Having an unlocked phone means that you can use any SIM inside, rather than be confined to using your phone solely with one carrier. Some handsets are sold unlocked and others will be locked to particular network. This guide will give you all the info about why you should unlock your phone, telling if your phone is unlocked and how to unlock your phone. Read on, and you’ll find the information you need to drop the chains that are holding you back.
1: Why Use Unlocked Phones?
There are many reasons to unlock your phone and take advantage of the full capability of these technological marvels:
- Have you ever tried to change cell phone carriers after your contract has (finally) run its course and been informed that you have to purchase a new phone to use a different service provider?
- Or maybe you’ve found a mobile service that just gives you better service or a better value for the products that mean the most to you, but you’re “locked” into a plan or device that can’t accommodate that option.
- Another way manufacturers and providers lasso consumers into their services is by not allowing certain applications to even be installed on their devices. They may also prevent you from uninstalling the “bloatware” applications that they include on their devices, which you don’t want or need.
Unlocking your phone will free you from these burdens and put you in control of your mobile devices.
The benefits of unlocking your phone:
- Eliminate the ties that you have with any particular carrier
- Increase the resale value of your phone since a potential buyer knows they can use it with the carrier of their choice
- Reduce recurring costs through utilisation of plans that work best for you
- Greatly improve the usability of your phone when traveling abroad, also decreasing costs
- Get rid of any specific carrier’s SIM card – freeing you to use non-carrier-specific SIMs that work best for your purposes (also important when travelling), you will need an unlocked phone to use your WorldSIM.
OK – so much for the reasons – let’s talk about how to get there.
2: How Do I Know if my Phone is Unlocked?
There are a couple of ways to determine whether or not you have an unlocked phone:
- Turn off the phone and open it, and find the SIM card that you’re using with your provider. Then remove it and replace it with a SIM card from another provider (just borrow one from a friend or family member who uses a different carrier). If your phone still allows you to operate properly and make calls, your phone is unlocked. If you get a message similar to “Restricted” or “Contact your service provider” you have a locked phone.
- Alternatively, you can utilize a web site IMEI.INFO that will tell you if your phone is locked or unlocked. IMEI stands for International Mobile Equipment Identity, and every cell phone has an IMEI code. On an iPhone, you can access your IMEI number by using the Settings/General function to display it. For other phones, you can place a call to *#06# to retrieve your IMEI number. Either way once you have your IMEI number checking the web site will tell you the locked/unlocked status of your device.
I Get It – I’m Ready to Unlock my Phone – Now What?
So you’ve recognized the value and are ready to move into the world of cell phone freedom. How do you actually get there?
If you’re actually under a contract with a provider you can ask them in your friendliest sweetest voice to help you unlock your phone. Believe it or not, there are actually a limited few who will accommodate you in that regard. But this may not get you to the total state where you escape the shackles of bloatware or reliance on their SIM card (which is one of the main points of unlocking, after all). Recent US regulatory changes have put more pressure on carriers to allow unlocking of their phones, but there are limitations and conditions on when they must comply (such as the age of the phone and whether or not it has been paid for in full).
You can also scan the internet for codes applicable to your particular phone and “go at it alone” to unlock your device. A word of warning here is that some of the information on the internet contains partial instructions, incorrect codes, or a process that is just plain wrong.
Your best bet is to enlist the services of a technical resource that is experienced in unlocking phones from a high number of manufacturers and models.
4: Are there Phones that Cannot Be Unlocked?
Now that you’re ready to unlock your device are you certain it’s even an option for you? Even more important – if you’re about to invest in a new or used phone with the intention of unlocking it, you want to know before you buy if you’ll be able to do so.
There are still a few carriers who are not exactly cooperative with unlocking phones. Some of this is claimed to be for technical reasons although it is just as likely for business purposes. There are two main radio technologies utilised in mobile devices:
- CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access), which does not use a SIM card
- GSM (Global System for Mobiles), utilises a SIM card
Carriers (and therefore the phones they provide) use different technologies and it also varies among countries. In general GSM devices utilise SIM cards that make them more flexible across other GSM carrier networks, simply by replacing the SIM card. CDMA devices in the past did not incorporate SIM cards although some do today.
Travellers can be impacted by technological issues in different countries. Since most non-US countries are primarily GSM it would not be possible to take even an unlocked CDMA device from the US to those countries and expect compatibility. You should keep those technical limitations in mind when selecting the device to be purchased if international travel and mobile use are important to you.
5: How Do I Get Help Unlocking my Phone?
You’re best to speak to an expert to see what can and can’t be done, there are many providers out there but if you’re looking for expert assistance in unlocking your mobile device try UnlockBase. They have the technical knowledge and the key information needed to unlock nearly any device, anywhere. UnlockBase has unlocked over 5 million phones across 165 countries so they are very experienced.
If you are planning on taking your phone with you when you travel internationally, make sure you know how to prepare you device before you travel so you don't get any nasty surprises.