What will the carrier 'iphone 8 Plus' have loaded on it that the unlocked version won't?
Is there anything that the unlocked version won't be able to do, that the carrier version can?
Will certain apps or hardware need to be installed to make the unlocked version function properly?
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On Apple's website, when purchasing the phone, it gives the option of buying the phone for one of the four carriers, then a 'buy without a carrier' option. This is what leads me to think there is some sort of difference.
Yes, there is. The sim free phone is universal and unlocked and will not be locked if you use on another carrier.
The other phones will lock to the first carrier you use them on, even if purchased at full price. If you think you may want to change carriers at will, you want an unlocked, sim free phone to avoid that carrier lock.
The ATT and T-mobile version is also GSM only.