We 

Full Advertiser Disclosure:

MoneySavingPro believes everyone should be able to cut their bills and choose the best deal based on their individual requirements. While our site doesn't feature every carrier or provider available on the market, we're sure you'll be able to make significant savings from the information we provide and the free independent tools we create.

How can we provide this service for free? Our partners compensate us. This may influence which plans we compare and review and write about, but it does not effect our recommendations or advice, which are based on thousands of hours of research. Our partners cannot pay us to guarantee favorable reviews of their products or services.

 when you click our links.

GSM vs CDMA: What's the Difference?

Which carriers are compatible with your phone?

Best T-Mobile Plan
10GB LTE Data
$20* per month
Powered by:

See Deal

* $60 for 3 Months Service
Best Verizon Plan
8GB LTE Data
$23* per month
Powered by:

See Deal

* 50% Off for 3 Months
Best AT&T Plan
2GB LTE Data
$15* per month
Powered by:

See Deal

* 25% Off for 3 Months

CDMA vs GSM: Which is better?

You have probably heard a lot of talk about GSM and CDMA but maybe you're not exactly sure what that means for you and your cell phone? Let me help clear that up!

GSM (Global System for Mobiles) and CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) are two technologies used in cell phones. They are an older form of technology which helps to fill in the gap when you are in an area without 4G signal.

Older cell phones will either be a GSM phone or a CDMA phone and be locked to the carrier network, which is why it is harder with older phones to move from a GSM carrier to a CDMA carrier or vice versa. However, phones made in the last few years normally have both technologies built into them making it easier to switch carriers.

Find Cheap Cell Phone Plans in Your Area

The GSM network is more well known as the technology is used worldwide, whereas CDMA networks are only used in the US. This means if you travel a lot having a phone that uses a SIM card is the best way to check if it is compatible with the GSM network.

Sprint and Verizon run on the CDMA network whereas AT&T and T-Mobile use GSM. There are also several MVNO's which use these big major networks that can save you money whichever network you are covered by.

Check Carrier Coverage

GSM vs CDMA comparison

Carrier

Network

Minutes

Texts

Data

Price

Tello

T-Mobile

Unltd

Unltd

1GB

$7.50** 25% Off for 6 Months

Reach Mobile

Verizon

Unltd

Unltd

3GB

$15** 50% Off for 3 Months

Ting

T-Mobile & Verizon

Unltd

Unltd

Unltd

$25** $20 Off for 3 Months

Mint Mobile

T-Mobile

Unltd

Unltd

10GB

$20** $60 for 3 Months Service

Twigby

Verizon & Sprint

300

Unltd

1GB

$7.50** 50% Off for 6 Months

CDMA & GSM low cost carrier benefits

  • Save Money: MVNO's which work off of the four main carrier networks can offer you much lower rates, they offer the same great service but at nearly half the price!

  • Customized Plans: Most of the big guys' plans offer unlimited data. This sounds great, but the average smartphone user only uses about 3GB a month. This means you may be paying for data that you don't use. With MVNO's you can build your own plan to what you use.

  • No Contracts: All low-cost carriers offer prepaid plans. So you are free to leave anytime you want! You don't have to go through a credit check or get tied into a two-year contract.

Best AT&T GSM carrier

Pure Talk - 6GB Data* 25% Off for 3 Months
UnlimitedminsUnlimitedtexts
6 GB4G data
$22.50*per month$30/mo
Powered by: AT&T

AT&T vs Pure Talk Plan Comparison

Keep your AT&T phone, number & coverage: Save $562 per year

Carrier

Network Coverage

4G LTE Data

Price

Annual Cost

AT&T

AT&T 4G LTE

Unltd*

$75/mo

$900/yr

Pure Talk

AT&T 4G LTE

6GB

$30/mo

$338/yr

*Don't waste money on unlimited data - Avg. data usage is only 3-5GBSavings$45/mo$562/yr

Best T-Mobile GSM carrier

Mint Mobile - 4GB Data* $45 for 3 Months Service
UnlimitedminsUnlimitedtexts
4 GB4G data
$15*per month
Powered by: T-Mobile

T-Mobile vs Mint Mobile Plan Comparison

Keep your T-Mobile phone, number & coverage: Save $540 per year

Carrier

Network Coverage

4G LTE Data

Price

Annual Cost

T-Mobile

T-Mobile 4G LTE

Unltd*

$60/mo

$720/yr

Mint Mobile

T-Mobile 4G LTE

4GB

$15/mo

$180/yr

*Don't waste money on unlimited data - Avg. data usage is only 3-5GBSavings$45/mo$540/yr

Best Verizon CDMA carrier

Reach Mobile - 8GB Data* 50% Off for 3 Months
UnlimitedminsUnlimitedtexts
8 GB4G data
$23*per month$45/mo
Powered by: Verizon

Verizon vs Reach Mobile Plan Comparison

Keep your Verizon phone, number & coverage: Save $486 per year

Carrier

Network Coverage

4G LTE Data

Price

Annual Cost

Verizon

Verizon 4G LTE

Unltd*

$80/mo

$960/yr

Reach Mobile

Verizon 4G LTE

8GB

$45/mo

$474/yr

*Don't waste money on unlimited data - Avg. data usage is only 3-5GBSavings$35/mo$486/yr

Best Sprint CDMA carrier

Tello - 4GB Data* 25% Off for 6 Months
UnlimitedminsUnlimitedtexts
4 GB4G data
$14.30*per month$19/mo
Powered by: T-Mobile

Sprint vs Tello Plan Comparison

Keep your Sprint phone, number & coverage: Save $640 per year

Carrier

Network Coverage

4G LTE Data

Price

Annual Cost

Sprint

Sprint 4G LTE

Unltd*

$70/mo

$840/yr

Tello

Sprint 4G LTE

4GB

$19/mo

$200/yr

*Don't waste money on unlimited data - Avg. data usage is only 3-5GBSavings$51/mo$640/yr

Which carriers are GSM?

T-Mobile GSM network

AT&T GSM network

Which carriers are CDMA?

Verizon CDMA network

Sprint CDMA network

Switching to a CDMA or GSM carrier

The good news, if you have a phone that was made in the last few years, is that switching carriers is easy as most newer phones have both CDMA and GSM built in so they are compatible with 4G LTE.

Don't panic though if you have an older phone! There are still plenty of ways that you can switch carriers or find an unlocked phone that is within your budget.

Understandably phone carriers don't want to lose you as a customer, so when you buy a cell phone it is normally locked to that carrier's network. This can sometimes cause issues if you are looking to switch carriers. Most phones on the GSM network can be unlocked and you can then choose any carrier for your phone. The reason GSM unlocked phones are easier is that they use SIM cards. So you remove your old SIM and pop in the new one.

CDMA phones typically do not use a SIM, and all the data and contacts are stored directly on the phone, which is why it can be harder to unlock and move between networks.

If you have one of the latest CDMA phones you will find that there is a SIM card slot which means that your phone should be compatible with both networks as CDMA phones now use the GSM technology to access 4G.

If you're looking to buy a new handset, check out the amazing deals on refurbished phones, which save you at least 50% off the original price but you get the latest features.

Is my phone GSM or CDMA?

One of the easiest ways to know if your phone is with a GSM carrier or a CDMA carrier is that GSM phones use SIM cards. Well, it's not quite that simple anymore!

If your phone was made in the last few years then it is likely to be compatible with both CDMA and GSM as CDMA phones now have a SIM card slot to make use of the 4G LTE network.

Because the older CDMA cell phones do not have a SIM card it means that all of the phone information, like your data and contacts, is stored on the phone directly. This is often why it is harder to move a CDMA phone to another carrier, especially a GSM carrier.

Not to worry though! Even if you do have a locked CDMA phone, you can still save yourself some money with one of Sprint or Verizon's MVNO's.

Is one technology better than the other? Not really, as it comes down to personal preference. For example, if you travel overseas regularly then having a GSM phone - because GSM is used Worldwide - can give you more freedom in using your data, talk, and text or you can save yourself some money by getting a local SIM card to put into your phone, as long as you have a GSM unlocked phone.

If you are unable to unlock your phone, that doesn't mean you're stuck paying costly cell phone bills. You can find some great deals on unlocked phones or refurbished phones which can save you over 50% and give you the freedom to change carriers without having to worry.

CDMA & GSM unlocked phone benefits

  • Freedom: Having an unlocked phone gives you the freedom to choose whichever carrier you want as you will be able to use it with any carrier or network.

  • International Service: If you have an unlocked phone you have more flexibility when traveling abroad. You can buy a SIM card for your destination Country to use on your phone to avoid expensive roaming charges.

  • Save Money: You can also save money by buying a refurbished unlocked phone and save over 50% off the cost of a brand new phone.

Recap

Whether you choose a carrier on the CDMA or GSM network is down to preference and what your needs are. Bearing in mind that it is easier to change carriers with a GSM unlocked phone.

As technology is moving forward both CDMA and GSM are working alongside 4G, but still, play a part in giving you cellular coverage when you're in an area not covered by 4G.

Although Verizon phased out CDMA at the end of 2019, Sprint still uses the CDMA network and T-Mobile and AT&T are the big guy's using the GSM network.

When you're looking for a new plan, you don't have to just go for one of the main carriers. You can find a much cheaper deal by using one of their MVNO's (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) because they use the main carrier networks you get the same great service, but for half the price!

CDMA vs GSM FAQs

Is AT&T GSM or CDMA?

AT&T operates on the GSM network. AT&T unlocked phones should work with GSM carriers.

Is T-Mobile GSM or CDMA?

T-Mobile operates on the GSM network. T-Mobile unlocked phones should work with GSM carriers.

Is Verizon GSM or CDMA?

Verizon operates on the CDMA network. Verizon unlocked phones may only work with CDMA carriers.

Is Sprint GSM or CDMA?

Sprint operates on the CDMA network. Sprint unlocked phones may only work with CDMA carriers.

Rob Webber
Rob Webber

Rob has 15+ years experience in the US and UK running price comparison sites for cell phone plans, smartphone deals, TV, and internet. He loves thinking outside of the box to build tools that empower consumers to make more informed decisions.

FAQs

Is Verizon GSM or CDMA?

Verizon uses CDMA.

Is AT&T GSM or CDMA?

AT&T uses GSM.

Is T-Mobile GSM or CDMA?

T-Mobile uses GSM.

Is Sprint GSM or CDMA?

Sprint uses CDMA.

The Best Prices on the Best Networks