If you purchased your iPhone within the past few years, it’s likely to be unlocked, and free to use with any SIM. If your iPhone is older than that, it might be locked to a particular provider. But that doesn’t mean you’re stuck with that provider forever.
You should be able to get your network to unlock your iPhone for you – often for free. In fact, you might even be able to unlock your iPhone yourself without ever needing to contact the original provider.
Here we will show you how to unlock all iPhone models, either through an unlock code from the network itself or by using a third-party service. If you’re looking to unlock an iPad instead, we have a guide for that too.
Is iPhone unlocking legal?
It’s completely legal to unlock your iPhone if you’ve finished paying for your contract or you purchased it outright unsubsidised. However, if you’re still in the process of paying for your contract it means you don’t fully own the iPhone yet, so you’re best to check with your carrier before unlocking it.
The issue usually occurs if you’ve purchased your iPhone second-hand or inherited one from a friend or family member who has updated to a newer model. If it’s locked, you’ll find that the iPhone isn’t working on your mobile network, and that’s because it’s tied to a different network.
If you discover that it definitely is locked, read on to find out how to unlock it.
How To Unlock your iPhone immediately
- Contact your provider and request an unlock using the contact details and online tools listed below.
- If you’ve not got the original SIM, you’ll need to reset the phone before it can be unlocked.
- Power down the phone, then replace the old SIM card with a SIM from a different network.
- Check that the iPhone is able to connect a phone call over the new network.
That’s the shortened version, but let’s go through those steps in a bit more detail.
Using a third-party unlocking iphone service
An alternative to contacting your carrier and asking them to unlock the iPhone is to use a mobile phone unlocking service. There are many retailers in most areas who will arrange an unlock code for a small fee (usually around £25).
Although they aren’t always reputable, you can also find online services that will unlock your iPhone, but we would advise against it. If you do decide to use one, please make sure that you read all of the small print before you buy, because they can surprise you with extra bills at the end of the process.
We have tried Doctor SIM, which promises to refund you if the unlock is unsuccessful, so that could be an option if you’ve tried all of the methods listed above. Doctor SIM successfully unlocked our phone with no problems and no hidden fees, so we feel confident in recommending them.
How to tell if the unlock worked
Once your phone has been unlocked you will receive a confirmation from the carrier. Now follow these steps:
- Power down the phone: hold down the Sleep/Wake button and swipe your finger across as directed.
- Use the SIM card tool (or a straightened paper clip) to eject the SIM card holder from the side of the phone.
- Remove the old SIM card from the card holder. Place your new SIM – from a different network – into the card holder.
- Reinsert the SIM card holder into the iPhone.
- Make a phone call, and check that the iPhone is able to connect over the new network. If so, it’s unlocked!
How to update an unlocked iphone without the SIM card
If you’ve requested an unlock from your carrier, but have not got the original SIM card, you will need to reset the phone before it will be unlocked. First, ensure you have requested an unlock from the carrier. Now follow these steps:
- Back up your iPhone. Either using Backup (Settings > iCloud > Storage & Backup > Back Up Now) or by connecting the iPhone to a computer and Using iTunes to perform a backup.
- Erase your iPhone. Click on Settings > General > Reset > Erase All Content and Settings.
- Complete the setup assistant and restore from your backup.
The phone should now be unlocked.
When you turn the iPhone back on, complete the setup assistant and restore it from the backup you created. Then you can insert the new SIM card and it should now work
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