An Essential Guide On How To Unlock iPhone's

Today’s the day you at long last completed the contract on your iPhone and that bad boy's officially all yours. What this means is you’re able to use it while traveling abroad with a local SIM card and are free to swap networks when you want, right? Don’t start booking your flight to London or running to Verizon just yet because, unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple.

So as to stop users from switching to a competitor’s network before they’ve payed off their iPhone or fulfilled their contract, a lot of carriers put a sim lock (commonly known as a carrier lock) on their smartphones. This inevitably ensures that you, or whoever you sell your second-hand iPhone to, are saddled with them for the long haul. If you’re thinking this sounds like a pretty dysfunctional working relationship, we’d have a tendency to agree with you. Happily, with a bit of effort and an account in good standing, you are on the right path to a carrier-unlocked iPhone before you know it!

Before we continue, just a quick note about the kind of unlocks that are available, and the one's you should stay away from! There are apps to be found that provide the ability to unlock your phone yourself, but they require you to jailbreak your iPhone, and this is inadvisable, for lots of reasons. You can do your own investigating into jail-breaking, but it's very risky, and not recommended. The simplest way to unlock your iPhone is simply by talking directly with your cellular provider. The journey to a carrier-unlocked iPhone will depend largely on your network, with the process being either relatively quick and easy or painfully tedious. To help you get one step closer to a life free of carrier-locked tyranny, we researched all the steps on how to obtain an iPhone unlock with this comprehensive guide. Please note that while this was written with iPhone owners in mind, a lot of the advice may be carried over to other smartphones.

What Is IMEI Unlocking?

As mentioned before, when you purchase an iPhone or some other smartphone from your network provider, that device will still only function on that individual network unless you either request to have your network unlock it or maybe your carrier automatically unlocks it for you (read more about that later). Commonly known as a SIM unlock, factory unlock, or network unlock, carrier unlocking means removing a network’s restrictions on a device, permitting you to use it with a different cellular provider.

Luckily, not all iPhones require unlocking. For example, should you buy your iPhone straight from Apple and pay for it in cash, it will be unlocked and ready to use on a variety of networks.

Take note, however, that not all phones purchased outright from third-party retailers are automatically unlocked. In particular, although sold as “unlocked”, mobile phones bought at Best Buy are actually considered universal. So, whenever you insert a SIM card for the first time, the cell phone will basically lock itself to the service provider linked to the Sim. Subsequently, because certain networks like T-Mobile will only unlock your iPhone if you purchased it directly from them, you may end up having an permanently carrier-locked device. Quite simply, you find yourself paying factory-unlocked prices for a network-locked cellphone.

Why would I Unlock My iPhone?

Possessing a SIM-unlocked iPhone comes with a good number of advantages which include the flexibility to utilize (virtually) any network within the Unites States and in another country in addition to higher resale values.

  1. Officially-unlocking allows you the flexibility to use your cell phone with the cellular provider of your choice, almost wherever and whenever you like (with a few exceptions, as you’ll see in a while). For instance, if you are currently using T-Mobile but are moving to a new area of the country with lousy T-Mobile coverage, you can swap to AT&T on a dime

  2. A Factory-unlocked iPhone makes international travel a breeze. Unlocking also offers you the flexibility to use your mobile phone abroad. Global roaming fees, pricey international plans, and mad dashes for WiFi are a thing of the past with an unlocked iPhone. Just put in a SIM card from a local network and you're good to go.

  3. SIM-unlocked iPhones have much higher resale values.

Even if you don’t anticipate switching networks or traveling overseas in the near future, unlocking your iPhone remains a good idea. Should you ever intend on trading in your old iPhone if you upgrade, you’ll usually get more money for it if the iPhone is network unlocked due to higher interest in them in the resale market place.

Is it against the law to Carrier Unlock your phone?

Definitely not! Because of the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act, finalized into law by President Barack Obama in 2014, all US-based cellular providers have to allow people to unlock their phones. However, the circumstances under which a carrier will unlock a cell phone differ widely from service provider to service provider. On the whole, most carriers require you to complete your contract, cover your financial obligations fully, or at least have an account in good standing before they’ll allow you to unlock your iPhone.

How to determine whether your iPhone is Unlocked

Before beginning the carrier-unlocking process, you’ll first want to determine whether your iPhone is already unlocked (no sense in suffering the hassle when you don’t really need to). All you need to do is ensure that you’re connected to WiFi and insert a brand-new SIM card from an alternative network provider and your smartphone will do the rest automatically. This validation check usually takes less than a minute to accomplish after a new Sim card has been inserted.

Throughout the verification process, you’ll see that your iPhone will boot to a white screen and try to validate that it has been unlocked with your network. Should Apple verify that your iPhone is carrier-unlocked, it will return to the home screen and service bars will appear from the new carrier. However, if you see a white screen that says SIM Not Supported, your cell phone is not unlocked.

How to Unlock iPhones from a Service provider

Having established your mobile phone is definitely locked to your current network provider, next you'll need to start looking at your provider’s unlocking eligibility requirements. Should your iPhone meet their criteria, you can ask that the handset can be unlocked from their network. As recommended earlier, both the eligibility requirements and the unlocking process vary from carrier to carrier. Each one has been outlined below for the major carriers including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon.

Please be aware that, provided you’ve met the unlock conditions and so are completing the network-unlocking directly with your service provider, asking for your iPhone be unlocked can be completely free. If you decide to work through a 3rd party unlocking service provider, you need to pay for the privilege, but using a third party provider will be your only option if you bought the phone used. Before you spend any money, try using the directions outlined below first.

How To Locate An iPhone’s IMEI Number

When network-unlocking your iPhone, you'll need to give your service provider your device’s IMEI number. This unique, 15-digit identifier is fundamentally your cellphone’s VIN or social security number. To find your IMEI, on your phone, go to Settings > General > About and search to the bottom section where it will be listed displayed next to IMEI.

Additionally you can locate the number on the mobile phone casing itself. For older iPhone's (6, 6 Plus, 1st-generation SE, 5s, 5c, 5), the IMEI number may also be branded on the back or the SIM tray.

After you’ve located the IMEI, we strongly recommend that you store it somewhere for safekeeping.

Unlock an iPhone on AT&T

Unlocking an iPhone from AT&T is about as uncomplicated as one, two, three. Just pop on across to the AT&T site, answer a few questions, and you’re well on your way to IMEI-unlocked freedom.

After you submit your request, use your IMEI and request reference numbers to review your AT&T unlock status. When you obtain your verification text or email, just open it up then click on the confirmation link. That’s it! AT&T will unlock your iPhone within two business days.

For any iPhone to get unlocked from AT&T, it needs to fulfill the following requirements:

  • If it is an AT&T PREPAID phone, it must be active for at least six months
  • Must not be reported as lost, stolen, or blocked
  • Must not have a past-due balance
  • Must not be active on a different AT&T account
  • If it is a work phone, you must have your employer’s permission to unlock it

If your iPhone is part of a term agreement or installment plan, it requires to also adhere to these requirements:

  • The installment plan must be paid off
  • The term agreement must be complete
  • The device must be active on the AT&T network for at least 60 days

For precise eligibility requirements, click here.

Unlock an iPhone on Sprint

Depending on when you bought your phone and if it has got SIM-unlock capabilities, you've got a several different unlock choices. If you bought a new iPhone from Sprint after February 2015 (it should be SIM-unlock capable) and it's actively being used on their network, Sprint can unlock it automatically once it meets their qualifications requirements. So, you honestly don’t have to do anything at all apart from keep your account in good order. Even so, if your iPhone hasn't been activated or was purchased prior to February 2015, you’ll have to get in touch with Sprint Customer Service directly to request an unlock (either dial *2 on your Sprint phone or ring 888-211-4727).

There are reports from some Sprint users that the auto-unlock program doesn't necessarily perform as it should, so it’s unquestionably a very good idea to confirm that your iPhone has been unlocked before attempting to swap to another carrier or advertising your iPhone as unlocked, if you intend to sell it to a buyback company or on auction web sites.

For an iPhone to get unlocked from the Sprint network, it must adhere to the following requirements:

  • Must not be reported as lost, stolen, or associated with fraud
  • Must have SIM-unlock capabilities (if it doesn’t, it is MSL (Master Subsidy Lock) locked and you will need to call Sprint for the MSL code)
  • Must be active on the Sprint network for at least 40 days
  • Must be on an account in good standing

If your iPhone is part of a service agreement, lease agreement, or installment plan, it must also adhere to these conditions:

  • If leased, the end-of-lease purchase option must be fully paid
  • Any early-termination fees must be fully paid
  • Any lease or installment payments must be fully paid

For detailed eligibility prerequisites, click here.

Unlock an iPhone on T-Mobile

If your reading this and own an Android cellphone and your device matches the eligibility prerequisites, consider yourself lucky: You can unlock it straight from the handset itself. For the iPhone owners out there, you’ll have to contact T-Mobile’s Team of Specialists directly (either dial 611 from your T-Mobile iPhone, call 877-746-0909.

To have an iPhone unlocked from T-Mobile, it has got to adhere to the following requirements:

  • For prepaid accounts, it must have been active on the account for at least 12 months
  • Must have been purchased directly from T-Mobile
  • Must be paid for in full
  • Must not have been reported as lost, stolen, or blocked

If your iPhone is part of a pre-paid account, it has to also satisfy the following prerequisites:

  • Must have been active on the account for at least 40 days
  • The account must be in good standing

For detailed eligibility conditions, click here.

Unlock an iPhone on Verizon

Verizon is, hands down, the leading carrier to use for unlocking an iPhone. Why? Because Verizon will automatically unlock your phone 60 days after the purchase of the device. If you obtained your iPhone from a retail partner, it will be unlocked automatically Sixty days after device activation.

There are no catches. You don’t have to pay off your phone, fulfill any unique requirements, or even get in touch with them to request to unlock your phone from their network. Provided your iPhone hasn’t been reported lost or stolen, merely wait 60 days following purchase or activation and your phone will be a-ok.

Hard to believe? Just click here.

Once I've Unlocked my iPhone — now what?

Back many years ago, you’d need to hook your iPhone up to iTunes and complete a software restore in order to complete the unlock process. Fortunately, it’s much simpler nowadays. All you have to do is follow the same steps you took earlier to determine if your phone is unlocked to start with.

If you don’t have access to a Sim from an alternative carrier, you may still verify that your iPhone has been unlocked using an iTunes software restore. Simply hook up your iPhone with a computer running iTunes and press the “restore” option. When the restoration process has completed, you should see a message which says “Congratulations, your iPhone has been unlocked.”

Great job! You successfully factory-unlocked your iPhone! That means your able to use whichever carrier you wish to now, yes? We hate be the bearer of bad news, but sadly not. Because of the two different types of systems used in the Unites States, CDMA and GSM, your available cell providers is dependent upon the model of your iPhone as well as the original network it was locked to. Primarily, Verizon and Sprint are CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) networks, while AT&T, T-Mobile, and the majority of providers in other countries are GSM (Global System for Mobiles) networks.

As you may have guessed, both of these different network types do not talk to each other (because that's too logical). Thankfully, as we approach world wide 5G access and as older networks are phased out, it will hopefully no longer be a problem.

To see which networks you can access based on these two factors, keep on reading.


GSM networks only (AT&T, T-Mobile, international GSM carriers): Original iPhone, iPhone 4, iPhone 4s, iPhone 5, iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c, iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone X

Any carrier worldwide: iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone XR, iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone 11 Pro Max, iPhone SE, iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 12 Pro Max


International networks only: iPhone 4s and iPhone 5

Any carrier worldwide: iPhone 5, iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone X, iPhone XR, iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone 11 Pro Max, iPhone SE, iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 12 Pro Max


GSM networks only (AT&T, T-Mobile, international GSM carriers): Original iPhone, iPhone 4, iPhone 4s, iPhone 5, iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c, iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone X

Any carrier worldwide: iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone XR, iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone 11 Pro Max, iPhone SE, iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 12 Pro Max


Compatible with any carrier in the world, but with limitations when using GSM networks: iPhone 4s, iPhone 5

Any carrier worldwide: iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone X, iPhone XR, iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone 11 Pro Max, iPhone SE, iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 12 Pro Max

Will the Unlock last forever?

You got it! Once your phone has been officially-unlocked, it will stay that way for the lifetime of the device. You are able to restore your iPhone or up-date software without worrying about your unlock vanishing afterwards.