How to unlock an iPhone and use any SIM worldwide: A step-by-step guide
You are going abroad for vacation in a week and you want to switch to a local sim so that you won’t get charged extravagantly by the roaming fees, but your phone is locked to a particular network. Bummer! Well, you are in for a treat, as this post will guide you through the process.
How do I know if my iPhone is locked or unlocked?
If you bought your iPhone directly from an Apple store, it should be unlocked by default.
If you bought it from a service provider with contract, then it should be locked to that particular carrier.
There are several ways to check if your phone is locked or unlocked.
The easiest way would to pop in a completely different carrier SIM card. For example, if an O2 UK SIM card is working on the phone, pop in a Vodafone UK or any non-O2 UK SIM card and see if you are able to make any calls.
- Turn off your phone and replace the SIM card with a different SIM card (with different carrier).
- Switch on the phone and try to make calls / texts.
- Your phone is locked if the phone shows Invalid SIM and is unable to make calls / texts, and vice versa.
- Do try to restart the phone or reposition the SIM card to double check.
This method however, has a downfall – it can’t tell you which carrier the phone is locked to. If you are a second-hand iPhone owner and you have no idea which carrier your phone is locked to, then you will have to move on to method #2.
Obtain a reliable IMEI checking service.
Instead of using free sites, we would recommend using a paid service (eg: on eBay or any reliable unlocking sites) to get a complete report. This is because free sites often produce unclear and inaccurate results most of the time.
- Search online (eBay for example) for the service with keywords like “iPhone IMEI network status check”.
- Go through their descriptions and make sure it is the right service.
- Provide them your IMEI (by dialing *#06#).
- They should be able to send you the complete GSX report within their stated time frame.
- Look for “Next Tether Activation Policy Description”. It shows the carrier that the phone is currently locked to.
- If it shows “Unlock” or something like “UK Hutchison Unlocked Policy”, it means that the phone is unlocked.
A typical GSX report should look something like this:
Serial Number: C95FRUEPSHU1
Part Description: IPHONE 6S SPACE GRAY 16GB
Product Version: 9.2
Initial Activation Policy ID: 269
Initial Activation Policy Description: UK O2 Tesco.
Applied Activation Policy ID: 269
Applied Activation Policy Description: UK O2 Tesco.
Next Tether Policy ID: 269
Next Tether Activation Policy Description: UK O2 Tesco.
First Unbrick Date: 15-12-26
This phone is locked to UK O2 Tesco.
My phone is indeed locked. How do I get my phone unlocked?
Now that you know which service provider your phone is locked to, you can proceed to getting the unlocking service.
Contact your service provider.
If you got your phone under a contract from a particular service provider, your first step will be to contact them directly. Different service providers have their own set of requirements that you will have to fulfill before they can offer you this service, either for free or for a specified amount of unlocking fee.
Opt for a third-party unlocking service.
If for some reason you are not qualified for the service offered by the service provider, there are always third parties who can do it for you. There are various unlocking sites with different reviews available online. There also sellers who offer this service on various auction sites, such as eBay. It is therefore your responsibility to look for sites that you deem most credible and reliable.
Just a quick note on things you should compare or look out for when choosing a third-party service:
- Compare the prices and duration.
- Make sure your phone is eligible for their service.
- Choose a site that has customer support and is responsive to your message.
- Most importantly, READ their terms & conditions and refund policy!
Walk in to a local mobile shop.
If you don’t feel like paying upfront for third-party online service or prefer physical contact with a professional, then walking in to a local phone shop would be your option. However, if the shop does not need to keep your phone with them, they are most probably using an online service as well and are pretty much the same as the third-party online sites.
Finally, wait for the confirmation that your phone is unlocked!
Once you receive your iPhone unlocked confirmation, you can just pop in your new SIM card and it should work just fine.
If it still shows invalid SIM, you can then follow the instructions below to complete the process:
- Switch off your Find my iPhone.
- Insert a non-supported SIM card and restart the phone.
- Connect your iPhone to iTunes.
- Wait for 10-15 seconds and you will see your iPhone back to the activation mode.
- Disconnect your iPhone from iTunes.
- Reconnect your iPhone to iTunes.
- You will then see the iTunes stating that the iphone has unlocked. *note: you might not get this message sometimes*
If the above still doesn’t work, you can first do a full restore/reset/update via iTunes, and repeat the procedures above.
To test if it is fully unlocked, just try to make a call or text using your new SIM.
If it does go through, congratulation, your phone is now fully unlocked!