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How to Flash A Cell Phone: Ways to Change Carriers While Keeping Your Phone

Updated on March 18, 2015

Most people today have cell phones already, but don't stick with the same cell phone carrier forever.

When you change carriers you need a phone that will work on your new network.

You have several choices:

  • Buy a phone from your new carrier—you know it will work, but it costs money, and may lock you into a one- or two-year contract.
  • Use your current CDMA phone on a new CDMA network by “flashing” it, that is, by replacing its software.
  • Use your current CDMA phone on a new CDMA network by buying a PIN number for it; big phone carriers may make this difficult or expensive.
  • Use your current GSM phone on a new GSM network by replacing its SIM card; big phone carriers may make this difficult or expensive.
  • Buy a SIM card or PIN number to make your phone work on an MVNO or other network.

Types of Phone Networks: CDMA versus GSM

Mobile phone networks in the US use two different technologies to communicate with mobile phones: GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) and CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access). GSM phones, used at AT&T and Sprint, contain a removable SIM card (SIM stands for Subscriber Identification Module); CDMA phones, used at networks including Verizon and Sprint, do not.

Technology
Networks That Use It
How You Switch a Phone From One Carrier to Another
GSM
AT&T, T-Mobile
Replace SIM card
CDMA
Verizon, Sprint, Cricket, MetroPCS, Page Plus
Change your software ("flash the phone"), or buy a pin

What Is Cell Phone Flashing?

Flashing is the process of loading carrier-specific files to handsets from other carriers in order to connect the phone to the new carrier.

Is Flashing Legal?

You can legally move a CDMA phone to many networks by using free software, or buying a PIN. "Cloning" a phone, that is, copying an ESN (electronic serial number, unique phone identifier) from one phone to another is illegal; fortunately, you do not have to do that to flash a phone.

How Difficult is It?

Almost anyone with basic computer knowledge can flash or reprogram a CDMA cell phone for use on other CDMA carriers. You can look on the Internet for a flashing program and instructions specific to the kind of phone you have. Watch out for viruses though...Once you have this information, and the hardware below, you should be able to complete the process in about ten to fifteen minutes.

See the video below for an example (in this case, a Motorola B3M phone being flashed to Cricket). Or, for another example, see how to flash a BlackBerry.

What Do I Need to Flash My Phone?

1. Flashing software (which you download )
2. A USB cable for the phone you're flashing
3. A computer with Windows 2000 or newer, a USB Port, 800+MHz, 256MB RAM
4. A CDMA cell phone (see below)

In addition, you will need an account with the CDMA carrier you wish to sign up with.

Video: Flashing a Motorola B3M Phone to Cricket

Comparing Carriers

Before you change carriers, you should make sure the coverage you are going to is at least as good as your current provider. Enter your zip code at http://www.cellreception.com to get ratings, tower locations, and user comments for cellular service in your area. You can research prices, plans, phones, and companies at myrateplan.com or wirelessadvisor.com.

The MVNO Option: Buy a SIM Card or PIN

Many MVNOs like Straight Talk have come up as alternatives to the Big Four (Sprint, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon). The FCC has allowed MNVO's to operate so that the Big Four do not monopolize the industry.

An MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) enters into an agreement with a mobile network operator like AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, or Sprint to buy network services at wholesale rates, then sets retail prices independently. An MVNO may use its own customer service, billing support systems, marketing and sales personnel, but it uses one or more of the major providers' networks. Thus the coverage may be as good as or better than a Big Four provider, without the contracts the Big Four often require.

MVNO Networks Compared

MVNO
Technology
Network Used
Features
Monthly price
Notes
Simple Mobile
GSM
T-Mobile
 
$40 (1G of 4G), $60 (5G of 4G)
Not compatible with BlackBerry. Affiliated (as of 2012) with TracFone/Straight Talk/America Movil
Ultra Mobile
GSM
T-Mobile
International calling credit
$20 and up
 
H2O Mobile
GSM and CDMA
AT&T
Nationwide coverage plus international calling credit
$30 and up
 
Net10Wireless
GSM and CDMA
AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon
Family plans
$75 and up for two phones
Affiliated with TracFone/Straight Talk/America Movil
Red Pocket Wireless
GSM and CDMA
All Major Networks
Free international calling: Canada, China, India, UK, parts of Mexico
$40
 
Source: Your Cellular

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    • profile image

      Lola 3 months ago

      I have an Iwireless Samsung J7 will I be able to flash this to Boostmobile?

    • Roberta T Abeyta profile image

      Roberta T Abeyta 4 months ago

      How do I flash a metro phone to Choice service? Samsung phone

    • profile image

      D fisher 7 months ago

      Can i use my unocked sprint note5 on straight talks verizon compatible sim card.

    • profile image

      dalila 9 months ago

      would I be able to flash my metropcs device to work under Verizon service?

    • profile image

      Brandon 14 months ago

      Can I flash a cricket HTC 626s to t mobile and I also have a t mobile HTC 626 that the guy didn't pay his bill so it won't unlock. What do I do?

    • profile image

      Melissa 21 months ago

      Can I flash a Kyocera Event smart phone to Assurance Wireless(Virgin Mobile)?

      How? Which website?

    • profile image

      lewis 2 years ago

      can i flash a hisense prime 1

    • profile image

      ashley 2 years ago

      I have a galaxy s2 (bluegrass ) can it be flashed ro straight talk?

    • profile image

      Charles Norton 2 years ago

      I have been debating on whether or not I should get a new phone. My network is AT&T and sometimes I feel like my service is spotty. Until today, I did not know about cell phone flashing. Does it only work to go from CDMA phones to GSM phones? Or can you flash to either one?

      http://commpluswv.net

    • profile image

      Robert S 3 years ago

      I have a I290 phone formerly from Boostmobile.But now I can not use because of sim card.Can this phone be flashed?

    • profile image

      GilbosCzxss 3 years ago

      Which are some of the phone flashing sofware?

    • profile image

      Alisa Godfrey 3 years ago

      Okay I have a Galaxy rush frm boost mobile and I have a iPhone 4 frm verizon. Am tryin to get the iPhone flashed to boost mobile so I can my old number is this possible?

    • Markie Villena profile image

      Markie Villena 3 years ago from Natchitoches, Louisiana

      not sure if you still read these. but if you happen to, i hope that you can help. i have a sprint iphone device but the esn is associated with the verizon network. does that mean it has already been flashed to verizon? and i've tried activating it through verizon but the device doesn't seem to activate?

    • profile image

      carolyn d 3 years ago

      Can i flash a lg g2 and a moto x verizon contract phone to straight talk? If so wheres the web site i cant find it

    • profile image

      John 3 years ago

      Can i flash my Sprint Iphone 4 to Verizon

    • profile image

      vilmarie 3 years ago

      I have a verizon iPhone 4s can i flashed to metro pcs

    • profile image

      Mannie 3 years ago

      I am under a sprint contract using a htc evo. Is there a way that I could use a verision droid 3 so that can be able to use it under my spint contract? (I dont have the sim card ) if so could you please show me?

    • profile image

      Hriata 3 years ago

      how do i flash the phone

    • profile image

      misterB 3 years ago

      TT. Mike446

    • profile image

      cwill 3 years ago

      I have a sprint moto x i purchased off contract i am currently on t=mobile i was wondering because it does have a sim card can it be flashed to t-mobile network?

    • profile image

      mariav703 3 years ago

      Can i flash my Sprint Samsung Galaxy S4 mini to metro or AIO wireless even though it has a SIM card..?

    • profile image

      Dunn 3 years ago

      Im kinda computer retarded but I have a sprint galaxy S3 n im trying 2 flash it 2 metro. Id like 2 do it myself because everyone either says it cant b done or they want 2 charge an arm n a leg. Is there a way 2 flash it 4 dummies like me? I dont mind buying the software but im worried about messing my phone up. Any ideas?

    • profile image

      chris 3 years ago

      Can you flash an att phone to T-Mobile?

    • profile image

      matt 3 years ago

      Can I flesh a phone wuthout using a p.c or a labtop? Plz reply back to mattho928@gmail.com thank u.

    • profile image

      ken 3 years ago

      @c.j i can code your mtn line to be american line. qnslabe92@gmail.com

    • Andy Griffith profile image

      Andy Griffith 3 years ago from Prattville, Alabama

      Take it back to whoever flashed it and tell them to deleate the file called sprintDM.apk make a copy or backup of that file on SD card or computer just in case you ever need to go back to sprint. phone may need to be rooted to do this. after flash if you want to you can download the app called nobloat and it will remove all the spring junk if any is on the phone. call or text 5863937008 this is who does all my phones. He is the one that fixed my problem which is the same problem your having now. Also the picture text and all that will work. He can do a remote flash from you computer at your home. here is the website im sure you can get your problem solved. http://genxwireless.net/contact-us

    • profile image

      Jenn 3 years ago

      I got an S4 from a friend who is on Sprint. Had not activated phone but did have new phone number for it. Took it to my carrier, Cricket, and they flashed the phone, however it is still trying to activate on Sprint and saying there is no SIMS card. I plan on taking it back and telling them they missed a step when flashing but didn't know if there is something simple I could do so I didn't have to go and stand around the Cricket store today. Please advise, and thank you.

    • profile image

      c.j 3 years ago

      hw can i code my mtn line to be american line

    • profile image

      Angela 3 years ago

      hi can you add my site to the LINKS? thanks

      angelabrooks741 gmail.com

    • profile image

      vandi 3 years ago

      I have a Galaxy II with Boost Mobile, is it possible to flash it over to Straight Talk?

    • profile image

      kingsoldotrose 3 years ago

      my roommate has an android note 2( not the galaxy note 2) that she bought unblocked. Can you help me flash it for straight talk????

    • profile image

      Robert Canady 3 years ago

      I need someone to flash my Verizon note 2 back to straight talk. It worked great on straight talk. After I defaulted phone it will make calls but not any data, only Wi-Fi. It says Verizon sim and cannot change apn settings.

    • profile image

      Maitriya 3 years ago

      I have a boost mobile htc one sv and it's rooted. Do I need to unroot it before flashing the new no.?

      And which software should I use?

    • profile image

      gracela v dodson 3 years ago

      Hi, I bought my new galaxy s4 600.prepaid in Tucson az ,they told me that were I live Haysville n c ,that it will work ,well not im here and the phone dose work in this area ,so no im freaking out ,I tried for 3 days contecting them and no answer I call straight talk to see if they can help me and they said no ,they said I had to get another phone ,WHAT!! so im so upset I don't no what to do ,im on a budget and I have to have a phone for my doctors app. can I flash this phone !!Please help!

    • profile image

      Megan 3 years ago

      I have a basic casio boulder that I want to use on prepaid how.would I.do that since its a flip phone

    • profile image

      dark27knight 3 years ago

      Hello Mike...

      Can you help me out with flashing my phone? I have a Verizon Samsung Galaxy S3 (1535) the phone I'm wanting to flash to and my current phone Metro PCS phone. I would appreciate it so much if you could help me out please. My email: johnathan27@gmail.com

    • profile image

      Koolister 3 years ago

      I am wanting to flash a Samsung Galaxy S2 from sprint over to tracfone is that even possible? If so where could I get the information for that.

    • profile image

      jay1000 3 years ago

      Yes I wanted to know if I had a Verizon Samsung galaxy note3 how could I get it over to straight talk also I wanted to know I can't do the thing with san number could it also if not could I switch to virgin mobile

    • profile image

      ms11354 3 years ago

      Hello, i have a LG OPTIMUS G E970 with atat and wanted to know if i could switch to staight talk? My sims card is on the side of my phone not under my battery. On straight talk website tthere are 2 sims to choose from, i dont know which one i need....the micro or regular? Thanks

    • profile image

      Nee Nee 3 years ago

      Hi can a galaxy note II be flashesd to pageplus?

    • profile image

      kiki 3 years ago

      How do I switch my Samsung galaxy 3 cdma sprint phone over to straight talk?

    • profile image

      tiffany24161 3 years ago

      mike446 is it possible to flash a sprint phone to virgin mobile? its a samsung galaxy.

    • profile image

      ddd 3 years ago

      Can I flash a Samsung galaxy s3 tmobile to boost mobile

      le

    • profile image

      Gloria 3 years ago

      I have a A Samsun Galaxy Prevail

      I am not able to get my updates, as

      it it says I am low on space.

      Spoke to Samsun, was told to go to

      Best buy, to to a reflash, has anyone

      out there had a reflash is it an expensive deal, Is there another way, w/o going to best buy?

      If there is someone out there who has an answer, pls let me know.

      At Gloriaantoine@yahoo.com

      Thanks a lot.

    • profile image

      josh 3 years ago

      I have a galaxy prevail 2 thru boost mobile and I would like to flash it to metro but I kno metro phones have sim cards now so is it still possible ?and if so would all my features work mainly referring internet would it still run at 3g? Ive been trYing to this for 3 weeks now lol please help me. I really appreciate it thanks.

    • profile image

      Reva 3 years ago

      I broke my cricket phone. So i went to a cricket retail store & bought a Samsung Galaxy S3 which is Sprint flashed to cricket. Why am i not using cricket towers? On my broken phone i had full bars on this one i have none. I had sprint before with brand new phone & returned it after 1 day because of service & went back to cricket

    • profile image

      Jasmine S. 3 years ago

      I have a iPhone 4 thru AT&T can i make it straight talk service or boost Mobile service?

    • profile image

      Alicia 3 years ago

      Please help I have service with a local company and I can't upgrade for two years but this phone sucks it does have a SIM card so I know it's a CDMA can any CDMA phone work to flash please let me know thanks!!

    • profile image

      surya 3 years ago

      Hai my phone model was karbon smart A3 how to flash?

    • profile image

      Kathy 3 years ago

      Can I flash an HTC droid dna to straight talk ?

    • profile image

      Rhea 3 years ago

      I have a Samsung Galaxy 7.7 4G LTE VERIZON Tablet that I would like to use in Canada. Is there any way I can unlock it so I can use a Canadian carrier?

    • profile image

      John 3 years ago

      Hello I have a iPhone 5s CDMA from u.s cellular carrier can this be flashed to us on page plus or straight talk

    • profile image

      Brandy 3 years ago

      I have a sprint galaxy s epic that has been previously flashed to pageplus. I changed services and ported my number. Now I want to simply re-activate the same galaxy phone with a different number on pageplus again for my daughter. The dealer told me I would have to pay to flash the phone again. Is this true? Why?

    • profile image

      Elise Reece 3 years ago

      I have a sprint samsung galaxy s3 with a bad esn number that i bought off of ebay. i want to flash it to a carrier called Ntelos wireless/Frawg wireless. i currently have a flashed phone that has Ntelos service on it so basically i just want to flash the s3 and transfer my service from this phone to the s3.... can anyone help??? i have CDMA Workshop full version just need help

    • profile image

      lallen 3 years ago

      I have a Samsung galaxy axion, I am thinking about going to page plus can my phone be flashed. If it can do I buy the service and port my number first or do I flash then port my number and get service. I am new to this so I know nothing other than I need to save money.

    • profile image

      dunga 3 years ago

      hi please can you tell me the name of the software which is used to flash mobile phones?

    • profile image

      Sam 3 years ago

      Can a sprint iphone 4S (cdma) 6.1.3, be flashed to Pageplus?

      do u have instructions to manually do this?

    • profile image

      CdmaFlashingSoftware 3 years ago

      If you need any of your devices flashed come to: http://cdmaflashingsoftware.com/

    • profile image

      Muhammad Jamshed 3 years ago

    • profile image

      Tristenn101 3 years ago

      Hello, I have a US Cellular Note 2 that I would like to flash to my Boost Mobile account, is there software out there that will allow me to do this?

    • profile image

      Jennifer 3 years ago

      Hello I was wondering if I can flash a verizon droid m to straight talk because Verizon prepaid doesn't allow you to have a 4g phone on a prepaid plan.

    • profile image

      motilal rawat 3 years ago

      my nokia 1200 RH-99 product code not support and i couldn't download its data pakage &i couldn't flash my nokia 1200. please help me.

    • profile image

      Grace 4 years ago

      News from Straight Talk......

      Kobe: Please be informed that Straight Talk Wireless now offers BYOP;

      also known as Bring Your Own Phone. You now have the option to activate

      any unlocked GSM technology phone. To activate your unlocked GSM

      technology phone, you will need to purchase a SIM card and a service

      plan. Only the unlimited service plan can be used with this program.

      However, BlackBerry, and branded TracFone, SafeLink, NET10 or Straight

      Talk phones will not work with this program. You may purchase our BYOP

      SIM cards on our website at http://www.straighttalksim.com or at

      selected Wal-Mart retailer.

      Kobe: On the other hand, our BYOP program will now include CDMA phones.

      You will be able to bring your CDMA phone to Straight Talk by purchasing

      a Network Access Code, for $14.99 plus tax, and an Unlimited or

      Unlimited ILD (International Long Distance) Airtime Plan. In addition,

      the Network Access Code will serve as a key to load and identify the

      phones in the system. However, we cannot activate your handset with our

      CDMA BYOP program if it would fall under the following:

      Kobe: • Phones that are 4G LTE technology.

      • Our branded phones (TracFone, NET10, Straight Talk, SafeLink, or

      Telcel America)

      • iPhone 5, BlackBerry, iPads, or tablets.

      Grace: so your system doesn't have 4G ?

      Grace: or is that for the home phones

      Kobe: We have 4G data service. However, we still do not have 4G LTE.

    • profile image

      Edwin 4 years ago

      Hi, my name is Edwin... how can i flash samsung galaxy trend?

    • profile image

      Firdaws abdul 4 years ago

      Hi,my name firdaws...just wanted to ask what to do about a certain matter.......i stupidly forgot my phone password (Sony Ericsson R800i)...so i was asking if it needs flashing or something like that and how do i do that???.....

    • profile image

      lilmama 4 years ago

      Hi, I have a lg ls670 sprint phone that was flashed to straight talk now I purchased a lg l55c straight talk but straight talk stated that it doesn't cover sprint tower in my area which is 31024. I don't want to change my number and the current phone lg ls670 is on Verizon tower what can I do

    • profile image

      rai 4 years ago

      can anybody help in flashing

    • profile image

      hohner0006 4 years ago

      I have a samsung alias 2 from verizon...I bought it used and it has the old Alltel programing on it yet (which is not supported in S. Dakota) and it needs to be changed to verizon wireless to work properly. How can I change this to accept the local program?

    • profile image

      Ananda 4 years ago

      How can I flash Samsung SGH N400.

    • profile image

      jio 4 years ago

      how can i unlock a cdma samsung i770 ? i need to travel and im trying to use a t mobile simcard on this verizon phone. its tellin me its locked

    • profile image

      akashsargade 4 years ago

      can i flash a samsung e2232 with data cable without any box

    • profile image

      chad 4 years ago

      i got me htc evo phone flashed but my internet isn't working how do i get it working

    • Andy Griffith profile image

      Andy Griffith 4 years ago from Prattville, Alabama

      I have a htc evo 3d on straight talk. I want to add another one got all software just need a guide with easy instructions on how to do it. It is a pre pay phone got the same one htc evo want to put it on straight talk like my other one. I will donate for the info thank you

    • profile image

      Emilio 4 years ago

      Hi i need some help locating the CDMA software can someone please help

    • profile image

      Hendry 4 years ago

      Hello, can i flash us cellular samsung galaxy note 2 to cdma provider outside USA? Can you tell me how? Thank you for your response.

    • profile image

      Ashlee 4 years ago

      Can u flash a Sprint i phone 4 with a bad esn to a pre paid carrier?

    • profile image

      kai 4 years ago

      can i flash a tracfone to a verizon g zone

    • profile image

      robert 4 years ago

      I have a Verizon htc merge, it has the option of gsm(it has a sim card), cdma, or global..... can i use it on straight talk? and if so, what would i have to do?

    • profile image

      Tia Bell 4 years ago

      How do I falsh A Samsung Galaxy S2 ( Sprint ) to boost?

    • profile image
      Author

      mike446 4 years ago

      Yes that is correct.

    • profile image

      Thomas 4 years ago

      Great site. Answered MOST of my questions and glad you saved me bucks also. Criket wanted to charge $60 to flash my working droid 2. Now I can do it myself and from what I'm reading, for a $24, unlimited flashing software fee. Is this correct. Thx Mike

    • profile image

      Alex 4 years ago

      Can I flash my AT&T ipad 3 generation to sprint?

    • profile image

      Ari 4 years ago

      can a NEXUS S 4G from Sprint be fully flashed to Cricket?

    • profile image
      Author

      mike446 4 years ago

      Yes you can flash an HTC Droid. I suggest Page Plus or Cricket for an easy flash and all functions working.

    • profile image

      MsDas 4 years ago

      Is it possible to flash my verizon HTC Droid Incredible? If so, which carriers are the best to flash to as I want my web and everything to function properly. Thanks!

    • ariz0nacardinals profile image

      ariz0nacardinals 4 years ago from Boise Idaho

      I just got this new phone that has only been released since last year and there's not very many who have seen this phone. It's a military phone with more bells and whistles than you can ever imagine. It even has a non electrical charging system that manually hand cranks with a USB connector. The phone requires 2 sim cards and I currently use verizon and have the gzone boulder and I am wanting to flash this phone. The maker is Jinhan U-Mate commander pro. Are sim cards still readily available by those independent flash phone outlets? I found out Verizon only flashes phones at the corporate locations not those bullfrog outlets.

    • profile image

      Jeremy 4 years ago

      could i get some tips on flashing a gzone rock to boostmobile?

    • profile image
      Author

      mike446 4 years ago

      Yes you can reflash any phone to any CDMA carrier.

    • profile image

      jamila1981 4 years ago

      Hello Mike,

      Can I flash a sprint phone that has already been flashed to boost mobile back to sprint?

    • profile image

      your name 4 years ago

      Really, every other question is about straight talk. How many times do you need to answer this??????

    • profile image
      Author

      mike446 4 years ago

      Cricket and Page Plus are two of the easiest services to get all functions working on once you switch so you should have no problems.

    • profile image

      mrsmissy 4 years ago

      Can I switch my Droid X and LG Ally from Verizon to Cricket and still get everything working including picture messaging?

    • profile image
      Author

      mike446 4 years ago

      A lot depends on why the ESN is bad. If it is because of non payment of a bill then you may have a problem as most carriers now share such information and will not activate you on their service.

    • profile image

      elizabeth 4 years ago

      i got a verizon iphone 4 cdma bad esn number that i want to hook up with another carrier and be able to use the phone and all its capabilities data talk text ect. what other cdma can i get service with

    • profile image
      Author

      mike446 4 years ago

      Straight Talk will not add your ESN to their data base so you will not get service. Some people will buy a phone from Straight Talk and then clone the ESN of that phone onto another to get it to work but this is very illegal.

    • profile image

      Chris 4 years ago

      I have been told that flashing a verizon phone to straight talk absolutley works. Has anyone heard any diffrently? This was from a company that has been flashing for at least 5 years.

    • profile image

      bill 4 years ago

      can you flash a verizon droid razr to virgin mobile?

    • profile image

      jamila1981 4 years ago

      Can I flash a sprint phone with a boost mobile account back to sprint?

    • profile image
      Author

      mike446 4 years ago

      You can flash your CDMA phone to any CDMA carrier with the exception of Straight Talk.

    • profile image

      Bob56 4 years ago

      i have a prepaid motorola triumph from virgin mobile, can i flash it to blugrass cellular since they are both cdma networks?