How to unlock a phone on every carrier
If your current phone contract is close to finishing and you’re thinking about an upgrade, or you want to stick with your current phone for a while longer, you should take a good look at what’s available from other carriers because you may find a much better deal on offer. Sadly, odds are that your phone is locked to your current carrier, which prevents you from jumping ship and using your phone on another network. Thankfully, legislation and the Federal Communications Commission have made the process of unlocking your phone easier than ever. More importantly, it superseded an earlier decision made by the Library of Congress that interpreted cell phone unlocking as a violation of copyright (a ruling that actually saw phone unlocking rise in popularity). Cell phone unlocking, in other words, is perfectly legal.
Unfortunately, just because unlocking your phone is legal doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easy to do. Let’s take a closer look at how to unlock a phone and break free of your ties to a carrier.
What you’ll need
While it should be relatively easy and quick to get your phone unlocked, that simply isn’t always the case. Unlocking your phone can turn out to be a laborious process that requires several phone calls and hours of work. However, it’s a good idea to unlock your phone before you leave your current carrier, because it will likely prove even tougher after you’ve gone.
With that in mind, there are a few nuggets of information you’ll need:
- The account holder’s name and account number.
- IMEI number of your device.
- Your phone number.
- The account holder’s Social Security number or password.
- A completed contract and/or device payment plan.
- Overseas deployment papers, if you are in the military and want to unlock your phone before your contract is up.
Now that you have that information, let’s see how each carrier handles unlocking your phone.
Unlocking a Verizon phone
Even though Verizon uses CDMA instead of GSM for channel access, most of Big Red’s devices come with an unlocked SIM card slot. According to Verizon, its 4G LTE devices aren’t locked, and if you want to bring one of them to another carrier, there is no code you need to rejig the phone’s radios for other networks.
Even though SIM-equipped Verizon phones can be used on AT&T, T-Mobile, or other GSM carriers, the phone will need to have roaming GSM radios in order to make phone calls and send texts in the United States. While most recent Verizon handsets will work just fine on American GSM bands, your mileage will vary when it comes to LTE support.
Verizon doesn’t have an online method to make an unlock request, but you can call 888-294-6804 and request a SIM unlock.
The procedure’s a bit different for postpaid 3G devices on Verizon’s network. Most aren’t locked, but require that you enter a code — either “000000” or “123456” — to enable third-party cellular compatibility. Verizon’s specially branded World Devices, on the other hand, can’t be unlocked without the assistance of a store tech, which you can request by dialing the company’s support line at 800-922-0204.
Unlocking a prepaid device can get a bit dicier. A vast majority of the prepaid 3G phones on Verizon can be unlocked with the code “000000” or “123456,” but Verizon’s off-the-shelf Phone-in-the-Box prepaid handsets (whether 4G or 3G) are locked into the network for 12 months after activation, or until the amount of payment specified on the back of the box have been exceeded. And, as with Verizon’s World Phones, you have to call Verizon support at 888-294-6804 in order to start the process.
Unlocking an AT&T phone
The process of unlocking a phone from AT&T is a bit more complicated than with Verizon. But while you’ll need to jump through a few more hoops, it’s still not a difficult process to complete.
Here’s the checklist of prerequisites you’ll need to meet in order to unlock your AT&T handset:
- The device in question must work on AT&T’s networks.
- If you’re a current customer, your current contract or installment plan must be fully paid off (including early termination fees). If not, pay off your plan early and wait 24 hours before making a request.
- It must not have been reported lost or stolen, or involved in fraud.
- It must be attached to an account with “good standing” — i.e., one not associated with fraudulent activity.
- It must not be active on a different AT&T customer’s account.
- It must have been active for at least 60 days, with “no past due or unpaid balance.”
- If you’ve upgraded early, you must wait for the 14-day “buyer’s remorse” period (30 days for business customers) to pass before unlocking your old phone.
Unlike Verizon, AT&T offers an unlock request form you can fill out online. You can either enter your AT&T mobile number — or if you’ve already switched, the IMEI number from your AT&T device will also do. After submitting this form, you’ll have 24 hours to click the link within the confirmation email sent to you, then AT&T will send instructions for unlocking your device via email within two business days of the request being made. AT&T also no longer has a hard unlock limit per year, so unless you’re sending a hundred unlock requests a month you shouldn’t need to worry about being flagged as suspicious.
In the case of prepaid devices (anything on AT&T Prepaid/GoPhone), AT&T requires that they’ve been active for at least six months.
If you’re in the military, you can scratch off the third requirement on AT&T’s list — you won’t need to complete your contract or installment plans, so long as you’re able to email AT&T your TCS or PCS (Temporary/permanent change of station) documents…….Read More>>