How to Determine Whether Your Phone Is Unlocked

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How to Determine Whether Your Phone Is Unlocked

Having an unlocked mobile phone allows you to go worldwide and use it with several providers. Your phone will take a SIM card from another network or provider (in most situations), and you will be able to make calls, access the web, and send messages as normal.

How To Check If Your Phone is Unlocked

If you want to use another carrier’s SIM card in your phone, make sure it’s unlocked. Once unlocked, you may use the phone anyway you want. You’re stuck with the original network provider till then.

Why Do Carriers Lock Their Phones?

While it was understandable for a carrier to want to restrict the functionality of its unique models, it made resale or refurbishing cellphones difficult for anybody who wasn’t a high-level tech expert, resulting in heaps of smartphone waste.

The majority of carriers will offer you a gadget on an installment or lease basis. That phone will be bound to that company’s network until it is paid off. Because they included carrier-specific features, older phones were not always interoperable with different carriers.

Your carrier may unlock your phone if certain requirements are satisfied, or you can buy an unlocked smartphone. Although purchasing an unlocked handset directly from the manufacturer is safer, these cross-compatible mobile phones may be found at a lesser price on eBay and other third-party seller sites.

Because not all phones arrive from the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) unlocked, knowing whether the device operates outside of the current carrier is critical.

How Do I Know If My Phone Is Unlocked?

If you purchased your phone from a carrier, whether on a two-year contract or a monthly payment plan, it is locked to that service provider, even if it is compatible with other networks. Because you signed a contract with that specific carrier, you must stick with them until the contract expires or the payment plan is completed. After that, you can unlock it and use it with your preferred carrier.

How can you tell if your device’s SIM card has been unlocked after you’ve paid it off? The answer depends on the phone you’re using and whether it supports multiple carriers. Let’s go over this in greater detail.

Is My iPhone Unlocked?

You can easily unlock your iPhone if you use iOS. This feature is only available if you purchased your device directly from Apple (either at full retail or through their iPhone Upgrade Program), from a third party (assuming the seller did not have a carrier agreement prior to purchase), or from your carrier.

If you purchased your device directly from Apple, you had the option of purchasing a model from a pre-selected carrier or purchasing the phone outright with no carrier affiliation. If you select the second option, your device is already unlocked and ready to use with any SIM card and any carrier.

How to Check Locked/Unlocked Status on iPhone

  1. Open Settings on iOS 14 and later.
  2. Scroll down and choose General, then About.

You can also turn off your phone, insert a new SIM card (for your new carrier) into the SIM tray on the side of the iPhone, and then turn it back on.

To see if your device supports your carrier, try making a phone call or using mobile data, but first make sure you have active service. If you don’t want to activate your new SIM card right away, look at the signal icon at the top and see if it has a “x” over or next to it, or if the screen says “No service.” If the phone can make calls, browse the web with Wi-Fi turned off, or displays a signal with no marks, it’s ready to use on another network.

Is My Android Phone Locked?

Unfortunately, unlike newer iPhones, Android does not have a setting to check SIM restrictions, but that doesn’t mean you’re completely out of luck.

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How to Check Locked/Unlocked Status on Android

  1. Settings may be accessed using the drop-down menu or the App Drawer.
  2. Depending on the manufacturer and model, choose Connections, Network & Internet, or another option.
  3. Depending on the manufacturer and model, choose Mobile network, Cellular network, or another version.
  4. If necessary, click Advanced and then Choose Network. To open the list of carriers, automatically pick network or another variation.
  5. If many providers show, it is likely that your phone is unlocked and just requires the suitable SIM card. Continue to Step 6 for further confirmation.
  6. Remove your phone’s old SIM card and replace it with the freshly active one from the other carrier. Use mobile data to access the internet, but make sure Wi-Fi is turned off.
  7. If you were able to effectively access the internet, your phone is undoubtedly unlocked.

To test whether your phone is unlocked without an activated SIM card for the new carrier, borrow someone else’s SIM card and see if you can make a call or browse the web.

In addition to inserting a valid SIM card, you can contact your current carrier to confirm the locked/unlocked status.

How to Remove and Insert a SIM Card on Android Phones

Because the Android operating system is used in devices from a variety of manufacturers, providing instructions for each model is a little more difficult. If your phone has a removable back, the SIM Card is located inside or beneath the battery. It could also be present in the external frame. Look for a pinhole encased in the tray’s outline. Insert another carrier’s SIM card into the tray using a SIM popper, earring, or paperclip.

To find out the status of the IMEI, contact your current carrier. If you are purchasing a device from a third party, it is best to meet the other person at the carrier store of your choice before exchanging money.

Verify Phone SIM Card Compatibility

Even if your phone is unlocked, it may not work properly with another carrier. There are several reasons why your smartphone or the one you’re considering purchasing will not work.

Here are the top two reasons why your unlocked phone won’t work with a specific carrier.

  • Check sure the IMEI isn’t banned before purchasing a phone. A blacklisted device is one that has been stolen or misplaced and will not activate on any carrier.
  • Some CDMA and GSM models are not cross-network compatible. For example, an AT&T/T-Mobile (GSM) iPhone X will not function on the Verizon or Sprint networks (uses CDMA).

It is also important to note that certain features will not function properly if the phone was purchased from a GSM carrier and activated on a CDMA carrier. The same is true in the opposite direction.

Is My Phone Compatible with Another Carrier?

You can check your current IMEI on the websites of the four major carriers. If you’re a Verizon customer looking to switch to T-Mobile, you can go to the T-Mobile Website, enter your IMEI, and it will tell you whether or not your device will work. Just keep in mind that just because the website says it’s compatible doesn’t mean it’s unlocked.

To check your IMEI compatibility, go to the following website:

  • Sprint (T–Mobilesuccessfullyacquired Sprinton April 1, 2020, thus use the T-Mobile link below) (T–Mobilesuccessfullyacquired Sprinton April 1, 2020, so use the T-Mobile link below)
  • Verizon
  • AT&T
  • T-Mobile

Pre-paid customers can check their IMEIs by visiting the website of their preferred new carrier. Whether you’re going with Boost, Straight Talk, or another provider, check compatibility on their website.

How to Find Your Phone’s IMEI

If you don’t know what your phone’s IMEI number is, there are three ways to find it on Android and iPhone.

  1. If you look in the SIM tray, presuming it’s the original component that came with the handset, you’ll notice the IMEI down the side. Grab a magnifying glass since the characters will be quite tiny.
  2. Check the IMEI in the settings menu if Step 1 was too difficult or non-existent. To locate your IMEI on an iPhone, go to Settings -> General -> About. Go to Settings -> About Phone on Android.
  3. Check the back of your smartphone if steps 1 and 2 did not assist you or were not desired. The IMEI was shown on the back cover of older Android and iPhone handsets, as well as beneath the detachable battery on the inside.
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How to Unlock Your Smartphone

If your device can detect networks other than the one it was designed for, you can use any SIM card you want in it.

Here’s what each of the four major carriers has said about whether devices purchased from their carrier stores or retailers like Best Buy support other carriers.

Is it possible to unlock my Verizon phone? Surprisingly, Verizon has been relatively accommodating when it comes to customers keeping their smartphones unlocked. After activation, all Verizon-sold devices have a 60-day locked waiting period before being unlocked.

While under contract, Verizon will even allow you to change the SIM card in the device to another carrier. Of course, you’ll still have to pay your Verizon bill on a monthly basis. There is no phone number to dial or code to enter. Almost all devices sold by carriers can be used without any effort on your part.

Is my AT&T handset unlocked? You can check your unlock status and availability by clicking on this link. The general policy is that you can use any AT&T device on another carrier as long as the device supports it. Unfortunately, you will have to go through a few hoops to get there.

The IMEI number of your device must not have been reported stolen or missing, your account must be in “good standing,” with no missed payments or large balances owed, and your device must have been active on AT&T for 60 days.

You can unlock your device for any other supported carrier if you meet the company’s requirements, which can be found on their online portal. The bad news is that AT&T only allows you to unlock five devices per year from your account. It is also possible that you will have to wait a few days before your request is finally processed. It’s a pain, but once the process is finished, you’ll be able to use your device on other carriers.

Can I unlock my T-Mobile phone? : The “Uncarrier” stance on unlocking is, ironically, similar to AT&T’s. Your device must first be a T-Mobile product, must not have been reported stolen or missing, must be linked to an active account, and must have been active on the T-Mobile network for 40 days.

T-Mobile is far stricter than AT&T when it comes to unlocking quotas. Only two devices can be unlocked per year, making it difficult for a family to leave the carrier. You must also ensure that your T-Mobile payments on the device are paid in full. If you meet those requirements, you can contact T-Mobile support to request an unlock code for your device. It’s a little antiquated, especially for a carrier that promotes itself as the provider who breaks the rules, but it’s the current system.

How about unlocking your Sprint phone? Sprint’s (now merged with T-Mobile) guidelines for unlocking a device are similar to AT&T’s. You must use the device on Sprint’s network for 50 days, ensure that your contract has expired or that your lease payment on your device has been paid off, maintain a good account balance, and, of course, have a device that has not been reported stolen or missing.

Sprint’s documentation on this topic states that phones purchased after February 2015 will be automatically unlocked once the device meets these standards, which means you may not need to contact Sprint at all once the lease is paid off. If you believe you have met all of the criteria outlined in their guidelines but your phone is still locked, you must contact their customer service for more information.

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To reiterate, you must still ensure that your device will work on the carrier before switching. However, those results are usually easy to find on Google. Search for your device’s name with the carrier you started with and the carrier to which you’re switching, and then read the various sources available.

Where Can I Buy Unlocked Devices?

If you’re looking to buy an unlocked device, it stands to reason that you should avoid carrier stores. This concept may appear obnoxious or frustrating, particularly if you’ve always purchased your devices from carriers via contracts or payment plans. Remember that any device purchased from a mobile provider will be locked until you pay it off or your phone contract expires. Aside from carrier stores, you have three options for picking up your phone.

Buy Unlocked Phones on Amazon

Amazon unlocked phones range from low-cost models to flagship models such as the Google Pixel. Furthermore, Amazon offers a “Prime-exclusive” series of phones under $300 for current Prime members.

Buying an unlocked phone on does not require selecting a carrier during purchase. Financing the purchase does not require a complete payoff to get unlocked status.

Unlocked Phones at Best Buy

Best Buy unlocked phones get organized based on manufacturer, brand, and type for shopping ease. If you’re looking to finance your phone instead of paying for it in one lump sum, you’ll have to sign up for the Best Buy Citi Card, which allows you to pay for the device over 12, 18, or 24 months. Unlocked status remains through the Citi Card payment plan but becomes locked if choosing to activate on

In the long run, opting for an unlocked model with a manufacturer payment plan may be a better option for you and your wallet, especially if you intend to switch carriers.

Locked/Unlocked Phone FAQs

Once my phone is unlocked, what can I do?

Once you’ve unlocked your phone from your carrier, you can switch to any cell provider you want, as long as your device can receive a signal from that provider. You can take your phone abroad as long as it supports the GSM network (Global network), which means you won’t have to pay for international plans while on the road.

However, SIM cards do not provide any additional information to your device other than the cellular connection (though, in some cases, you can save some small amounts of data to your phone’s SIM card, similar to a microSD card). If you insert your spouse’s SIM card into your device, for example, your phone will adapt to your spouse’s phone line, including the number people use to contact them.

Everything else, including apps, photos, and music, is linked to the phone’s Apple or Google account. If you’re trying to set up an old device for a spouse, you should wipe it first and set it up as a new phone; you won’t get any other data from the SIM card other than a phone number.

I purchased a phone, but it says it’s locked. What’s happening?

If you bought a phone from a third party or an individual and it was locked, you don’t have many options with the carrier because it wasn’t unlocked or paid off.

Unfortunately, the seller will have to assist you in using the phone. If they refuse, you can still activate it on the original carrier as long as it isn’t blacklisted. Before you buy a phone from eBay, Craigslist, or Facebook Marketplace, make sure the IMEI is valid and have them meet you at the carrier of your choice to check activation before you pay.

Even if you pay to have it unlocked, the carrier will not assist you unless you have the original owner’s account information.

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