Can I Use My Own Phone With Safelink While Still Locked to the Previous Carrier?

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Safelink is one of the carriers in the country you can get free touchscreen government phones and service all year round. It’s also one of the few who have had the privilege to serve its customers on all Big Three networks in the country. But then, does the phones they provide compatible with all Three networks? If not, can I use my own phone with Safelink, say if I decided to change between SIM cards?

Well, to begin with, the future of Safelink with AT&T and T Mobile is on the verge of an end. After the acquisition of TracFone, the parent company of Safelink, Verizon is planning to switch over all the customers on a network other than theirs.

Many are Already Losing Their Old Safelink Service

In recent months, Safelink has been pushing messages for the old customers on T Mobile and AT&T SIM cards to switch to Verizon ones. Yes, the hard switchover is somewhat scheduled until November 2024. But it seems the operator still wants people to switch early.

As I’ve mentioned when comparing Access Wireless vs Safelink a while back, T Mobile used to be the default network (if you didn’t choose when applying). And many of the existing Safelink customers on T-Mobile seemed more than satisfied with their service, especially with high data speeds.

After a switch to the Safelink- Verizon SIMs, many of these users have not been too happy. Others have even ended up reverting to their old service. But the service via the T-Mobile or AT&T network would deactivate when you get a Verizon phone. The process requires you to port your cellphone number, anyways.

So, to get back to using your Safelink Service on the old GSM line, you’ll have to contact customer support again. But with the support kind of “across the ocean”, it may require several calls before you can find someone knowledgeable enough to help you with your Phone.

Safelink BYOP (bring your own phone) Program

Different from its closest rival, Assurance Wireless, Safelink does allow you to bring your favorite smartphone. When joining for the first time, you actually have the option to apply with the “Keep Your Own Smartphone” kit, which only comes with a SIM card.

The SIM kit is available from retailers like Amazon, Walmart, Target, BestBuy, et cetera. But for the best results, you might want to get yours directly from the Safelink web store. You can just purchase the SIM (at $0.99) to guarantee it arrives in the shortest time.

Can I Use My Own Phone With Safelink

The BYOP program is pretty handy to have in about any carrier network. In a lifeline provider like our Safelink, the feature is even handier as you have the option to:

  1. Get a more decent smartphone that you can use with your service. The kind of phone Access Wireless gives you (entry-level brands) is what most of the lifeline providers have. In particular, Safelink has been sending the TCL A507DL or ALCATEL A509DL.
  2. Enjoy better mobile data speeds. As I’ve just said, the devices the lifeline brand gives you are cheap selections that don’t have the best modem. You’ll want to get another latest devices if you want to enjoy fast and more stable cellular speeds. The same goes for WiFi speeds (WiFi-6 is faster than WiFi-5, which is better than WiFi-4).
  3. Upgrade to the new Safelink network (with Verizon) if you were previously connected through the AT&T or T-Mobile towers.
  4. Replace a stolen/ lost/ damaged phone. Of course, Safelink does offer replacement devices at a small fee. But the company still sends the cheap brands, unless you’re upgrading directly from the selections on its web store.
  5. Escape illegal data collection, which may seem like no big deal. But many of these budget lifeline phones (not just Safelink) have been identified to contain bloatware apps that download data in the background. You can disable the function under settings, but not all phone models have the option.

Only Bring Phones that are Compatible with Safelink

As I’ve mentioned earlier, Safelink is still working with AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile towers until 2024. You can continue to use the service with a phone that works best in your current location.

But if you’re joining the service or upgrading now, it will be more worthwhile to get a phone that works on Verizon. And the three main types of phones compatible with Safelink include:

  • Branded Safelink phones

As the name suggests, these are the devices that come while locked to the Safelink network. They’re naturally compatible with the service, and available for FREE when you join or upgrade through the carrier.

Alternatively, you could purchase a pre-owned Safelink branded phone from eBay or Facebook Marketplace. But I’d not recommend this option as the device might be blacklisted (if the owner reported it lost/ stolen).

Can I Use My Own Phone With Safelink
  • Factory unlocked phones

Your Safelink SIM will also be compatible with most factory-unlocked cell phones in the market right now. You just have to make sure the devices have the necessary network band and frequencies.

  • Branded TracFone phones

Usually, small subcarriers can work with the devices from their parent company even before unlocking. And just as we have Verizon-branded phones compatible with Visible Wireless, you can use Safelink on various TracFone-branded devices too.

Even better, TracFone tends to share the device unlock policy with all its brands. Hence the reason you’ll find phones compatible with Simple Mobile can work with a Safelink SIM card while still locked.

Tip: Phones locked to other carriers (besides TracFone brands) could also work with Safelink after removing the network restrictions. But there’s usually no guarantee you’ll have access to all the features and functions, especially if the previous carrier didn’t unlock all.

The 10 Best Cell Phones You Can Use with Safelink

Republic Wireless Compatible PhonesNetwork ConnectivityROM vs RAM
Fully Unlocked Apple iPhone 11 LTE A13 iOS4G LTE64GB, 4GB
Unlocked Motorola Moto G Stylus LTE Android4G LTE256GB, 12GB
TracFone Motorola Moto G Pure (2021 Release) LTE Smartphone4G LTE64GB, 4GB
Fully Unlocked Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus4G LTE256GB, 12GB
Simple Mobile Samsung Galaxy A21 LTE Android5G & 4G LTE128GB, 4GB
Unlocked Google Pixel 3a LTE Snapdragon Android4G LTE64GB, 4GB
Unlocked Apple iPhone 8 4G LTE Smartphone4G LTE64GB, 2GB
Fully Unlocked Apple iPhone SE (2020 Release) LTE iOS 4G LTE128GB, 3GB
Factory-Unlocked Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G-Enabled 5G & 4G LTE128GB, 6GB
Motorola One 5G ACE 2021 Release Android5G & 4G LTE128GB, 6GB

Avoid International Phone Versions

Whether the deal is to upgrade or replace a lost, stolen, or damaged device, you can bring your own phone to Safelink. But all the major network carriers have retired their old 3G band frequencies. So the device you use should support at least 4G LTE connectivity.

Furthermore, the US carriers, especially AT&T and Verizon are blacklisting the international versions of phones. Yes, sometimes you can be able to pass the device through the IMEI checker and even activate it successfully. But when the operators detect it, they will lock you out of some or all features.

So, make sure the model of the phone you get to use with Safelink is a US version to ensure the best service experience.

Another thing, the factory-unlocked phones (and those previously locked to a network other than TracFone) are not guaranteed to work on Safelink. Text the word BYOP to 611611 with the phone to confirm it will be compatible with the service.