It is very common to buy an iPhone from a carrier or Apple that is locked to a mobile network. The benefits are the iPhone’s lower price and a contract with a carrier so you can start using it immediately. However, there is one major disadvantage. If you want to use your iPhone with a different carrier you will need to unlock it first, which means that you need to find out how to unlock your iPhone.
A carrier locked phone can only operate with the mobile network that is locked to (e.g. AT&T locked iPhones can only work with AT&T SIM cards). You will not be able to take your locked phone to another network and use their service. Some carriers will assist you in that process, but you will also have to get some things done on your own, which will take a lot of time.
A quick and permanent solution to unlock your iPhone is through a 3rd party IMEI Unlock service. But we will explain and analyze all unlocking methods in detail below.
iPhone Unlocking: What does it mean?
iPhone Unlocking, also known as iPhone Network/Carrier/SIM unlocking, is the process of removing the SIM lock from an iPhone. By removing the SIM lock from an iPhone you unlock its capability to work with other carriers.
Benefits of unlocking your iPhone
Apart from the obvious benefit, there are a few others you should know:
- Use any compatible carrier you want
- Switch to other local carriers that are cheaper or have a better signal
- Avoid roaming fees when traveling abroad by using local carriers
- Increase the after sales value – unlocked iPhones can be sold for much higher prices
With a simple search on Amazon or eBay, you can clearly see the difference between locked and unlocked iPhone prices.
Is iPhone Unlocking legal?
All carriers have their unlocking policies on their websites. They state their requirements and the process you have to follow to proceed with a SIM unlock request.
The same applies to the other iPhone unlocking methods that involve 3rd party IMEI Unlock suppliers.
Steps to check if your iPhone is unlocked or not
There are three ways to check if an iPhone is locked or not.
The simplest and quickest involves the use of two or more SIM cards. Simply switch two or more SIM cards to your iPhone and see if the SIM Not Supported screen comes up.
You can read more in the 3 Methods to check whether your iPhone is Unlocked post.
Two methods to Unlock your iPhone
The first method, and the one that we recommend doing, is to request an unlock through the carrier that is currently locking your iPhone. Every carrier MUST have a very clear procedure on how to request an unlock from them and a clear list of the requirements.
The second method is to get an IMEI Network unlock service from a 3rd party supplier. It is very important to know a few things about the lock status of the iPhone before proceeding with an order.
1 – How to Unlock your iPhone through Carrier
Below we will show you how to request an iPhone unlock from some popular carriers.
You can use the same approach for other carriers since the process is almost identical.
AT&T Unlock Device:
AT&T is one of our favorite carriers because its unlocking process is very easy and straightforward.
The requirements can be found on its unlock policy page, but we’ve summed everything up below:
- The device must be active for at least 60 days with AT&T
- The account should not have outstanding financial balances, like unpaid bills
- IMEI number should not be reported as Lost or Stolen
There are a few more specific cases, but it doesn’t really matter. They will inform you within a few minutes (Sometimes it might take 2-3 days) if your device is eligible for an unlock.
You can check out our AT&T unlock step by step guide.
Sprint – Request iPhone Unlock:
Unfortunately, Sprint USA does not have a similar online process, you will have to get in touch with them.
The requirements are almost the same:
- The device must be able to be unlocked (some older iPhone models cannot be unlocked)
- The device should be active for at least 50 days with Sprint
- No outstanding balances and device should not be reported as lost or stolen
When all of the criteria are met, then Sprint claims that they will automatically unlock the device.
However, in our experience, this is not very accurate, so if you believe that your device is eligible for an unlock, you should contact Sprint Customer care (1-844-665-6327).
Even though Sprint was merged with T-Mobile, if an iPhone is locked to Sprint, the process is not the same as it is with T-Mobile devices. However, in a few months, all SIM locked iPhones will change from Sprint to T-Mobile. This means that the unlocking process will also change.
T-Mobile Unlock through their app:
There are two ways to unlock a T-Mobile USA iPhone, either through the T-Mobile Device Unlock app or through their customer service.
The unlock requirements are:
- The device must be active with T-Mobile for at least 40 days
- It should have outstanding financial balances
- Should not be reported as lost or stolen
Verizon USA network has a different approach when it comes to unlocking their iPhones.
They will automatically unlock all their devices when the following criteria are met:
- The device is not reported as Lost or Stolen
- The device is not involved in fraudulent activities
- The phone is activated for at least 60 days with Verizon
The above requirements are valid for both postpaid and prepaid phones, so even iPhones with unpaid bills will get unlocked automatically.
However, in some cases this unlock might not happen, so you will either have to contact them or get an Verizon IMEI unlock, which is extremely cheap and quick (Only $19).
O2 UK Unlock:
With the O2 UK network, the unlocking procedure is also free if you are the owner of the phone, purchased the phone from an O2 official store, and are currently in the UK.
They support both Pay Monthly and Pay As You Go devices.
There are various ways to request an unlock:
- By logging in to your My O2 account and pick the “Unlock your device” option
- By contacting them through Live Chat
- By calling them from your device (202 from a Pay Monthly phone, or 4445 from a Pay As You Go phone)
Have your IMEI number ready, since they will need it to finalize the unlocking process. You will be informed through a text message once the unlock is completed.
All carriers must have an unlocking process in place for their customers, so it is highly recommended to do a quick Google search before rushing into buying an IMEI Unlock.
By searching for “[Carrier name] unlock policy”, you will most likely land on the carrier’s official page with their guides and tutorials.
2 – How to Unlock your iPhone through IMEI Method
Since most carriers support network unlocking, it feels like there is no need for the IMEI network unlock method. However, this is far from the truth.
The IMEI method supports iPhones that could not get unlocked by their carrier because:
- They are still under contract
- The activation period was not met (purchased very recently)
- They have outstanding financial balances
- They are reported as Lost or Stolen
- They were not purchased by an official store
- The user could not provide evidence that this device was purchased by him
In general, carriers are very strict when it comes to unlocking one of their devices (exceptions do exist).
Picking the right IMEI method can be a little tricky because they also have requirements. Failing to meet those requirements will result in an unlock failure and your payment is not refundable.
The reason that these IMEI Unlock payments are not refundable is not some kind of a scam as there is a valid reason behind it. Once an IMEI number gets submitted for an IMEI unlock, expenses instantly occur on the company’s end. This amount, in case of a failure due to a wrong service, is not returned to the unlock company, so they have to protect themselves from that.
It is not that uncommon for an iPhone user to pick the wrong services for their devices. This happens because the IMEI Unlock requirements are very technical, and a regular iPhone user is unaware of them.
The only way to find out if an iPhone is compatible with an IMEI unlock service is to receive a full IMEI report, which is called iPhone IMEI Unlock check report.
What is an iPhone IMEI Unlock check?
It is a service that fetches information about an IMEI number which contains the Lock status, Carrier information, Blacklist status, Financial status, Contract & Warranty status, iCloud & Find My iPhone status, IMEI/Serial replacement status, and much more.
This report contains all the information you need to identify which IMEI Unlock service is compatible with your iPhone.
From the following iPhone IMEI Unlock check service you will:
- Get a full IMEI Check report within a few seconds
- Get access to an iPhone Unlock Solution Center, to locate all available and compatible IMEI unlock services specifically for your iPhone
What Carriers Can I Use After Unlocking?
Normally, an unlocked iPhone can use ANY carrier you want worldwide.
However, it is important to take into account the network technology of the carrier you want to use and make sure that your iPhone model is compatible with it.
If you have one of the latest iPhone models, you will be able to use it with any network you want, since they support both GSM & CDMA technologies. Old iPhone models (iPhone 4/4s) might be limited to either GSM or CDMA, so make sure to double-check this (It only takes a simple call to the carrier you want to use).