Many carriers “lock” the phones they sell to their network. It means you’re locked to the carrier you bought the phone from until you unlock it. Legislation and the Federal Communications Commission have made the process of unlocking your phone easier than ever. More importantly, it superseded an earlier decision made by the Library of Congress that interpreted cell phone unlocking as a violation of copyright.
You first have to go through a few hoops to get your phone unlocked. But once you get it phone unlocked you can go to any compatible carrier you want. Here’s how to unlock a phone and break free of your ties to a carrier.
INFORMATION NEEDED FOR UNLOCKING YOUR PHONE
It’s a good idea to unlock your phone before you leave your current carrier. Unlocking your phone can take several phone calls and hours of work and indeed is a long process. Basic information needed for this are:
- The account holder’s name and account number.
- Your phone number.
- The account holder’s Social Security number or password.
- IMEI number of your device.
- A completed contract and/or device payment plan.
- Overseas deployment papers, if you are in the military and want to unlock your phone before your contract is up.
HOW EACH CARRIER HANDLES UNLOCKING YOUR PHONE?
UNLOCKING A VERIZON PHONE
You can call 888-294-6804 and request a SIM unlock for Verizon phones. Verizon doesn’t have an online method to make an unlock request.
For postpaid 3G devices on Verizon’s network most of them aren’t locked, but require that you enter a code — either “000000” or “123456” — to enable third-party cellular compatibility. Verizon’s specially branded World Devices can’t be unlocked without the assistance of a store tech, which you can request by dialing the company’s support line at 800-922-0204.
Verizon’s off-the-shelf Phone-in-the-Box prepaid handsets (whether 4G or 3G) are locked into the network for 12 months after activation, or until the amount of payment specified on the back of the box has been exceeded.
UNLOCKING AN AT&T PHONE
Before unlocking your AT&T handset make sure of these things:
- The device must be from AT&T.
- You must be a current or former AT&T subscriber.
- If you’re a current customer, your current contract or installment plan must be fully paid off else pay off your plan early and wait 24 hours before making a request.
- It must have been active for at least 60 days, with “no past due or unpaid balance.”
- It must not be active on a different AT&T customer’s account.
- It must not have been reported lost or stolen or involved in fraud.
- It must be one not associated with any fraudulent activity.
- If you’ve upgraded early, you must wait for the 14-day “buyer’s remorse” period (30 days for business customers) to pass before unlocking your old phone.
- Fill out the online unlock request form offered by AT&T.
- Enter your AT&T mobile number.
- If you’ve already switched, the IMEI number from your AT&T device will also do.
- Submit the form.
- Now you have 24 hours to click the link within the confirmation email sent to you, then AT&T will send instructions for unlocking your device via email within two business days of the request being made.
AT&T requires that they’ve been active for at least six months in the case of prepaid devices. If you’re in the military, you can scratch off the third requirement on AT&T’s list.
In the case of Apple iPhones:
No, unlock code is needed here.
- Specify that your unlock request was approved after receiving the email.
- Remove your AT&T SIM card.
- Insert the SIM for your new carrier to begin the setup process.
The network offers limited unlock support via its support line, 888-211-4727 but doesn’t officially unlock handsets over the phone.
UNLOCKING A T-MOBILE PHONE
Things to check before unlocking your T-Mobile phone by T-Mobile Mobile Device Unlock Android app are:
- It must be a device from T-Mobile.
- It must be attached to an account that has not been canceled, and is in “good standing.”
- It must have been active at least 40 days on the requesting line.
- It must not have been reported lost, stolen, or blocked.
- You must have proof of purchase.
- If the device is on a service contract, at least 18 consecutive monthly payments must have been made.
- If using T-Mobile’s Equipment Installment Plan payments must be made and the device must be fully paid for.
- You’ve made fewer than two unlock requests, per line, in a single year.
- If your handset is a prepaid model, it’ll need to have been active for at least one year, and the account associated with it must have had more than $100 in refills.
You can unlock your phone by calling 611 from a T-Mobile device or 877-746-0909 from any other phone or through a live chat with a T-Mobile customer representative.