UPDATE (14 Sep): http://www.apple.com/iphone/LTE/ has been updated. Everything below was confirmed, except that T-Mo switched over.
Now that the iPhone 6S has been announced, it has been interesting to see that the new models are still split in two, but are darn near identical. This is great news for those that travel abroad, and want to use other sim cards as they travel. Here’s how the new split breaks down:
and T-Mobile model s:
LTE (Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30) TD-LTE (Bands 38, 39, 40, 41) TD-SCDMA 1900 (F), 2000 (A) UMTS/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz) GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz)
The Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile models:
LTE (Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29) TD-LTE (Bands 38, 39, 40, 41) TD-SCDMA 1900 (F), 2000 (A) CDMA EV-DO Rev. A (800, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz) UMTS/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz) GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz)
The differences here are much smaller than before. With the iPhone 6, there were differences in the TD-LTE radios, but not anymore. This means that you can get LTE effectively worldwide on either model. Here are the differences I know, and hopefully they can help you decide what to get.
Sprint, as far as I know, still carrier locks within the US. Even if you buy an unsubsidized phone from them, you can only use the device on Sprint/Ting in the US. You can unlock internationally, but it’s still unnecessary. Avoid the headache.
T-Mobile and AT&T offer “LTE Band 30” in their phones. In short, this is an additional LTE band that offers excellent speeds in dense, urban areas. This is already being rolled out, and will help AT&T customers in areas that were notoriously slow due to overuse in a small geography.
AT&T has had a reputation for carrier-locking in the past, and generally, you must be “in good standing” to unlock. In other words, you have to beg, and then they’ll let you off… assuming you paid all your bills, you good little sheep. The NSA thanks you.
T-Mobile doesn’t appear to have plans to use that LTE band, so while they’ll be offering better deals without contracts, you’re also going to deal with what has historically been a lesser network. Some of the new bands added to these models will help, provided your area gets upgraded. They do offer the most flex and the best international plans, while generally being least expensive. UPDATE: T-Mobile has the CDMA version; same as Verizon below.
Verizon offers the best blend, it seems. You get a phone with CDMA included. This will give you coverage with speed in almost every place on earth. You only miss out on LTE 30, and it’s irrelevant if your network is decent. Having used Verizon for several years, their network is their strength. Unless you plan on being an AT&T customer in the next 2-3 years, it would be hard to recommend anything other than a Verizon phone. Why?
If you like Verizon or T-Mobile, you’re set. If you like Sprint, you’re able to get on their network, including prepay with Ting. You can use T-Mobile’s plans with a T-Mo sim, and get some of their international data options, or their prepay as well. If you’re going with AT&T while in the US, and you plan on being in major metropolitan areas, AT&T might be worthwhile.
However if you are an AT&T customer, it might be best to buy the T-Mobile version so you have no carrier locking issues.
While the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus don’t have the “Apple Sim”, this setup has been a big step forward in offering a “World Phone” right out of the gate. All 4 carriers seem to be offering unsubsidized and non-carrier-locked handsets on Day 1, but I will stick to my recommendations until I hear that AT&T and Sprint have actually changed behavior.
Please be aware – this is as accurate as I can see from the specs posted on 10 September 2015. I cannot guarantee accuracy, other than to say that “you see what I see”.
Good luck, and enjoy those phones on Launch Day!