Buying a new phone can be quite tedious, but if you don’t know how to unlock a network locked phone for free, the process gets even more frustrating. When searching for a new phone to purchase, you will come across different models, making it hard to settle for one.
You will also come across various enticing offers from different wireless service providers. These offers allow you to purchase high-end phones at a discount or with a flexible payment plan spanning several months. This makes it easy to sign a contract with them immediately.
They don’t tell you that these phones are locked to the service provider you purchase them from. This means that it will be hard for you to swap service providers whenever you want to. While a law compels wireless service providers to unlock phones for consumers once their contract expires, the process is still very long.
What Is Network Locked Phones
Before you can know how to unlock a network locked phone for free, you first have to know what a locked phone is. Every service provider’s major aim is to maintain consumers on their network for the longest time to maximize profits.
They get you to join their network through attractive offers, e.g., discounted phones, cheap plans, and phone upgrading. After you’re in, your phone is secured to their network only. They do this by embedding security features or using specially made software.
If you try to use a different network’s SIM card, you will be prompted to contact your service provider or input unlocking codes. This renders your phone temporarily useless. You can’t make phone calls, text, or browse using your purchased data packages.
Any attempt to unlock the phone incorrectly can also result in the service provider blacklisting you. This will shut you out of their service for good. It is important to use the right procedures to unlock your phone. All service providers have different methods that they require you to follow to unlock your phone. They also decide who is eligible for unlocking and who isn’t.
How Do You Know Your Phone Is Locked
There is a high probability that the phone you buy from a second party or straight from the network carrier is locked. Although unlocked phones are slowly gaining popularity, there is a simple way to confirm that yours is unlocked if you doubt it.
Get a SIM card from a different network provider. It can either be yours or your friends. Locate the SIM card tray on your phone, and using an ejector tool or any similar tool, remove it gently from the phone. Put the SIM card in carefully and return the tray into the SIM card slot. Ensure that you place it firmly.
If your phone doesn’t show any signal, the high chances are that it is locked. You can repeat the process mentioned above and restart it again to be sure. Sometimes a prompt may appear requiring you to input an unlocking code.
This is the surest way to know that your network carrier has locked the phone. You can also visit any carrier shop and request them to determine if your phone is locked.
Is it legal to Unlock A Network Locked Phone
A few years back, service providers had the right to lock their customer’s phones. Many of them took advantage of this and billed their consumers huge sums of money to unlock them when their contracts concluded.
In 2015, through the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act, the Federal Communication Commission compelled service providers to unlock devices for their consumers once their contract was over. A few policies were formulated to guide this whole process. They include:
- All service providers should provide clear procedures for unlocking their phones on their websites.
- Service providers have the mandate to unlock a customer’s phone once they request it.
- The service provider should unlock prepaid devices within 12 months from when they were activated.
- If the service provider cannot provide unlocked devices, they should inform the consumer when their devices qualify for unlocking.
- The service providers should not take more than 2 business days to unlock a phone once a request has been placed.
- Persons serving in the military can unlock their phones free of charge.
Why You May Need To Unlock Your Phone
Unlocking a network locked phone can be a simple task if you follow the right procedures outlined by various service providers. However, what can necessitate you to unlock a phone? Here are some of the reasons:
- To make a sale: Not many people love to use one device for a long time. While some people can afford to dump their old phones, some might consider reselling them to make a quick buck. However, convincing someone to purchase a locked phone is not easy. Unlocked phones are generally easier to sell and even go for more.
- To enjoy more attractive offers from other providers: Some providers price their plans poorly. This might force consumers to seek better options. However, swapping to a different carrier is impossible if your phone is network-locked. Unlocking it allows you to pick the network carrier that suits you best.
- To make a second-hand phone functional: If you buy a second-hand phone from a third party, you may have to unlock it first before enjoying the services of a network. Only phones bought from the carriers themselves are guaranteed to be unlocked.
- To use it internationally: This is important for people who often travel out of the country. With an unlocked phone, you can switch and use the service providers of your host country. You can also get deals with your current carrier.
What You Need To Unlock Your Network Locked Phone
Knowing how to unlock a network locked phone for free is important; however, you need to know the important information you should have beforehand. The amount of skill and effort you will need to unlock a phone will depend on the service provider you’re subscribed to.
The earlier you get done with the unlocking process, the better. The methods used may vary, but the key information required stays the same. They include:
- The IMEI number of your network locked phone
- Your name and account information
- Your Social Security Number
- A contract document showing that you have completed paying for the device.
- You will need an overseas deployment letter for people serving in the US army.
How to Unlock a Network Locked Phone for Free
Here is how you can unlock your phone for different carriers:
1. AT&T Unlocking
Unlocking an AT&T phone can be a bit hectic, but it is worth the effort. There are a few prerequisites to the application process; they include:
- Your phone has to be operating on the AT&T network.
- It would be best if you had settled all the bills in your current contract with AT&T
- Nobody has reported the phone stolen.
- Your account hasn’t committed any fraud.
- For a postpaid device, you must have been using your phone for 60 days before unlocking
- The phone should have been in usage for 6 months before unlocking for prepaid devices.
- If it is a company phone, you have to provide authorization documents from the company.
The first thing you should do is head to their website and fill out a form requesting unlocking. You will be required to input your phone number and its IMEI number. After you’re done, you can submit the form. AT&T will send you an email to confirm that they received your application. After two business days, you will receive instructions on unlocking your phone either as a text message or an email. The instructions are not similar for all phones.
2. T-Mobile Unlocking
T-Mobile is one of the largest wireless service providers in the country. Their eligibility criteria are not any different from our first service provider AT&T:
- Your phone has to be from T-mobile.
- You should possess an account that is in good standing.
- For phones under the service contract, you are required to have paid cash for 18 months consecutively.
- You haven’t requested unlocking more than two times in the past year.
- A document proving that you bought the phone.
- Your phone isn’t attached to any pending cases such as theft.
- For accounts that post-pay, your phone must have been in usage for the past 40 days before unlocking.
Contacting T- Mobile is the first step. You can tell them that you need an unlock code for your device. Once it is ready, they will send it to you, and you can use it to unlock your device. You can also dial 611, and a customer service agent will help you through the process.
3. Boost Mobile Unlocking
This is one of the most reliable companies using the CDMA network. Before you know how to unlock a network locked phone for free with Boost Mobile, they have a few qualification criteria:
- Your phone has been in usage for one year on your current Boost Mobile account.
- You have no pending payments for three months before your unlocking request.
- The phone is not on any stolen or lost records.
- Your Boost Mobile account is in good standing.
To unlock your device, contact Boost Mobile customer care through their website or their official phone number found on their website. They will send you an unlock code and carefully walk you through the process. It will take a few days, and your phone will be unlocked.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Yes, it is possible to unlock your network locked iPhone. However, the procedure for unlocking varies slightly from the one used with other android phones. Apple undertakes the unlocking on its end. This may take a while. You will be alerted once the unlocking process is done. It is important to backup all your data on a cloud or computer. Finally, go to iTunes and perform restoration for your device.
With a network unlocked phone, you can use SIM cards from different Wireless Service providers as long as they are compatible with your device. The compatibility of different service providers is all dependent on the type of network they use. A service provider can either use a GSM network or a CDMA network. Consequently, a phone that uses a GSM network will only be compatible with another GSM network once unlocked. You cannot use a CDMA phone on a GSM network. The opposite is also true.
The best way to unlock your network locked phone is by using your network carrier. Ever since regulations were put in place by the FCC, it has become simpler to use carrier unlocking services. Their procedures are straightforward. However, if you urgently need to unlock your phone through an unlocking service or someone, ensure that you carry out a thorough background check. Many fraudulent services are being offered to oblivious consumers, so you have to proceed with caution.
You must figure out which service provider has locked your phone. This is because different service providers recommend different methods for unlocking your phone. A phone unlocking procedure for one service provider cannot work for a different provider and may even complicate the process further. Here is a helpful video to assist you in finding out which network your phone is locked to Checking Carrier Network. Checking which network your phone is locked to will also help you gather important information like the blacklist status of your phone, coverage status, and serial number.
Hopefully, you know how to unlock a network locked phone for free by going through our article. As you can see, the process isn’t complicated. The key is to be careful and patient; otherwise, you may block your phone for good.
Most carrier unlocking processes may take two business days. However, they are free and will save you the effort of having to look for someone to unlock your phone for you. This may expose you to various phone unlocking scams that run on the internet. Follow the process above and enjoy your unlocked phone today!