This is an update to a previous post in which I whine about how to get an iPhone 5.

I’ve had a Verizon iPhone 5 for a little over a month now. The “small” redesign of the phone is well worth the upgrade. The iPhone 4S now feels squat, heavy and slow. Meticulously iterating on a proven design, while maybe not sexy, consistently produces a quality product and Apple has done it again with the 5.

Procuring the iPhone 5, on the Verizon network, from Nigeria, was no small feat. It involved a couple detailed emails to my mother and talking with a sales rep, over Skype (voice-only), in a Verizon store to close the deal. I bought an out-of-contract iPhone 5 with a month-to-month plan as another line on my mom’s plan. This was the only way Verizon would let me purchase an iPhone, while living in Nigeria.

A couple headaches attempting the purchase over the phone or internet from Nigeria which resulted in me sending my emissary (mother) to a Verizon store:

  1. Since I currently do not have an account with Verizon I was required to show a plethora of documents to facilitate a credit check and identify verification. This all required faxing to some “corporate” machine somewhere in the bowels of the US. My repeated (4) attempts to do this all resulted in a confused customer service rep being unable to find my documents.
  2. The only way to get an out-of-contract iPhone 5 on the Verizon network is by purchasing from Verizon which requires an account or contract of some sort with them. So the out-of-contract phone requires at least a month-to-month contract. You can’t purchase an out-of-contract Verizon iPhone from the Apple Store and there is no concept of prepaid for an iPhone - the Prepaid 80 plan apperently does not apply to the iPhone.
  3. I did not want to wait until I was back in the US and physically able to go to the Verizon store myself since it was a few week wait on receiving the iPhone. I needed to get this process started from outside the US so the phone would be avaible when I arrived for 2 week holiday.

Once the iPhone was ordered on my mom’s account the process went fairly smoothly. It was delivered before my arrival and waiting to be opened & activated. This was a fairly painless process, just open the box, restore from an iCloud backup and it was good to go. Since the phone was ordered from Verizon and technically already on a contract the activation was seemless and worked right out of the box.

I did have to go into a Verizon store and switch ownership from my mother’s account to a new account created for myself - this only took about 15 minutes and my Verizon service was never interrupted.

Month-to-Month contract vs Prepaid

The only real caveat in this whole thing is the month-to-month contract you’re forced to use due to the absence of prepaid plans for the iPhone. If I fail to pay and let my service deactivate I’m forced to pay a re-activation fee and was told the re-activation process could take up to 48 hours, not ideal for stepping off the plane in Atlanta and being able to use my phone. So… the solution is to put your account on hold. This can be done for 2 consectutive 3 month terms. After that you need to pay for at least a month of service and can then do the process over again. Luckily the suspend/re-active process for this can be done via the Verizon website.

How I Wish Cellular Phone Service Worked

Contrast this with stepping off the plane and activiting or using an iPad 3 with Verizon LTE.

  1. Put in Verizon SIM.
  2. Go to Settings and sign up for a 30 day data plan.
  3. Wait for activation message and start using data.
  4. Enjoy what I found to be incredibly good service in the Atlanta airport and all major cities in Ohio. In fact the service was so good using hotel Wi-Fi was typically a step down in speeds and we used our iPads tethered instead.

Minority but Willing to Spend Money

I’m obviously in the minority here when I talk about how I want cellular services to work, but I would argue that this is a minority willing to pay for convenience and speed. The LTE service was so good I found myself going through about 15GB of data in two weeks. I would typically have just used the hotel Wi-Fi or waited till I was somewhere with unlimited Wi-Fi for bigger downloads but the speed difference was so big I was willing to pay the extra data charges to not wait.

Even my wife, who typically doesn’t care about waiting a bit for downloads, when I showed her the difference in speed between downloading an episode of Grey’s Anatomy over hotel Wi-Fi or Verizon LTE gladly paid a bit more for the extra data plan and we forwent the crappy, costly hotel Wi-Fi.

My point being, prepaid is typically thought of as a low-cost option in the US. But I counter that it is exactly the service high paying business and vacationers want as well. If made easy to use, like setting up data on an iPad, and providing a better level of service than free hotel Wi-Fi - I think the investement in crafting the user experience for cellular phones would definitely pay off in increased usage and data consumption.

Was it Worth the Effort

Anyway, I’m glad I went through the hassle of getting a Verizon iPhone 5 for use in the US. My parents and my wife’s parents both live in Verizon only coverage areas in Ohio. Having a phone that worked for the few days we spent at each over the holidays was worth it to me - and it will be worth it for future trips.

Outside the US the phone is in fact unlocked and I have had zero issues with compatability. I purchased a SIM cutter and simply cut my Micro SIMs down to Nano SIM size.

The hardest part of this whole process was re-adjusting to non-LTE and in a lot of cases no service when arriving back in Lagos, sigh…

AuthorRichard Hochstetler