When you’re looking for a phone and service providers some of your main priorities might be excellent coverage, having enough data, customer support, and most importantly price. Well, we can help you with the price part, we have a ton of amazing deals on phones. However, there are some things you should know when searching for plans and service providers that meet your needs.

When it comes to choosing a carrier and a plan that works for you, you are also making the choice between a GSM or a CDMA network, at least this is the case if you’re in the US. But what is a CDMA or a GSM network? Simply put, they are two sides of the same coin and both get the job done but sometimes it can get overwhelming. If you’re searching through a bunch of smartphones online it can get confusing trying to figure out which phone will work with your Verizon or T-Mobile plan.

You might recognize these terms from past experiences when choosing a smartphone, or when you first joined a network carrier. You might be shaking your fist at the sky wondering, “what do they actually mean?!” And what is the difference between the two? Well, it might get a little technical but we have all the answers.

What exactly is GSM?

GSM actually stands for Global System for Mobile communications and is the standard for communication internationally and is available in over 210 countries worldwide. The two major American carriers that operate on the GSM network are AT&T and T-Mobile. Basically, this means if you’re looking for a smartphone and your carrier is either AT&T or T-Mobile you want to be looking for phones that state “GSM Unlocked.”


Okay, so what does CDMA mean?

Okay, CDMA stands for Code-Division Multiple Access, and it was designed and patented by a company called Qualcomm but became the basis and standards for 3G networks. Unfortunately, CDMA hasn’t seen the global popularity that GSM has, and less than 18% of networks around the world are using CDMA. It’s primarily found in the US and is mostly used by Verizon Wireless and Sprint providers. So, long story short, if you use Verizon for your smartphone carrier you’ll want to find a phone that states “CDMA Unlocked.”

GSM vs CDMA: What are the primary take-aways?

Both CDMA and GSM allow multiple calls to go through a single tower but the major difference between the two has to do with the way your data is converted into radio waves that your phone broadcasts and receives and which cellular carrier you prefer. However, there are a few more practical considerations you should have as a customer, we’ve listed them below:

  • Network Coverage - So, your network coverage doesn’t depend on whether it is a GSM or CDMA network, but it does depend on the infrastructure the carrier has in place. GSM networks are more popular across the globe. However, Verizon Wireless, a CDMA network, boasts the highest number of subscribers and broadest coverage in the US. This is a major consideration when shopping for refurbished tech, make sure you know which network lines up with your carrier.
  • International Romage - When you’re using your phone locally, this is less of a concern. However, if you are a frequent international traveler GSM has the upper hand. There are a lot more GSM Networks globally, along with roaming deals among those providers. You’ll most likely get better coverage with a GSM phone when traveling internationally, lucky you and can you take us with you?

We know that was a lot of information and jargon but basically it boils down to this: which carrier do you have or want to use and which network (CDMA or GSM) do they work with?

All that sounds like a lot of crazy talk, huh? Well, if you still have questions feel free to contact us at we’d be happy to help! 


Robin E. Piller

Robin E. Piller

Thank you for your article. I used to have Sprint and now T-Mobile so I knew I had the other one, not CDMA. I did not realize my network (GSM) was the one which worked internationally — I always thought the Verizon phone network was the preferred international one. Good news for me then! Now I am looking to change my cell coverage to Optimum which is my ISP. I just want to make sure that they also use GSM. They told me they use T-Mobile cell towers so service should be the same for less — a lot less. I hope there is no other issue because I presently have a Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 5G and am changing to Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra so I can have a cell with the embedded S-Pen Stylus like my former Samsung Galaxy S Note 10.

Edward Cameron

Edward Cameron

Loved the article, the vail has been lifted from my eyes. I now understand what I’m actually looking for and what to believe. Shopping for a new phone for my wife (hers no longer receives manufacturer updates. We also have different carriers (Verizon, and T-mobile/Metro PCS). Your explanation will make my selection easier, thank you.

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