How to Unlock an iPhone

Tyler Abbott
Staff Writer, Mobile & Wireless
Read More
February 22, 2022
3 min read

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If you purchased your iPhone through a major provider like Verizon, AT&T, or T-Mobile, then your phone is most likely locked uptight. In other words, you can’t just switch your cell phone provider, insert a new SIM card, and expect your phone to start working on a new network. That, my friends, would be too easy!

Thankfully, it’s still pretty easy to unlock your phone, but it does require a few extra steps.

Wait, is unlocking my phone illegal?
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As long as you’ve completely paid off your phone, it’s entirely legal to unlock your phone. If you still owe payments on your phone through your previous carrier, then you shouldn’t unlock your phone just yet.

Why would I want to unlock my iPhone?

The main reason why you’d want to unlock your iPhone is because you switched your cell phone provider and want to keep using your old phone. You can only use an unlocked iPhone when switching to a new provider.

For the tech-savvy out there, unlocking your iPhone also allows you more access to tweak your hardware and learn about the specs.

If you bought your phone outright from a retailer like Apple or Amazon (make sure it says “unlocked” when you purchase it), then you can just skip this section—your phone should already be unlocked. If you’re not sure, the most reliable way to check is by inserting another SIM card into your device. You can borrow your friend’s SIM card (in the name of science) to find out.

First things first, we’ll need to remove the SIM card from your own device. To do this, you’ll need a paperclip. It’s one of those tiny button situations where only something as thin as a paperclip can press it. Use the pictures below as a guide to find the eject button for different iPhone devices.

Not all SIM cards are the same size
Heads Up

Make sure you find a friend with the same size SIM card as you. For reference, iPhone 12, SE and, 11 devices have the same size SIM card, iPhones 4s and 4 use the same size SIM card, and iPhone 3 and older use the same size SIM card.

Removing the SIM card from an iPhone 13 or iPhone 12 device

Source: Apple

Removing the SIM card from an iPhone 11 or iPhone XS device

Remove SIM card from iPhone 11 or X

Source: Apple

Removing the SIM card from an iPhone SE, iPhone 8, iPhone 7, iPhone 6, iPhone 5, and iPhone 4

Source: Apple

Removing the SIM card from an iPhone 3 or Original iPhone device

Source: Apple

Try to make a call with the swapped SIM card

All you need to do is swap the SIM cards in the trays and restart your phone.

Now, try to make a call. If you can make a call with the new SIM card, then your phone is unlocked. If you can’t make a call, then your phone is locked.

Now that you know if your device is locked or not, let’s get started on unlocking that puppy.

Contact your carrier to unlock your phone

The only way to unlock a locked phone is to contact your carrier who can unlock it for you. All major wireless providers, like AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon, all offer unlocking services.

You’ll need to meet certain requirements for your carrier to unlock your phone. To give you an idea of what to expect, here’s what T-Mobile requires to unlock your device.

  • The phone must be a T-Mobile device. T-Mobile cannot unlock a non-T-Mobile device.
  • The device must not be reported as lost, stolen, or blocked.
  • The account associated currently using the device must be in good standing.
  • You have requested no more than two mobile device unlock codes per line of service in the last 12 months.
  • T-Mobile may request proof of purchase or additional information in its discretion and certain other exceptions may apply.

Expect the same kind of requirements for all major wireless carriers. If you meet the requirements, then it should just take a few days after you submit your request to unlock your phone.

Now that you know, here are your next steps.

Switching to a new plan? These are the best in the business.

Check out the best deals happening on cell phones this week.

Tyler Abbott
Written by
Tyler Abbott
Tyler has been obsessed with watching sports as efficiently as possible since the creation of the DVR. He is always on the lookout for the best tech in TV and wireless so he can watch all the sports and still have enough time to hang out with his baby. He has written about streaming, wireless, and TV for over three years. He hopes the Lakers will eventually get better.

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