Gordon Vilstrup

The Definative Tutorial On How To Unlock An iPhone 3G

The Essential Guide On How To Unlock iPhone's

Today’s the day you at long last completed the contract on your iPhone and that baby is eventually all yours. Which means you’re able to use it while traveling overseas with a local SIM card and have the freedom to swap networks when you please, right? Don’t start booking your flight to Australia or running to AT&T just yet because, unfortunately, it’s not quite that straightforward.

In order to stop individuals from moving to a competitor’s network before they’ve paid off their iPhone or satisfied their contract, a large number of carriers put a SIM lock (also known as a carrier lock) on their smart phones. This consequently ensures that you, or anyone who you sell your used iPhone to, are stuck with them for the long term. If you’re thinking this sounds like a pretty dysfunctional partnership, we're inclined to agree with you. Happily, along with a little legwork plus an account in good standing, you can be on the way to a carrier-unlocked iPhone before you know it!

Before we proceed, a quick note about the kind of unlocks that are available, and the one's you should steer clear of! There are apps around that offer the ability to unlock a smartphone yourself, however they require you to jailbreak your mobile phone, and this is inadvisable, for many reasons. You can do your own homework into jail-breaking, but it's fraught with danger, and not recommended. The simplest way to unlock your iPhone is actually speaking directly with your cellular provider. Your journey to a carrier-unlocked iPhone hinges largely on your network, with the procedure being either relatively quick and simple or painfully tedious. To get you a step closer to a life free from carrier-locked tyranny, we researched all the steps to be able to get an iPhone unlock with this comprehensive guide. Please be aware that even though this was written with iPhone owners in mind, much of the recommendations could be used for other smartphones.

What Is SIM Unlocking?

As mentioned before, when you purchase an iPhone or another smartphone through your cellular provider, that cellphone will still only operate on that individual network unless you either request to have your service provider unlock it or your carrier automatically unlocks it for you (more on that later). Commonly known as a SIM unlock, factory unlock, or network unlock, carrier unlocking means removing a network’s restrictions on a device, enabling you to use it with a different cellular provider.

Luckily, not all iPhones have to be unlocked. As an example, if you buy your iPhone directly from Apple and pay for it in cash, it should be unlocked and ready to use with a variety of carriers.

Please note, however, not all phones purchased outright from third-party retailers are automatically unlocked. For example, although sold as “unlocked”, mobile phones bought at Best Buy are actually considered universal. So, when you insert a SIM card initially, the phone will essentially lock itself to the provider associated with the SIM card. Then, because certain service providers like T-Mobile may only unlock your iPhone if you bought it directly from them, you could end up getting an eternally carrier-locked device. Simply put, you wind up paying factory-unlocked prices to get a carrier-locked cellphone.

Why Should I Unlock My iPhone?

Possessing a IMEI-unlocked iPhone comes with a good number of benefits which include the flexibility to utilize (nearly) any network in the US and in another country in addition to higher resale values.

  1. Network-unlocking gives you the ability to use your smartphone with the service provider of your choice, almost whenever and wherever you wish (with several exceptions, as you’ll find out later on). As an example, if you are currently using T-Mobile but are moving to a new part of the country with bad T-Mobile coverage, you can swap to AT&T on a dime

  2. A Factory-unlocked iPhone makes international travel a breeze. Unlocking also provides the flexibility to use your smartphone in foreign countries. Worldwide roaming fees, pricey international plans, and mad dashes for WiFi become a distant memory with an unlocked iPhone. Simply put in a SIM card from a local service provider and you’re in business.

  3. Carrier-unlocked iPhones have significantly higher resale values.

Even if you don’t plan on swapping carriers or going overseas soon, unlocking your iPhone is still a smart idea. If you ever plan on trading in your old iPhone when you upgrade, you’ll usually get more cash for it if the iPhone is already carrier unlocked because of a greater interest in them in the resale marketplace.

Is it against the law to Network Unlock your phone?

Absolutely not! A result 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 customers to unlock their phones. However, the conditions under which a carrier will unlock a smartphone differ widely from carrier to carrier. For the most part, a lot of service providers require you to finish your contract, pay for your financial obligations fully, or otherwise have an account in good standing before they’ll permit you to unlock your iPhone.

How you can determine if your iPhone is Unlocked

Before starting the carrier-unlocking process, you’ll first want to determine if your iPhone is already unlocked (no need in undergoing the hassle when you don’t absolutely need to). All you have to do is ensure that you’re connected to WiFi and insert a brand-new SIM card from an alternative cellular provider and your mobile will do the rest automatically. This verification check typically takes no more than a minute to finish as soon as a SIM has been inserted.

Through the verification process, you’ll notice that your iPhone will boot onto a white screen and attempt to authenticate that it has been unlocked with your service provider. If Apple determine that your iPhone is network-unlocked, it will go back to the home screen and service bars will appear from the new provider. However, if you see a white screen that says SIM Not Supported, your phone will not be unlocked.

How to Unlock iPhones from a Service provider

Once you establish that your cell phone is definitely locked to your current network provider, next you'll need to take a look at your provider’s unlocking eligibility demands. Should your iPhone meet those guidelines, you can then request that the device can be unlocked from their network. As suggested before, both the eligibility requirements and the unlocking process vary from company to company. They all have 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 is likely to be completely free. If you opt to work through a 3rd party unlocking service, you will be charged, but making use of a third party company is going to be your only option if you are not the original owner of the phone. Before you spend money unnecessarily, try using the directions below as a first step.

How To Locate An iPhone’s IMEI Number

When IMEI-unlocking your iPhone, you will have to give your provider your device’s IMEI number. This unique, 15-digit identifier is essentially your smartphone’s VIN or social security number. To find your IMEI, on your phone, select Settings > General > About and search to the bottom section where you will see it displayed next to IMEI.

Additionally you can look for the IMEI number on the smartphone outer shell itself. For older iPhone's (1st-generation SE, 5s, 5c, 5, 6, 6 Plus), the IMEI number may also be printed on the back or the SIM tray.

When you’ve found the IMEI number, we strongly recommend that you keep it somewhere for safekeeping.

Unlock an iPhone on AT&T

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

When you submit your request, use your IMEI and request reference numbers to review your AT&T unlocking status. Once you receive your verification text or email, simply open it up and click on the confirmation link. That’s it! AT&T will unlock your iPhone in just a couple of business days.

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

  • 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 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

If your iPhone is included in 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 in-depth eligibility requirements, click here.

Unlock an iPhone on Sprint

Depending on when you acquired your phone and if it has SIM-unlock capabilities, there are a few different unlock options. If you obtained a new iPhone from Sprint after February 2015 (it should be SIM-unlock capable) and it's actively being used on their network, Sprint should unlock it automatically once it meets their qualifications requirements. So, you really don’t have to do anything more besides keep your account in good standing. However, if your iPhone hasn't been activated or was purchased prior to February 2015, you’ll need to contact Sprint Customer Care directly to ask for an unlock (either dial *2 on your Sprint phone or phone 888-211-4727).

There are reports from some Sprint users that the auto-unlock program does not always work as it needs to, so it’s most certainly a good idea to verify that your iPhone is unlocked before attempting to move to another provider or advertising your iPhone as unlocked, if you intend to sell it to a buyback business or on craigslist or ebay.

In order for an iPhone to be unlocked from the Sprint network, it needs to adhere to the following conditions:

  • Must be active on the Sprint network for at least 40 days
  • Must be on an account in good standing
  • 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)

If the iPhone is part of a service agreement, lease agreement, or installment plan, it has to also adhere to these requirements:

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

For in-depth eligibility conditions, click here.

Unlock an iPhone on T-Mobile

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

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

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

If the iPhone is on a pre-paid plan, it has got to also meet the following prerequisites:

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

For precise eligibility prerequisites, click here.

Unlock an iPhone on Verizon

Verizon is, by far, the best network to work with for unlocking an iPhone. Why? Because Verizon will automatically unlock your phone Sixty days following the purchase of the handset. If you obtained your iPhone at a retail partner, it'll be unlocked automatically Sixty days after device activation.

There are no catches. You don’t have to pay off your phone, fulfill any specific demands, or even contact them to request to unlock your phone from their network. Providing your iPhone hasn’t been reported stolen or lost, simply wait two months after purchase or activation and your phone will be a-ok.

Hard to believe? Just click here.

Now I've Unlocked my iPhone — what do I do now?

In the old days, you’d have to connect your iPhone up to iTunes and perform a software restore to perform the unlock process. Thankfully, it’s much simpler now. All you have to do is follow the same steps you used earlier to check whether your phone was already unlocked to start with.

When you don’t have access to a Sim from a different carrier, you may still confirm that your iPhone has been unlocked by performing iTunes software restore. Just connect your iPhone to a computer running iTunes and hit the “restore” option. After the restoration process has finished, you should see a message saying “Congratulations, your iPhone has been unlocked.”

Well done! You successfully network-unlocked your iPhone! Which means you can use what ever network you would like to now, yes? We hate be the bearer of bad news, but sadly not. As a result of two different kinds of networks deployed in the US, GSM and CDMA, your available network providers depends on the type of your iPhone and the original network it was locked to. Specifically, 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 these different network types will not talk to each other (because that's too logical). Fortunately, as we approach worldwide 5G access and as older networks are phased out, it will hopefully no longer be a major problem.

To determine which carriers you can access based on these two factors, carry 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

Is the Unlock permanent?

Yes indeed! Once your phone has been officially-unlocked, it'll stay that way for the life of the handset. You'll be able to restore your iPhone or update software without having to worry about your unlock vanishing afterwards.

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