C or above or a Nexus 5X, 6, or 6P.


                        Band 12 is their newest band and there's certain areas where that may be the only LTE band Tmobile

                        may have in that area so that's why a phone with band 12 is suggested.

                          • jmdebonis

                            When you say that I should purchase a T-Mobile branded phone, do you mean any phone that says that it is made for T-Moble, for instance a Samsung sold by Wal-Mart?  Or only phones sold by T-Mobile.


                            As for band 12 , if I have a LTE phone without band 12, if I am in an area with only band 12 LTE, will the phone speed go down to 4g or lower?


                            You said band 12 is their newest band.  If I buy an earlier model phone like the Samsung S4 I assume that it will not have band 12.  In that case will I get a slower speed in areas covered by band 12?


                            Thanks again you have been very helpful.   

                              • tidbits

                                If it says T-mobile on the box and T-mobile on the phone somewhere you are fine. There are exceptions as listed which had been listed.

                                • e2k

                                  I would run any phone model you are considering through the search function on (or any other similar site). You can then compare the bands it receives with T-Mobile's bands. In doing so, you have to read very carefully, as there are differences between different variants of the same model (e.g., a variant made for Verizon vs. T-Mobile).


                                  For example, here are the bands/frequencies supported by the S4 GSM model (not to be confused with the CDMA model sold by Sprint and Verizon):


                                  LTE (4G)

                                  band 2 / 1900 MHz   PCS (Americas)

                                  band 4 / 1700 MHz   AWS (Americas)

                                  band 5 / 850 MHz   Cellular (Americas, Oceania, Brazil, Israel)

                                  band 17 / 700 MHz   Lower 700 (USA (AT&T))


                                  WCDMA (3G / 4G)

                                  band 1 (I) / 2100 MHz   IMT (Europe, Asia, Africa, Oceania, Brazil, India, Israel)

                                  band 2 (II) / 1900 MHz   PCS (Americas)

                                  band 5 (V) / 850 MHz   Cellular (Americas, Oceania, Brazil, Israel)


                                  GSM (2G)

                                  850 MHz / band 5   Cellular (Americas, Oceania, Brazil, Israel)

                                  900 MHz / band 8   (Europe, Asia, Africa)

                                  1800 MHz / band 3   DCS (Europe, Asia, Africa)

                                  1900 MHz / band 2   PCS (Americas)


                                  You can check this list against the bands that T-Mobile uses:



                                  T-Mobile Frequencies


                                  LTE Frequencies (FDD LTE, not TDD LTE)

                                  1700 MHz & 2100 MHz AWS band 4

                                  1900 MHz PCS band 2 (in refarmed areas)

                                  Lower 700 MHz band 12 (in development)


                                  3G/4G Frequencies (WCDMA)

                                  1700 MHz & 2100 MHz AWS band 4

                                  1900 MHz PCS band 2 (in refarmed areas)


                                  2G Frequencies (GSM/GPRS/EDGE)

                                  1900 MHz PCS band 2

                              • drnewcomb2

                                Band 12 is the entire lower half of the 700 MHz band. T-Mobile has licenses for the lowest block of this band in many areas. AT&T had the upper part of band 12 standardized as band 17 separately to cover only AT&T's licenses and many phones were made with band 17, to the exclusion of the lower part of the band. 700 MHz will allow T-Mobile to compete on a more level playing field with the other three carriers, all of whom have low-band (sub 1GHz) licenses. Also, the newest cellular standard (LTE) was designed as a data-only bearer. To be able to use LTE for phone calls you'll need T-Mobile compatible Voice over LTE (VoLTE) capability.   

                                  • jmdebonis

                                    So, as far as making phone calls, if I don't have band 12, will I still be able to make them over 4G?  Is T-Mobile's LTE only on band 12, or do they use other bands as well?  And if so, do the other bands have this issue with voLTE and E911? 

                                      • gramps28

                                        T-mobile's lte bands are 2,4 and 12.

                                        • dragon1562

                                               jmdebonis listen i'm going to try and keep this really simple for you since knowing the details does't matter. You are going to want to buy a phone that came out this year on t mobile and nothing older if cost is a issue then you should just wait because you will hurt yourself in the long run by purchasing a device like the s4 since it won't support band 12. A device that i would recommend is the nexus 5x or 6p they are great because they are cost effective, support all the bands needed, and will get supported much longer then if you were to buy a older device. Also the nexus devices come unlocked which means that at any time you could switch to another carrier or take advantage of google's project fi which uses both t mobile's and sprints network together.


                                               Next i want to answer your question about what would happen if you don't have band 12 its actually something you probably already know but ill tell you. What would happen is nothing you would't have service if that was the only frequency in the area, which in many places it is so the device lacking band 12 would be unable to place a call unless it was a 911 call. The reason 911 is the exception is because a device will connect to another network if it must to complete the call. Also voLTE only works on devices that support and areas that have been upgraded to output it no frequency has issues with this. If you still have questions i will be more then happy to help if you need phone recommendations or want to double check with en i can tell you if a device will work.

                                          • e2k

                                            You can make calls on any available band that your phone receives. See the list I posted - it answers your questions about the LTE bands that T-Mobile uses.


                                            VoLTE is only available on LTE with supported devices.


                                            I don't know what e911 issue you are referring to. Put your address on file and you should not have a problem.

                                            • drnewcomb2

                                              No, they also use band 4 (a.k.a. AWS) and band 2 (1900 MHz). However, band 12 is the one that has the best range and in-building service. If you go to some places, like northern Michigan, without band 12, the coverage is like Swiss cheese. In other places (e.g. Tennessee) it makes no difference at all, since T-Mobile has no 700 MHz licenses there. So I would not turn down an ex-Verizon iPhone 5s or 6, just because it didn't have band-12, but I might not pay a premium for them either. This map shows where T-Mobile has or is acquiring 700 MHz licenses.

                                              • stevetjr

                                                Yes you could still make calls as long as the phone supports the 2G (GSM) bands 1700 and 1900.  However there are some markets where T-Mobile is expanding into where they don't have any spectrum in those bands so they will only have Band 12 so your phone wouldn't work there. Data is a whole different animal and you would need a phone that supports 1700 and 1900 HSPDA (WCDMA) bands for 3/3.5G (3.5G was marketed in the US as 4G but not LTE) again not much of a stretch as most (not all) support those.  4G LTE T-Mobile has 1 primary band and 2 bands that are not in every market but also some markets will only have those 2 bands available. T-Mobile's main LTE band in the US is Band 4, they have a few markets where they run LTE on Band 2 (because they didn't have Band 4 spectrum) and the newest which is Band 12.  In most markets Band 12 is a secondary LTE band and only comes into play when your Band 4 signal drops too low because you are inside, a lot of trees or other objects between you and the tower. Since Band 4 is mid high spectrum it doesn't penetrate objects nor does it carry as far a lower frequency which is why T-Mobile paid $3 billion to Verizon to obtain the Band 12 licenses. In some areas where T-Mobile previously wasn't able to offer coverage they now can with Band 12 since you usually need about 1/4 of the number of towers to cover the same area so that's why some markets will only have Band 12 service.


                                                There are a couple of T-Mobile pre-paid phones that aren't to bad especially compared to like an S4 that do support Band 12 and have the T-Mobile features and that is the Samsung Galaxy Core Prime and Grand Prime.  Even though prepaid they will work with any T-Mobile SIM card and you can get them at BB and Walmart right off the shelf.