Is your Phone Unlocked? Methods to Check and Unlock it

You may stick to a mobile carrier all your life, but there comes a time when you need to switch your carrier. However, you discover that you cannot switch your carrier on the current phone because it is locked. Also, if you are purchasing a phone (new or used), you want to be sure that it is unlocked. Otherwise, you may be in trouble. 

Is My Phone Unlocked? Check Using These Methods

A Locked Phone

A locked phone can take SIM cards from one carrier only; If your phone is locked, you are bound to use the carrier’s plans and will not be able to use other telcos’ SIMs/plans. For example, if your phone is locked to Optus in Australia, you would not be able to use Vodafone or Telstra SIM on your phone and hence will not be able to enjoy their phone plans.

Some newbies or old veterans may confuse a locked phone with a screen-locked phone with a password, PIN, fingerprint, etc. It is not about that or a rooted/jailbroken phone, we are here talking about carrier-locked phones.

A Carrier Locked Phone

Reasons for Locking a Phone by Carriers

To flourish their business, carriers lock phones to their networks. Also, when a carrier provides a customer with a phone in instalments, it may want to play safe and sell a locked device. But this is not good for customers as a temporary gain may cast them in the long run.

An Unlocked Phone

On the other hand, with an unlocked mobile phone, you can use the SIM cards of different carriers (even in different countries) to make calls, send messages, or use the web with the phone plans of your choice.

But there is one caveat, just make sure your phone supports the carrier network type, i.e., a GSM phone will not work on a CDMA-based network. 

An Unlocked Phone

A locked phone can be very frustrating if you are required to use a SIM card from another carrier. If you have purchased your phone from a retail store without a SIM (like a Google or iPhone retail store), the chances are that your phone will be unlocked.

However, If you have purchased your phone from a carrier under a contract or on an installment plan, it will be locked. If you purchase a used phone, it can also be locked, and unlocking it can sometimes be very troublesome.

If you are buying a used (or even a new) phone, it is better to opt for an unlocked one to avoid any hassle in the future.

There is a sharp decline in new carrier lock phones (due to changes in regulations in different countries like the UK). A survey showed that people in the UK spent around 48 million Euros per year on unlocking their cell phones.

Also, the process has now been quite simplified compared to the past. Sometimes you are required to pay a small fee (usually unlocking is done free of cost)

You may have to wait till your contract ends with the carrier, even if you pay all the installments at once. These factors are all carriers dependent and differentiate between carriers. 

Reasons for Unlocking a Phone

The following are usually the reasons a person may get his phone unlocked:

  • To Change Service Providers: Switching service providers is the main reason a person may want to unlock his phone. If you have moved to an area where your carrier service is not good or found a better plan from another carrier, you may think to switch your carrier and get your phone unlocked..
  • To Handover Your Device to Another Person: If you are going to give your phone to another person (to a friend/family or sell it), then getting your phone unlocked is a must, as the other person may not go with your carrier.
  • International Roaming: You may get your phone unlocked if you are travelling abroad as your carrier’s international roaming may not be that budget-friendly, and if you are willing to use a SIM of a carrier of that country, then you may get your phone unlocked.

Methods to Check if the Phone is Unlocked

We have steps to check if your phone is locked or unlocked. These steps are different for iPhones and Android phones. Also, if you contact your carrier to check the lock status of your phone, then that process may also differ between carriers.

Before that, check if selling locked phones is banned in your country. For example, all the mobile phones in the UK sold after December 2021 are already unlocked as the country has banned the selling of locked phones. If you have purchased a phone before that, you may check its status and unlock it.

Another point to remember is that some carriers automatically unlock your phone after a certain period has passed. For example, Verizon automatically unlocks your phone after 60 days of active services on your phone. If that is the case, then your phone is already unlocked. 

You can check the status of your phone, whether it is locked or unlocked; the methods are below: 

1. Check iPhone’s Lock Status Through its Settings

  1. Launch your iPhone’s Settings and select General.
    Open About in the General iPhone Settings
  2. Now open About and check Network Provider Lock or Carrier Lock.
    Check Carrier Lock in the About Section of the iPhone Settings
  3. If it shows No SIM Restrictions, your phone is unlocked. Otherwise, it is locked, and you may get it unlocked from the carrier. In previous versions of iOS, you may check if a Cellular Data Network option is present under iPhone Settings > Cellular > Cellular Data Options.

If so, chances are your phone is unlocked, but this method is not 100% accurate. If you have contacted your carrier and the rep is saying that the iPhone is already unlocked, but it is showing a SIM or network lock here, then simply put in another carrier’s SIM card, and your iPhone will be unlocked. 

2. Check an Android Phone’s Lock Status Through its Settings

Some of these steps may vary on your Android phone depending upon the Android version and manufacturer.

  1. Launch your Android phone Settings and open Network & Internet.
    Click on the Plus Sign in Front of Mobile Network in Network & Internet Settings of the Android Phone
  2. Next to the Mobile Network option, tap on the Plus icon and check if other networks are shown. For some Android phones, you may tap on Search Now in Settings > Connections > Mobile Networks > Network Operators.
  3. If other networks are shown, then your phone is unlocked. If no other network is shown except your current carrier, your phone is locked, and you may get it unlocked.

3. Check by Changing the Phone’s SIM

If your phone is unlocked, your phone will accept SIM cards from any other network, given that your phone supports the network type (a GSM phone will not support a CDMA network) of the carrier you are trying to use. Remember that you will not lose any data through these steps, although, on some obsolete phones, you may lose the latest call logs.

For an iPhone

  1. Power off your iPhone and remove the current SIM from the iPhone.
    Remove SIM Card from iPhone
  2. Now insert a new SIM from a different carrier (if you do not want to purchase a new SIM for testing, request a friend or family member for his SIM) into the iPhone and power on the iPhone.
  3. If the SIM card is accepted and the phone is showing signals, make a phone call (not a Wi-Fi one) or send a text message to confirm if the network is working. If so, your iPhone is unlocked.
  4. If the SIM card is rejected or SIM is not supported message is shown on the screen, the phone is not showing any signals, fails to make calls or send messages, and then your iPhone is locked.
    SIM Not Supported on iPhone

For an Android Phone

  1. Power off your Android phone and dislodge your SIM from the Android phone.
    Remove the SIM Card from the Phone
  2. Now insert a SIM from another carrier and power on the phone.
  3. If a SIM card is not supported message appears, or the phone does not show any signals, then it is a locked phone.
  4. If the SIM card is not rejected and you see signals on the Android phone, check if you can make calls (not Wi-Fi) or send texts. If so, then your Android phone is an unlocked phone.

4. Using a Third-Party IMEI Checker

Some third-party IMEI check applications or websites have databases of carrier-locked devices from carriers across the world. You can use these to check if your phone’s IMEI is in their databases. For illustration, we will discuss the process for imei24.com. We do not recommend this method, but we list it here only for educational and information purposes.

  1. Launch your phone’s dialer and dial the following code:
    *#06#
    Find the Phone’s IMEI Code by Dialing *#06#
  2. Now you will see the IMEI code of your phone. If the case of a dual SIM mobile, two IMEIs will be shown.
    Note Down the Phone’s IMEI Codes
  3. Then note down the IMEI code shown. You can also find your phone’s IMEI code in Settings>> About Phone.
    Check IMEI in the Status Menu of About Phone
  4. Now head to the IMEI24 website through a web browser and enter your IMEI code on the website.
    Check Unlock Status of Your Phone on the IMEI24 Website
  5. Then click on Check and pass the human verification test if asked to.
  6. Now click on SIM Lock Status and check if your phone is locked or unlocked.
    Click on the SIM Lock Status Button on the IMEI24 Website

5. Contact Your Carrier

This method varies by carrier. Some give you an option to send a text message, some give you an online portal to check the lock status, and for some mobile carriers, you may have to make a phone call to the carrier. This depends upon the carrier and phone (carriers deal with iPhones differently than Android phones).

For illustration, we will discuss some examples below. You may need to provide your phone’s IMEI code to the carrier (steps to find the IMEI code of your phone are discussed in the above method). 

Check the Unlock Status of an iPhone Through a Text Message on EE Network

  1. Launch Messages on your iPhone and start composing a new message.
  2. Type UNLOCK and send it to 150.
  3. Now, you can confirm if your phone is unlocked or locked in the reply message received.

Check the Unlock Status of Your Phone by Calling the Carrier

You can find the unlock status of your phone by calling your carrier. The helpline numbers are listed below:

  • AT&T: 1-800-331-0500
  • T-Mobile: 1-877-453-1304
  • Verizon: 1-800-922-0204
  • Metro (by T-Mobile): 1-888-863-8768
  • Sprint (now owned by T-Mobile): 1-866-275-1411
  • Mint Mobile: 1-800-683-7392.
  • Cricket Wireless: 1-800-274-2538
  • Boost Mobile: 1-833-502-6678
  • Straight Talk: 1-877-430-2355

Check the Unlock Status of Your Phone on ATT Website

  1. Launch a web browser and steer to the Device Unlock Status page of the ATT website.
    Check Your Phone’s Unlock Status on the ATT Website
  2. Now enter your IMEI code in the IMEI Number box and your phone number in the Request Number box.
  3. Then click the Submit button to check if your phone is locked or unlocked.

Check the Unlock Status of Your Phone in the Carrier’s Office

If none of the above methods satisfies your requirement, you can go to the nearby carrier’s office and ask the staff to confirm if your phone is locked or unlocked. They can access the carrier’s database and confirm the phone’s status. 

Unlock Your Phone

If you have found out that your phone is locked, then don’t get disheartened. You can easily unlock it. Some newbies may get confused that they may lose their data.

No need to worry, the unlock process is safe, and your data will not be deleted. The process to unlock a carrier-lock phone is purely carrier and phone based. Here are some basic considerations.

The Legality of Unlocking a Phone and its Impact on Your Phone’s Warranty

Unlocking a phone is perfectly legal (methods discussed in this article are legal) unless you are under a contract not to do so. If you are getting your phone unlocked from a 3rd party, not from the carrier, then that could (not must) be illegal depending upon the particular case scenario.

Once you get your phone unlocked, there are maximum chances that you will end your warranty with your initial carrier, and you may get this point cleared from your initial carrier.

Prerequisites by Carrier to Unlock Your Phone

Some carriers may have prerequisites before you can unlock their carrier-locked phone, while others will let you unlock without any prerequisites. Here are the prerequisites of Cricket Carrier.

  1. A phone that is locked to the Cricket network.
  2. The phone you are trying to unlock has been active for the last six months with the paid service on that phone.
  3. A phone number on that phone is active and not suspended for fraud or reported stolen.

Some carriers are susceptible to past-due balances and may not unlock a phone till the due balance is not cleared.

Time Taken by Carrier to Unlock Your Phone

This is, again, a carrier-based feature, and the time a carrier takes to unlock your phone may occur instantly, in days, weeks, or months. In some extreme cases, getting your phone unlocked can take more time until your contract with the current carrier ends if the contract prevents you from getting your phone unlocked during the contract.

Check Compatibility of Unlocked Phone with the New Carrier

If you are getting your phone unlocked to use it with a particular carrier, but your phone is not compatible with your desired carrier, then getting your phone unlocked (unless your phone is a dual-band that supports both types) may not be worth a try.

For example, if your phone is carrier-locked with T-Mobile (which uses GSM) and you are getting it unlocked to be used with Sprint (using CDMA), then that does not worth an unlocking attempt as your phone will not work on Sprint (given that your phone is not dual type).

To check if your phone is compatible with your desired carrier, check your phone’s compatibility on the carrier website. For example, you can check your phone’s compatibility with the Sprint network on the phone’s eligibility page on the Sprint website.

Check Your Phone’s Compatibility on the T-Mobile Website

Basic Steps in Unlocking the Phone

Although the process to unlock your phone varies between the carriers and the phone’s manufacturer, the basic process is the same.

For an iPhone, when you submit an unlock request to your carrier and once the request is approved, then the carrier may send a little carrier update to the iPhone and the iPhone is unlocked. You are just required to insert a SIM from another carrier.

For an Android phone, you are given a code on the successful approval of your phone’s unlock request that you enter on your phone after inserting a SIM from another carrier

Unlocking Your Phone

Here are a few examples that may make the concept clearer to you, as it is practically not possible to cover the unlocking method of every mobile carrier and phone manufacturer.

Unlock Your Phone on the EE Portal

  1. Launch a web browser and head to the accounts page of the EE website.
    Enter Your Phone’s IMEI into the EE Website to Unlock it
  2. Now enter your phone’s IMEI code (the method to find IMEI is discussed above) and follow the prompts on the website to unlock your phone.
    Your Phone Got Unlocked Through the EE Website

Unlock Your Phone by Calling T-Mobile

  1. Launch your phone’s dialer and dial the following code:
    611
    Dial 611 to Contact T-Mobile Customer Care
  2. Now request customer care to unlock your phone. You may need to provide your phone’s IMEI code.
  3. Then follow the steps given by customer care to complete the unlock process.

Unlock Your Phone by Using the Cricket App

  1. Launch the myCricket app and if you are signed into the app, sign out of the app.
  2. Now tap on Unlock Device button (on the app’s Sign-in screen) and near the bottom of the screen, press the Unlock button.
    Use myCricket App to Unlock Your Phone
  3. Once done, restart your phone and it will be unlocked.

Use Code to Unlock Your Phone on Cricket

  1. Launch a web browser and head to the Cricket website.
  2. Now log in using your credentials and head to Account Settings.
  3. Then click on Get Code and select the phone to be unlocked.
  4. Now click on Request Unlock, and the code will be shown on the screen. For eligible phones, you may receive a text with the code.
  5. Then power off your phone, insert a new SIM into the phone, and afterwards, power on your phone.
  6. Now follow the prompts on the screen and enter the code given when asked to.
    Unlock Your Phone Through the Code Received from Cricket Wireless
  7. Once done, restart your phone, and your phone will be unlocked upon restart.

For ATT phones, you may dial the following in the phone’s dialer to unlock the phone (make sure to replace <unlock code> with the actual code received):

#7465625*638*<unlock code>#

Unlocking Failed or Phone Not Accepting SIM from Another Network

If you have failed to get your device unlocked, even if the carrier has unlocked your phone, but the phone is not accepting SIM from another carrier, you may either reset the network settings of your phone to the defaults or, if that did not work, then you may reset your phone to the factory default after backing up its data.

Unlocking Other Devices

Some people may want to unlock other devices like a USB Internet dongle (not just a phone). If you are one of those, the above steps will also be valid for those devices except for some.

So, folks, that is all we have to offer now. Suggestions and queries are welcome in the comments section.

Kevin Arrows
Kevin is a dynamic and self-motivated information technology professional, with a Thorough knowledge of all facets pertaining to network infrastructure design, implementation and administration. Superior record of delivering simultaneous large-scale mission critical projects on time and under budget.
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Is your Phone Unlocked? Methods to Check and Unlock it

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