Unlocking Your Cell Phone

Whether your contract is up and you want to change carriers to save money, or you’re traveling abroad and would like to use your cell phone, you will need to unlock your phone. New legislation from the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has made it legally possibly to unlock a cell phone without penalty. However, just because smartphone unlocking is legal, doesn’t mean it’s easy. Read on to find out everything you need to know about cell phone unlocking.

Getting Ready

Unlocking your phone isn’t as fast a process as most people think. You will need to make phone calls and put in a few hours of work before you can unlock. In addition, be careful about unlocking your phone before leaving your current carrier. Remember that your current carrier doesn’t have an incentive to help you through the process if they know you’re moving on to another carrier.

Finding Your Device’s IMEI

IMEI or MEID numbers identify your mobile device. They are unique—no two devices share the same number. It’s simple and fast to record your phone’s number, whether you have an iPhone or an Android phone. All you have to do is dial *#06# to your device to find your number.

IMEI Number Search

Using an IMEI number search tool can help you to learn more about your device. When a wireless device is reported as lost or stolen, the device’s IMEI is added to a blacklist. Wireless carriers will not allow the device to be used on their networks.

You should check to make sure a used device is not on this list before you purchase it, particularly if you’re buying from a third-party or classifieds ad. If you purchase a phone whose IMEI is on the blacklist, you will not be able to use it with a mobile operator. If you would like to sell a used device online, it’s a good idea to check the IMEI beforehand.

IMEI Search

IMEI searches can also be used to find out whether your device has been unlocked in the past. If your device is already unlocked, it can be used with a different provider and you do not need to unlock it again. If you want to sell your device, you’ll want to know whether it’s locked or unlocked in order to share this information with prospective buyers. Unlocked devices are more valuable, so this information might also change your price point.

IMEI Unlock Checker

You can check if your device is unlocked via an online search. After you’ve found your device’s IMEI number by dialing *#06# from your phone, input the number into the search bar at IMEI.info. Click the Check button. You will see a screen with information about your device, including the model, brand, design, release date, and other information. You can then click to do a free check of the sim lock and warranty.

Unlocking Code

If your device is locked, it’s time to unlock it. Depending on the carrier you’re with and the type of plan you have, you will need to either call your carrier directly or enter a code. Unlocking a Verizon phone is a fairly simple process. The company claims that 4G LTE devices aren’t locked. If you have a postpaid 3G phone, you can unlock your device by inputting “000000” or “123456.” Call customer service to unlock a prepaid device.

AT&T phones are more difficult to unlock. This carrier has a set of eligibility requirements, and if you pass them you can fill out an unlock request online. However, you may need to wait for up to five business days before your request is processed and you receive the code. T-Mobile has a similar process; however, in this case, it’s an app that allows you to unlock your phone. You can also call their customer service number to unlock your phone.

When it comes to unlocking a Sprint phone, the process is similar. However, be aware that Sprint relies on outdated networking technology. Sprint phones from recent years cannot be unlocked to accept a SIM card from a different carrier.

If your phone is paid in full or you have a prepaid phone that has been in service for 12 months, carriers are required to unlock it. Your provider is also required to alert you when your phone is eligible. If you’re in the military and going overseas, communications providers must comply with unlocking requests.  

Free Unlock PUK Codes

A PIN unlock key (PUK) or personal unblocking code (PUC), is a code that is used to reset a forgotten PIN, or a PIN in a phone that has been lost. Most phones use PINs as a security measure. But when the wrong PIN is inputted more than three times, the SIM card or the device may become locked. Entering a PUK can unlock the phone, but you will need to get this code from your service provider after verifying that you are the owner of the phone.

Cheap Unlock Codes

You should be wary of companies advertising cheap unlock codes or free unlock codes. Since service providers are now legally obligated to help you unlock your phone if you meet their stated criteria. Third-party unlocking sites, or those which are not affiliated with a telecommunications provider, aren’t a safe bet.