Here are my conclusions on unlocking:
- There are 4 unlock methods that are claimed to be suitable for the iPhone 5, iPhone 5S & iPhone 5C.
- Hardware unlocking & software unlocking are dangerous and can cause permanent damage
- R-SIM unlocking is unreliable
- Only 1 method works effectively and that is mobile cell networking unlocking (also known as SIM, IMEI or factory unlocking)
Did you know…
When you say you want to unlock your iPhone you may actually mean you want to unlock the iCloud activation lock. They are easily confused.
An iCloud unlock is when you have a used iPhone that you can’t setup because it ask for the previous owners iCloud username and password.
It removes the link to the previous owner so you can set it up as your own.
What is the best unlocking method?
Network unlocking is the best method because:
- It doesn’t void your warranty on your device or requires you to download unauthorised and potentially dangerous software
- It doesn’t require you to have your phone opened or have any internal changes made to the hardware
- You don’t have to buy any additional bits to push into the SIM tray
- It just works – you make a request and your phone is marked as being unlocked on the cell carrier’s database
Where should you get a network unlock done?
I know your pain:
You want to save some money on your call charges but you are tied to your carrier.
This means you are stuck paying too much.
If only you could use a different SIM card in your iPhone from a cheaper carrier you could save a fortune.
But when you try a different SIM you get an error message. You are stuck with your carrier.
Or are you?
What if I was to tell you that you can get rid of the error message and use any SIM card?
I’m sure you would be delighted.
Well, you are in luck…
…read on to find out how.
There are 4 methods of unlocking.
How to do a software unlock
Unfortunately, software unlocking stopped working when the iPhone 4 was released in 2010.
This hasn’t stopped a huge number of websites springing up offering a software unlock service.
Don’t be fooled by their persuasive content and promises. It simply doesn’t work.
You should not pay for this service on a modern iPhone as it is a waste of money.
Avoid these websites as they are a scam.
How to do a hardware unlock
Hardware unlocking is when you get a dealer to open up your iPhone and make some changes to the internal workings to ‘get around’ the lock.
This involves using a soldering iron to modify the internals. They normally add a new chip that runs some code that stops the iPhone from being linked to a single carrier.
The only dealers willing to do such work are found on the back streets of major cities.
They are completely unauthorised by Apple to do this work. So when you have your device opened by an unathorised dealer like this you immediately void the warranty.
As if that wasn’t risky enough this type of intrusive work has a very high failure rate. This leaves you with a broken iPhone with no warranty.
It is often an expensive job too – with costs of up to $300 USD with no guarantee of success. This makes it a very expensive risk to take.
Personally, I wouldn’t do it.
How to do an R-SIM unlock
What is an R-SIM?
The R-Sim is a small computer chip the same size as a micro SIM called an interposer.
The interposer sits underneath the SIM, inside the SIM tray in your iPhone 5.
Once in place, it bypasses the SIM check and allows you to use any SIM in your iPhone.
You need to keep this in place at all times to ensure your iPhone stays unlocked.
Problems with R- SIM hack
- It doesn’t work properly on all networks.
- Due to network issues, some features won’t work properly such as Facetime & iMessenger.
- If your phone loses power or reception you have to perform the process again.
- Your device will have a weaker phone signal causing dropouts.
- Your smartphone may overheat or have reduced battery life due to the extra hardware.
- It voids your Apple warranty.
How to do a network unlock
What is an iPhone 5 network lock?
A network lock (which is also known as a SIM lock, IMEI lock or a factory lock) is a restriction that forces you to only use a SIM card from the carrier that you bought your phone from originally.
If you attempt to put a SIM from another carrier you will get an error message saying:
‘SIM Not Valid’
You won’t be able to make any phone calls or send any text messages while the message appears.
This issue normally occurs when the iPhone was bought from a carrier as part of a contract. Within the contract fee you pay for the handset and the call charges over 12, 24 or 36 months.
In order to stop you from switching to a cheaper call provider they tie your phone to their network.
In China, Israel, and Singapore network locking is illegal.
But regardless of local rules, it is universally legal to unlock an iPhone 5, 5S or 5C.
Is it a good idea?
Yes, for the following reasons:
- You can your costs by getting a ‘SIM only’ deal from the carrier of your choice
- Unlike a hardware lock, your iPhone does not need to be opened
- It won’t invalidate your iPhone warranty
- It is safe and reliable unlike an R-SIM or Gevey unlocking solution
- It isn’t expensive compared to other options
- It works regardless of what carrier you use
- You can use your iPhone normally, with no restrictions
- It is a permanent solution
- You have a wide choice of unlocking companies to choose from
This is the only way to safely unlock your device.
Network unlocking instructions
Rest assure this is the best way to unlock your iPhone safely:
- Request your unlock from a reputable supplier
- Wait 3-5 days for it to be processed
- Finalise the it by following the instructions provided
- Test it worked!
You will find more details on these steps below.
1: Request your unlock from a reputable supplier
You have the choice of requesting it from:
- Your mobile cell network
- A reputable unlocking company
You will likely find that your own carrier isn’t the quickest or the cheapest option. Unbelievably some won’t allow you to have your iPhone unlocked as it is still under contract.
Even if they will allow you to unlock it the fee may be high.
Tip: If you want a cheaper, and faster option I suggest you try one of the companies we reviewed below.
We thoroughly reviewed a huge number of suppliers to see which offered the best service. Only the top quality suppliers made our shortlist.
2: Wait for it to be processed
Carriers can be quite slow and processing unlocks. In the UK this process can take 15-30 days as it isn’t particularly lucrative. It is also a sign that you are likely to leave your current supplier so they can drag their feet.
Normally you will be informed that it has been processed via an email or text message. Until you receive this notification arrives it is a case of waiting. And waiting. And waiting…
3. Finalise it on your iPhone
When you get your unlock notification it normally comes with a set of instructions.
These will explain the steps you need to take in order to finalise the unlock.
This can be a simple as rebooting your iPhone or it may require a factory reset. This depends on the unlocker you used.
The unlockers we have on our shortlist have a simple finalisation process that makes your life as simple as possible. No need for complex or confusing instructions.
4. Check your iPhone was unlocked properly
Once finalised, you should try a SIM from another carrier to see if it has worked.
You shouldn’t get the dreaded ‘SIM Not Valid’ message if it worked.
If this does appear you may need to repeat step 3 (above). The more complex the finalisation the more likely it will not work and you will have to repeat it.
The most reputable suppliers for iPhone 5 unlocking
There is a lot of choices when it comes to unlocking your beloved iPhone.
Unfortunately, many of the companies that advertise these services are unreliable or, even worse, scammers.
How are you going tell which is which?
Well, you are in luck.
We have spent time reviewing these companies to create a shortlist of the best.
Read on to find out our recommendations.
In a rush:
If you don’t want to read the full review the best unlockers was iPhoneIMEI (this link doesn’t work on iPhone/iPad so scroll down ↓ to see results).
They managed to unlock all the iPhone 5, 5S and 5C phones we had in 2 days.
Their pricing starts at £25 ($30). This is really good value for such a high-quality service. Be aware that price depends on your specific network and location so it may cost a little more.
TrustedReviews gives iPhone IMEI a rating of 9.5/10, which is impressive.
Read more about why we believe they were best here (this link doesn’t work on iPhone/iPad so scroll down ↓).
How the review was conducted
Let me describe how we organised the tests.
Firstly, we had to compile a list of companies that offered networking unlocking. This was a lengthy process doing Google searches to find as many companies as possible that offered the service.
The next step was to evaluate their website. Did it look genuine? Were the claims realistic? Was there a way to get in touch with them?
Next, we emailed them to make sure there was a ‘real person’ behind the website. Someone who was in authority and could help us answer any questions we had.
This reduced the list to 10.
Next, we did some further online research. We checked what customers thought on the review sites such as TrustPilot, RipooffReport, and TrustmarkReviews. If the feedback was poor we took them off out shortlist.
This left us with 5 prospects.
At this point, we enlisted the help of our community here at iChimp. We asked for people who wanted there iPhone 5, 5S or 5C to get in touch so we could try out each prospects service. We got a list of volunteers from around the globe.
We ended up with 20 community members with the following models of phone:
- iPhone 5
- iPhone 5S
- iPhone 5C
Everyone emailed us their IMEI code together with their iPhone model. We then placed orders with each of the top 5 suppliers to try out their service.
The review criteria
I decided to review each supplier based on 4 critera:
- Was it successfully unlocked?
- Customer care
Was it successfully unlocked?
The most fundamental thing – did they manage to do the network unlock. A straight yes or no.
Obviously, if they didn’t they were no immediately disqualified.
The prices varied greatly. And it didn’t always follow that the most expensive option offered the best service.
Realising price is important we ranked suppliers based on cost. Typically prices were in the range of (£12 -£30) $20 to $40 USD.
We wanted the unlocking done as quickly as possible. If you are paying for a premium service you want to have a quick turnaround.
We ranked each of the companies by how quick they managed to do the unlock.
Once they had our money we wanted to test how responsive the customer support was.
We evaluated each based on how quickly the responded and whether they actually answered our questions.
We also noted how warm and friendly they were.
In addition, we also paid attention to how well they kept us informed of our orders status.
iPhoneIMEI.net are our top performers managing to network unlock every iPhone 5 model.
They are well priced from only £25 (approx $30 USD) up to £105 (approx $130 USD). Exact pricing depends on your location and network.
They were incredibly fast managing to unlock every phone we supplied within 2-3 days. It is worth mentioning that the speed is dependant on your location. This is mentioned when you place your order so you know where you stand before you buy.
We appreciated this honesty.
Customer services were excellent with informative responses within the hour. We could only dream of such good service from a carrier.
iPhoneiMEI can perform unlocks worldwide and accept a huge range of payment methods. They also have 2 payment gateways so if you are having a problem with one, you can try the other. Payment issues can be commonplace in certain countries so this flexibility is welcome.
If you want your iPhone 5 unlocked, you would be hard pushed to pick a better supplier than iPhoneIMEI.net.
iPhoneIMEI.net customer feedback
How to use iPhone IMEI
I had a few people contact me to say they were a bit unsure about what to do to unlock their device so here is a quick step-by-step video showing you what to do.
If you prefer written instructions, these will help:
1. Firstly you need to find out the IMEI code for your phone. The IMEI is a unique id for your Apple device. You need to give them the code so they unlock the correct iPhone.
- Option 1:If your iPhone is not activated, there will be a little “i” button on the screen, tap it and you’ll see the IMEI
- Option 2: Dial *#06#
- Option 3: Your IMEI is printed on the back of the device
- Option 4: Tap Settings > General > About and scroll down and you should see the IMEI listed
8. You should have an unlocked phone in 1-3 working days.
2nd: Direct unlocks
When we first did our research back in 2016 Direct unlocks didn’t exist. A pity, because they are really rather good.
When we re-ran our tests this year we were surprised these new guys were so good.
In a few short months, they have built a good reputation for providing a reliable, quick service.
They are a global supplier with pricing in local currency for most major countries in the world.
Customer service, speed, and reliability were all good.
We only have one minor issue with their service – the charging model.
Direct unlocks request a non-refundable pre-order fee, with the balance due before the lock is completed. This makes it seem like their iPhone unlock prices are cheaper than they really are. When you add on the second payment they are no cheaper than iPhone IMEI.
3rd: Official iPhone Unlock
Official iPhone Unlock is another well-known supplier of unlocks that did well in our tests.
They weren’t the fastest at providing unlocks but were still efficient. We found unlocks for our iPhone 5’s took 1-3 days, depending on location and network. This is fast but not as good as our top 2.
Customer services were OK, but replies were a little slow with responses taking up to a day.
So far so good.
The biggest difference was the way in which they structured their payments. Official iPhone Unlock don’t make it very clear on their website but you pay a deposit (called a pre-order fee) with the remainder paid when the unlock is completed. This means you don’t see the full unlock fee when you order – just the deposit.
We feel this is a little misleading so this is why they are in 3rd place.
They do deduct the pre-order fee from the final cost so you are not out of pocket. But you can feel like you are being ‘blackmailed’ into paying the second payment before you get your device unlocked.
This could easily be cleared up by having more transparent pricing up-front.
Overall they are a decent supplier but are not up to the standard of the others in the top 3. The fact that they don’t have transparent pricing and were a little less friendly puts Official iPhone Unlock in 3rd place.
Official iPhone Unlock customer feedback
Using Official iPhone Unlock
I had some of the members of my iChimp community contact me to say they were a bit confused about what to do to unlock their device so I put together a quick tutorial with step by step instructions to make it super-easy to unlock using Official iPhone Unlock.
1. Firstly you need to find out the IMEI code for your iPhone. The IMEI is a unique id for your Apple device. You need to give them the code so they unlock the correct iPhone.
- Option 1: If your iPhone is not activated, there will be a little “i” button on the screen, tap it and you’ll see the IMEI
- Option 2: Dial *#06#
- Option 3: Your IMEI is printed on the back of the device
- Option 4: Click Settings > General > About and scroll down and you should see the IMEI listed
3. Pick the iPhone 5 picture at the top. A box appears underneath where you type in the IMEI number. Also select the carrier or network that it is locked to using the drop-down menu (see the red arrows on the image below to see where you need to fill in the details).
8.You should have an unlocked iPhone 6 in 2-5 working days.
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I have loved techie stuff since I played my first computer games in the early 1980’s. Since then I graduated on to computers, then smartphones, and tablets. I am a self-confessed Apple fanboy with a huge collection of iPods, iPads, MacBooks & iPhones. I enjoy helping people get the most from their Apple products.