3. Find out If You Own Your Current Phone
If you're wondering how to tell if you own your phone, in some cases, it can be pretty easy to figure out. If you paid the full price of your phone up front, it's yours to do what you want with it. But if you're on a payment plan, things might not be so clear. You may be making payments towards owning your phone, but you might be leasing it.
For plenty of people, leasing a phone makes sense. When you rent your phone, you get to upgrade it each year without having to pay off the balance. You make payments on the phone for 12 months, a new model comes out, and you get to trade up. You can also keep making payments on the current phone, renting it on a month-to-month basis, or you can talk to your carrier and ask if it will let you purchase the phone.
What you don't get to do if you're leasing a phone is sell it. The phone isn't yours, so you don't have the option of getting cash for it. When you trade it into your carrier, they get it, and you start making rent payments on a new phone.
How can you figure out if your carrier owns your phone? It depends on your carrier. Sprint, for example, calls its program a "leasing" program. AT&T calls theirs "AT&T Next" or "AT&T Next Every Year," T-Mobile's is "Jump" and Verizon's is the "Annual Upgrade" program. It's also worth noting that in some cases, you aren't renting your phone from the carrier, but from the manufacturer. Apple has a leasing program for the iPhone that works with all four of the big mobile carriers.
4. Figure out If You Have a SIM Card
If you turn your phone over and take out the battery or take a look along the side of it, you might notice a small slot or opening. Inside that slot might be a SIM card, aka a "subscriber identity module" card. Back in the day, phones from AT&T and T-Mobile always had SIM cards while phones from Verizon and Sprint didn't.
We don't want to get super technical on you, but one of the main reasons for the difference was the type of radio system each carrier used. Verizon and Sprint used Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) while AT&T and T-Mobile used Global System for Mobiles (GSM). GSM phones had SIM cards, and CDMA phones didn't.
Then along came 4G LTE. Again, we're not going to get super technical, but 4G LTE is a standard in wireless communications which is based on GSM. These days, pretty much every smartphone out there uses 4G LTE and has a SIM card. If you have an older phone that only has 3G or a non-smartphone that only has 2G, and you used that phone with Verizon or Sprint, it's likely that there's no SIM card. But if you have a modern smartphone from pretty much any carrier in the U.S., it's going to have SIM card inside it.
The SIM card inside your phone might be tiny, but it contains a fair amount of information. It's an integrated circuit, similar to the chip that's embedded in credit cards these days. The card contains details about your identity, such as your phone number and the account you have, such as whether your account is with T-Mobile or Verizon. Some SIM cards also contain information such as your contacts list and text messages. Most SIM cards don't have a lot of storage space, so you wouldn't be able to use them to hold your photos or music.
You should remove the SIM card before selling your Android device or iPhone. You'll want to hang on to the card and install it in your new phone if you're sticking with the same carrier. Since the card contains your subscriber information, such as your phone number, and might have some personal information, such as text messages and contacts, on it, it's a good idea to take it out of your old phone even if you're changing carriers and won't need that particular SIM card anymore.
SIM cards are meant to be removed, so taking one out of your phone shouldn't be too tricky. If your SIM card is on the side of the phone, you might be able to gently push on it to eject it. Some devices require you to use a paper clip to eject the card. If your card is located in the back of your phone, by the battery, you'll want to turn your phone off, then take the battery out. Push on the SIM card gently to pop it out of its spot.