3G iPhone 4 on Verizon blues... how to upgrade

Looks like Verizon no longer wants to support my beloved iPhone 4 as of the end of this week. The date (December 31) was in the small print on their junk mail trying to sell me a new phone, so I didn’t pay attention. I didn’t think it was directed at me.

Yep, I’m a dinosaur, and pretty grumpy about being made to upgrade. Honestly, I thought the end would come from Apple, not Verizon, seeing how the various apps have become gradually incompatible over the years, while the phone functionality and texting continued working just like new.

My husband was told by Verizon we wouldn’t need to upgrade our plan because my phone number is eligible for an upgrade. (No kidding.) He took that to mean that our rate will stay the same, but I kinda wonder about that…

Assuming I have to switch, I’m really not sure how to go about it. Googling it gets me separate instructions: one about transferring data the Apple way (say, iTunes) and the other about activation through Verizon. I’m not sure I trust the process on account of some strange mixups in recent years with Apple ID in my family that took forever to resolve. Also, the iPhone 4 does NOT have a sim card.

I wonder what’s the simplest approach to switching my phone # and Apple ID. Given the time constraint I plan to buy an iPhone 13 at the Apple store. (sigh)

Any insight would be greatly appreciated and thanks in advance.

I am a bit confused about this one. The iPhone 4 was CDMA. I thought is supported LTE but perhaps only for data. I found this page Apple iPhone - Turn 4G LTE On / Off | Verizon but it seems to indicate the the iPhone 4 and 5 don’t support LTE for data. If that is the case I don’t think any network will support the iPhone 4. But you should have been given a heads up like 2 months ago.

This other page indicates that Verizon is abandoning CDMA at the end of 2022. So why force you to give it up now unless your region is dropping CDMA now.

One item that confuses me is that I had to end service for my wife’s flip phone with Verizon 1/1/2020 because Verizon no longer supported the technology, which I thought was CMDA. It might have been a 2G phone and perhaps Verizon dropped that a year ago? Not that important to me because my wife became unable to use her phone for months before that point, so dropping payment for that line was a plus.

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I’m pretty sure that Verizon is dropping their 3G network Dec 31, 2022, so you should still have some time.

As for switching, yes, you’d plan should still be supported. You should be able to just take the SIM card out of the 4 and put it into a new Verizon supported iPhone and it will be fine (though an iPhone 12 or 13 should get a new phone with anew sim to support 5G.) Verizon will probably charge a one time $35 “upgrade fee” (unless, perhaps, you use the same sim in the new phone - I can’t remember if they negated that loophole yet.)

I believe it does support LTE for data, but not for Voice over LTE (or VoLTE), which requires an iPhone 5s or later (I believe - it could be iPhone 6). For the iPhone 4, it could do LTE data, but calls require the 3G CDMA network, which, again, is supposed to be shut down at the end of 2022.

3G is going away everywhere but December 31st seems a little early ( heard it would be supported through the end of February). Cox was out to my house to upgrade my home security system because it used 3G cell as a backup for Wi-Fi. They said I had until the end of February to get it updated.


The big problem with the iPhone 4 is that it is a 3G device. All of the major wireless carriers are going to be shutting off their 3G networks, and once that happens, the phone will become a Wi-Fi-only device.

I assume you actually have a 4S, since the 4 is a GSM-only device, and is incompatible with Verizon’s 3G (CDMA) network.

You can’t just move a SIM card. Verizon’s 3G network is CDMA, and doesn’t use SIM cards. So you’ll need to get Verizon to send you a SIM card for your new phone (or you can buy your phone from Verizon, and they’ll ship it with one pre-installed).

You can keep your existing plan if you want to. You can transfer your number to the new phone when you order your phone (or a SIM card). The old phone will be deactivated when your new phone is activated (as a part of the activation process after you get the new phone).

If you are willing to get a new plan (which may well cost more per month), Verizon may have some attractive promotions to encourage you to do so. For instance, when i upgraded my iPhone 6 to a 13, Verizon offered me $350 trade-in on my old phone in conjunction with a new 5G unlimited plan (it would’ve been worth only $10 otherwise).

The simplest approach is probably to order your new phone via Verizon’s web site. But pay close attention to everything you’re asked to click on - you don’t want to subscribe to things like new plans and insurance policies if you don’t want to. This will make it easiest to transfer your existing account (and phone number) to the new device.

The iPhone 4/4S are 3G devices. The iPhone 5 introduced 4G/LTE for data-only. The iPhone 6 introduced VoLTE (voice-over-LTE) and is therefore the minimum iPhone that will be compatible with wireless networks once 3G services are turned off.

Unfortunately, moving the SIM isn’t really an option.

Verizon’s CDMA network doesn’t use SIM cards (unlike their LTE network, which does). I think Verizon iPhone 4S devices included a SIM card (I have an old card from mine), but I think it is only used when roaming to a GSM network. It may not have the data needed to run a modern phone on an LTE network.

Furthermore, an iPhone 4 uses a micro-SIM, while more recent iPhones use a nano-SIM. So you’d need to cut the card in order to make it fit.

But there’s no problem telling Verizon to activate a new phone on your account with your existing number. They’ll issue you a SIM card (or if you buy a phone from them, they’ll pre-install it in the new phone for you). The new SIM will take over your account when you activate it in a phone.

Yes, Verizon will charge a $35 “activation fee” in order to do this. I don’t think they will impose the charge if you just move your SIM card, but they warn you not to do this, because new phones support new features and your old SIM won’t have the data required to use them. At least that’s what they say - I’ve never tried just moving a SIM, so I don’t know how accurate that is.

But in this case, upgrading over 11 iPhone generations (5, 5S, 6, 6S, 7, 8, X, XS, 11,12, 13) and moving from 3G to 5G networking, I would expect a new SIM to be required.

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T-Mobile and AT&T are also dropping their 3G support. They want to use their bandwidth for 5G deployment.

You’re lucky, you just have to replace your phone. People with things like OneStar built into their car can’t use their service anymore.

My husband was told by Verizon we wouldn’t need to upgrade our plan because my phone number is eligible for an upgrade. (No kidding.) He took that to mean that our rate will stay the same, but I kinda wonder about that…

The physical phone is different from your plan. You can change your phone without upgrading your plan. You can keep your obsolete plan or go with a newer plan. Sometimes it can be beneficial to change.

You can go through Verizon or Apple to get a new phone. They’ll help you figure it out. If you have a physical SIM card, moving it to your new phone will move your number. My recommendation (since it’s an iPhone) is to make sure everything is backed up to iCloud. Then when you setup your new phone, everything will come over.

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My wife has a flip phone ( LG Revere VN150) which is a CDMA device. Verizon has not notified us yet about ending that service but I assume they will as the cut-off date approaches.

Yeah, I stand corrected (and more than a bit embarrassed) I went and dug out the Verizon junk mail from the recycling bin and sure enough, it said “…no later than Dec 31, 2022,” which of course I’d read as 2021. Good to know I don’t have to rush into the store this week… I suppose I can drag it out for a while longer. :upside_down_face:

In the old days we purchased and swapped around among family members 4S and 5 phones as well, then 7, and it seemed super easy and quick to do the whole process through Verizon, so a while back when my daughter upgraded her iPhone 5 to 8, she purchased it from Verizon ( we thought it would be simpler) and then couldn’t get her Apple ID to work for some reason. I watched her talking to Apple support for hours (not exaggerating) across the kitchen table (she was using my phone to talk to them) and couldn’t believe how complicated it needed to be. After that, she was out of a phone for about 3 days until Apple support confirmed her Apple ID with a text to MY phone… The whole thing was weird and disturbing and I never understood what the problem was but that’s another reason I’ve been putting it off…

If I buy from Apple, do I still need to activate through Verizon? I don’t have a backup on iCloud (I don’t deal with iCloud), I have an iTune backup on my 2016 iMac (still running El Capitan) – dinosaur, like I said. Most of all, I’d like it to be one-stop shopping, I don’t care from whom. I just don’t want to get stuck on the phone for hours with anyone for any reason, it’s bad enough with the health insurance companies.

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It’s impossible to know, after the fact, what was going on, but…

Most of Apple’s iCloud features are tied to the phone, not to the SIM card (so it can work on Wi-Fi networks, etc.). If you swap a SIM card but don’t explicitly sign out from iCloud and other related features (e.g. “Find My iPhone”, iMessage, FaceTime, etc.), those features will remain active on the old phone.

iMessage can be particularly nasty here, because activating it on an iPhone registers your phone number with it (so people can send you an iMessage using your phone number). If you move the SIM card to another device (moving the phone number) but don’t sign out from iMessage on the old phone, messages will be sent to the old phone, even when they are sent to your phone number. This can, of course, create all kinds of problems if you’re caught by surprise (or worse, if you’ve already sold the phone to someone else.)

This is why Verizon’s instructions (when upgrading to a new phone) tell you to sign out from all these iCloud services and then wipe the old phone as a part of the upgrade process. But if you just swapped SIM cards in order to keep using it (with a different phone number), then you end up with Apple’s servers thinking you’re still using the old phone, even though another device now has its phone number.

When transfering a phone to a new user (even in the same household), it is best to wipe the phone (Settings → General → Transfer or Reset iPhone → Erase All Content and Settings) as a part of the process. If you aren’t willing to do that, then you need to walk through the Settings and sign-out from all of the various Apple cloud services (iCloud, Find My iPhone, iMessage, FaceTime, etc.).

If you buy from Apple, you should tell them that you’re upgrading a Verizon phone. You’ll pretty much end up as you would if you ordered from Verizon. You’ll get a new SIM card (or an eSIM URL) with the new phone. Verizon will send you a link to the procedure necessary for migrating everything to the new phone. Follow these instructions to the letter, because skipping steps can lead to problems. A quick summary (from the Verizon link) is:

  • Make a backup of the old phone. To a Mac (via USB or Wi-Fi) or to iCloud. Don’t worry about having enough iCloud storage - Apple will let you temporarily use as much as you need to make a backup and restore it to a new phone.
  • Disable the “Find My” service on the old phone, then turn it off
  • Power-on the new iPhone. If you got a new 5G SIM card with the phone, don’t remove or swap it.
  • From the Quick Start screen, choose manual setup
  • Join your Wi-Fi network (unless you want to activate over the cellular network)
  • Set up Face ID (or skip the step and do it later)
  • Set up a pass-code
  • Transfer your old data into the new phone (the Verizon article has links describing each possible mechanism)
    • From an iCloud backup
    • From a backup on your Mac
    • Directly from another phone (“Quick Start”)
  • Provide your Apple ID and password. If you have another device (Mac, iPhone, iPad, etc.) signed on to your Apple ID, it will receive a verification code, that you must provide to complete the sign-in.
  • Complete the iOS setup (auto-updates, Apple Pay, Siri, Screen Time, Analytics, crash-reporting, etc.)
  • After you’re satisfied that the new phone is working correctly, wipe the old phone before giving it to anyone else (including to Apple or Verizon for recycling).

When I upgraded my phone (from an iPhone 6 to a 13), I didn’t follow Verizon’s procedure. I went straight into Quick Start, to migrate everything from the old phone, before the SIM card was activated. This properly moved everything to the new phone, but it wouldn’t connect to the Verizon network.

I had to call Verizon’s customer support number. The automated phone tree has an option to activate my new phone. I selected it. It then told me to power-off the new phone, wait a few minutes and then power-on again. I did this three times - on the third time, the phone started connecting to the Verizon network.

Other people here, who followed Verizon’s procedure, didn’t have any major problems.


Thanks so much for the explanation and detailed instructions. I’ll be sure to follow them.

Though I have to say that at the time this incident happened, we did download step-by-step instructions from one of the sites (I can’t remember which one). We didn’t swap the SIM card and made no assumptions about its role, but perhaps the instructions were incomplete or we were sloppy – that’s always a possibility :slight_smile:

I would never, ever, recommend that someone buy an iPhone through the carrier. I have bought every iPhone since the original from the Apple Store. I’ve switched the SIM cards myself, transferred my data with the iMazing app and have never paid an activation fee when upgrading from an older model within the same carrier. Carriers will find a way to charge you more and include more fees by upgrading through them and they also charge for SIM cards. The Apple Store never charges for SIM cards, even if you need a new one after the fact (if yours gets damaged somehow, etc.). I have as little to do with the phone carriers as possible as Apple is able to do it all.

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Here’s how to prepare for your new phone:

We are close to deciding to get 13 Pros to replace our 7s. In the past, we’ve bought from Apple directly. But right now, I’m seeing a carrier deal from AT&T that will subsidize something like $1000 per phone with our trade-ins and a three-year commitment to an unlimited data plan (which we are likely to switch to regardless). It’s not clear to me that I could even get this deal buying through Apple.

Are all carrier deals usually available from Apple, or is it sometimes necessary to go through the carrier to get the best deal?


All the carrier deals are usually available from Apple. It’s worth your while to check with them directly. My carrier is Verizon and Apple could always do everything Verizon offered with regard to special deals and offers. Plus you don’t have the hard sell of a carrier always trying to get you to upgrade at every turn or add stuff onto your bill you don’t need.

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This week I updated my wife’s treasured five-and-a-half year old iPhone 6s+ (the battery is failing) to an iPhone 13. It appeared to go well, and then there were tears.

I made backups with iCloud and iMazing and then decided to do the Quick Transfer approach. It worked smoothly. The SIM from the old phone was too old (unsurprising - no 5G there). I ordered a new SIM from Ting ($1.10 by two-day Fedex). After it arrived, I put it into the new phone. It doesn’t yet work and Ting customer service is working on it now. That is not the issue.

When my wife looked at the newly-populated iPhone13, she found that her saved (undeleted) emails only went back to the end of November. Then there were tears.
“Not a problem,” I said. “I have backups.”
After attempting to restore from the iMazing backup and hours of trouble-shooting and online searching, I found the issue:

iOS backups don’t include email! :frowning_face_with_open_mouth: :open_mouth: :scream: :confounded: :angry:


This is whether the backups are on iCloud or iMazing (or even Time Machine on a Mac desktop). The rationale is that “email is on the server.” Somewhat true if you are using an IMAP email account. Not true if you have a POP account where one’s spouse’s Mac email client has automatically removed the email from the server after 30 days. Uh oh.

I do have Mac file backups on hard drives, so I should be able to retrieve most important emails. But it is a shock.
I doubt if a one-stop-shop carrier or Apple has any clue about this. If Apple knew better, they would provide email backups or an API for email backups. They do back up Messages, so it is certainly possible from a technical standpoint. Why exclude email to save a few GB?

If you have only IMAP accounts, you should be OK. (I don’t know what happens to your IMAP emails when the server gets full.) If you have a really old phone, you probably have POP accounts. You may not find out until you upgrade.
Look at the Macworld article for one workaround.
And good luck!

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Thanks to all who pointed out that I got it reversed, that the iPhone 4 don’t support LTE for voice. I don’t know why I wrote “for data” but was glad I was corrected.

I’ve looked for any emails from VerizonWireless from 2019 on the subject. They warned me that her flip phone would stop working after 1/1/2020 due to dropping support for certain communications technology. Now I’m not sure what technology they were referring to.