Guide: Will my cell phone work with a mobile carrier in Canada?

Before you use my guide, I would recommend checking out this tool:

willmyphonework.net

It is the best site I have found for quickly answering this question. However, I am not sure how they keep their database updated. My guide may still be helpful for brand new devices or if you cannot find your device on their list.

If that site doesn’t work for you or you are looking to better understand mobile carrier compatibility, here is my guide:

Step 1: Which phone do you have?

This might seem like a silly question, but many people do not know anything about the phone they are holding in their hand. I have heard enough people say “an android” or “iPhone 5G” to know that this is a real issue for some. Looking on the back of your phone can be helpful as identifiers can be found. On an iPhone, the model number starting with A (like A1549 for iPhone 6) is useful for identifying.

The best site to assist with identifying a phone is gsmarena.com. To find your phone, do a search on their site (top right corner) with what you know about your phone (like the model name and manufacturer).

If their search doesn’t help, try using a site search with google, like this:

site:gsmarena.com <brand> <model> <any other information>

Example:
site:gsmarena.com htc one m8

Now check out the full phone specifications from the results. Does the picture look like your phone? If so, you probably have the right device. If not, try to refine your search. Going to the site of the mobile carrier you purchased your phone from may help you identify it.

Once you have found your phone on gsmarena.com, find “Network” (top of the specifications). You may need to “expand” in the title bar to see all the compatible network frequencies. The important part to take note of is the 2G, 3G, and 4G network protocols (like GSM, CDMA, HSPDA, LTE, etc) and frequencies. This is what we will need to determine if your phone will work on a carrier. 

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Remember that where you bought your phone can have an impact on which frequencies it supports. European and North American versions of a phone may look exactly the same and support the same protocols, but use different and incompatible frequencies.

Step 2: Which carriers support my phone?

Here is a chart with a general overview of the major carriers and what they support. Compare the protocol and frequencies. I included 2G, but this can mostly be ignored at this point as even the most remote areas in cell coverage in Canada now tend to have at least 3G coverage. I did not include bands for LTE broadband (data) only.

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You may see that your phone supports some bands and not others. While this will allow your phone to work, it will often severely hurt coverage for your device. For example, carriers that only support the LTE bands of your phone will often have issues in more rural areas that still rely heavily on 3G to provide coverage. 

Ideally, you want your phone to support all the 3G and LTE bands/frequencies that your carrier provides for best coverage.


Step 3: Is your phone unlocked?

Even if your phone is compatible with a network, that still does not mean it will work. Most North American carriers will “sim lock” their phones. This means that the phone should only be able to use sim cards from the carrier you purchased it from.  Carrier subsidiaries will usually be compatible even with a sim lock (like a Telus phone working on Koodo or a Fido phone working on Rogers). The carrier you bought your phone from can unlock it for you, but they can charge up to $50 for this privilege. Often you can find unlock codes online for much cheaper, but sites that provide these services can be sketchy.

Sometimes unlocking can be done purchase-free with a bit of hacking. The quickest way I have found to determine if a phone can be unlocked without buying a code is actually to search Youtube. Just search <your phone name> with the words “how to unlock”. If the person in the video points you to a site to buy an unlock code, it probably does not have a method to unlock without a code. Otherwise, if it describes a process to root or jailbreak your device, then a free way to unlock it may be possible. I would not recommend doing this yourself unless you have some technical know-how and are willing to take the chance of ruining your device.


Example of how to use this guide

As an example, I’m going to use a scenario that I ran into. It should give you a good idea of how confusing determining compatibility can be.

My friend came from Russia with her HTC Desire that she purchased in Russia. She already knew the phone was unlocked. Let’s try to figure out if it will work for any of the Canadian carriers.

First, let’s search GSM Arena for the phone: http://www.gsmarena.com/htc_desire-3077.php

Note the 2G networks. It uses GSM 850/900/1800/1900. Since Rogers uses 850/1900, then this phone is compatible with Rogers 2G network for 2G.

But what about 3G? Since this phone was purchased Russia, it uses HSDPA 900/2100 frequencies more common there. Since none of the Canadian carriers support the 900 or 2100 frequencies on 3G, this phone will not work on any of the 3G networks in Canada.

Therefore, the only option for her to use this phone in Canada is on Rogers. She would also be limited to 2G only.


Another way: Determine compatibility using IMEI number

Bell and Telus also have a way to figure out compatibility using your phone’s unique IMEI number.

Bell IMEI Checker: https://www.bell.ca/shopping/jsp/pageblock_styles/ToolBox/imeitool/imeitool.jsp
Telus Compatibility Checker: http://mobility.telus.com/en/NS/bring-own-device/check-device.shtml?INTCMP=TcomBtnBYOD)


Coverage:
This guide isn’t meant to help with figuring out your coverage, but compatibility. However, here are the coverage maps for the major carriers:
Rogers: http://www.rogers.com/coverage/
Bell: http://www.bell.ca/Mobility/Our_network_coverage
Telus: http://www.telus.com/en/ns/mobility/network/coverage-map.jsp


Links that helped me create this guide:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_LTE_networks
http://willmyphonework.net
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/4G
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Telus
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bell_Mobility
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rogers_Wireless
http://forum.xda-developers.com/archive/index.php/t-1090183.html
http://www.howardforums.com/showthread.php/1594910-Guide-Will-It-Work-on-the-New-Network
http://mobilesyrup.com/forum/showthread.php?t=10244


@tintedGreen

Telus’s New Voicemail System Has a Spoofing Problem

On the morning of February 11th, I missed a phone call. Later that day, I called into my voicemail. I was greeted with the setup for Telus’s new voicemail system. This was not a surprise to me, as Telus did send out a warning text earlier this month. All my settings and greetings were moved over automatically. I was then asked for a new password, which I provided.

Then I heard a new option. The system asked if I wanted to be able to “not require your password when calling from your own phone”. That sounded like a nice convenience, but my security spidey-sense started tingling…

What if someone spoofed my number?

For those that do not know, phone number spoofing is the process of calling someone and having your caller ID show up as someone else. There are plenty of services that provide this for all kinds of fun and/or nefarious purposes (everything from prank calls to telemarketers). Without getting into any details, this process is cheap and easy to do without much computer know-how.

The first thing I decided to do was to contact Telus (via Twitter) to see if they were aware of this possibility. 

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I quickly received a response from their support account (@TelusSupport).

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While I did appreciate the quick response, this did not stop me from testing the theory myself. I used a friend’s phone and an online spoofing service. I was able retrieve my voicemail from her phone without entering my password. This would imply that anyone would be able to do the same to a Telus customer with this feature enabled under the new system.

Therefore, Telus’s initial response was incorrect.

This began a direct message exchange between me and @TelusSupport. The conversation eventually ended up with this message (shared with permission from @TelusSupport).

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There is nothing here I disagree with. There have been numerous cases in which spoofing has been used to compromise security and cause havoc for cell phone customers. However, I find it disappointing that Telus, being aware of this, would build a new system that has a feature that is susceptible to this vulnerability and have it so easy for their customers to enable. It is an option given when you sign in for the first time. Not exactly default, but it does not make the consumer aware of potential issues that enabling the feature would cause.

Recommendation to all Telus customers: If you have updated your Voicemail from Telus to the new system, I recommend you turn off the “do not require your password when calling from your own phone” option. If you have already enabled this feature, follow these steps to go back to requiring your password every time you login to voicemail.

1. Login to Telus voicemail from your phone

2. Access your personal options by pressing 4

3. Require your password when calling from your own phone by pressing 8

That is it. Try disconnecting and logging into your voicemail again to make sure your password is required.

I am not sure if this issue affects any other voicemail services in Canada or if this was an issue with the old system. If anyone wants to let me know what they see on other carriers, that would be great. I hope Telus changes their mind on this feature and goes back to requiring a password every time a user logs into the voicemail system. 

Until then, use a password on your voicemail and keep yourself safe.

@tintedGreen

The Mightiest Mouse

“Who wants a stylus? You have to get em’, put em’ away. You lose them. Yuck.”
-Steve Jobs (2007; during the unveiling of the original iPhone)

Seemingly no one hated the stylus more than Steve Jobs. Imagine, using a stick to interact when a finger would do the job just fine? This statement was a mark against the old way of using a touch device. The past dead. The future literally at our fingertips.

 But then, 8 years later, Apple released a stylus. Hello Pencil.

While the pooh-poohing of the stylus turned out to be the right way to look at a smartphone interface, it gave Apple an issue when they built a tablet.  It turns out, if you want to make a tablet that is truly built for content creation (and especially if you want to put the “Pro” moniker on it), you are going to have to add a stylus with an active digitizer. So they did.

With the introduction of the iPad Pro, Apple is aiming square into the laptop replacement category. They are pushing ahead into a world where we use traditional computers less and mobile devices more. The folks in Cupertino want the iPad to become the device that artist, businesses, and large enterprise will adopt to do work. However, Apple’s iPad Pro is facing a real rival in the enterprise tablet category from an old friend. That device is the Microsoft Surface.

While being fully a Windows compatible machine and a great tablet for most tasks, the advantages that Microsoft’s slate has in enterprise is not as extensive as it may seem. The usage of remote desktop with virtualized software is becoming prevalent in the office; even small businesses. A remarkable amount of business software still relies on Windows, but people are not forced to use a Windows PC exclusively. More people than ever are remotely connecting into Windows with another device to get work done. In my experience, clients often want to be able to login to Windows computers on their phones and tablets as well.

However, upon logging in on their mobile device, an undeniable problem quickly comes to light. The vast majority of Windows software sucks without a mouse. This is where the Surface and many other devices have a distinct advantage. You can connect a mouse to it. 

It has been true for a some time now that many workers no longer need the power of a full computer. There is now a transition period where most people just need to use some old-school desktop software while they (and the companies they work for) transition into a business world that runs primarily on mobile devices. A mouse-less future may be coming, but it not yet here. We still need the mouse like we still need the stylus.

There are currently solutions to this problem that show a demand for a mouse-driven iPad. Citrix offers a mouse that can work on your iPad when connected to Windows. However, it requires you to build out your infrastructure using Citrix… kind of overkill just to get a mouse working.

Apple is now missing a few key pieces to expand iOS devices into the enterprise environment, but this can be corrected.  The mouse is not going anywhere soon, therefore Apple needs to admit that and bring it to the iPad. Like the Pencil, it may be inevitable. Allowing it to happen can only solidify the movement of iOS into the enterprise in the near future.

@tintedgreen