This short, easy-to-read guide explains how to unlock your Apple iPhone.
This article applies to the following iPhones (released after 2017):
- iPhone SE 2nd generation
- iPhone 13
- iPhone 13 mini
- iPhone 13 Pro
- iPhone 13 Pro Max
- iPhone 12
- iPhone 12 mini
- iPhone 12 Pro
- iPhone 12 Pro Max
- iPhone 11
- iPhone 11 Pro
- iPhone 11 Pro Max
- iPhone XS
- iPhone XS Max
- iPhone XR
- iPhone X
It is a simple process that does not need you to perform complex technical solutions, hacks, or jailbreaking.
The solution allows you to permanently unlock your iPhone 13, 12, 11, SE, XS, XR, X from your cellular network so you can use it on any network you want.
Best of all this solution works no matter which carrier you currently use, or where you are in the world.
If you have a different model of phone you can use the following iPhone unlocking guides:
- For iPhone 7 and 7 Plus models, see iPhone 7 unlocking.
- For iPhone 8 and 8 Plus models, see iPhone 8 unlocking.
Why unlock your device?
If you are unsure why you should bother unlocking your device here is some of the benefits:
- You can swap carriers whenever you want.
- You can use the cheapest SIM-only contract deals.
- You can swap to a carrier with better coverage in your area.
- You can cut call costs when traveling by using a local SIM.
- You can quickly and easily change your phone number without changing your phone.
- You can upgrade your phone and keep your phone number by putting your old SIM card in your new device.
In short, you have the freedom to use the carrier of your choice.
Whatever the reason you want to do an iPhone unlock, this article will explain the steps you need to follow using a method that Apple endorses.
How to check if your phone is locked
Most new phones sold are locked to a single carrier when you buy them including iPhone 13, 12, 11, SE, XS, XR, X.
This means they need to be permanently unlocked before you can use a SIM card from another cellular network in them. You can buy unlocked Apple devices direct from Apple, but if you buy from elsewhere they are likely to be SIM locked.
The SIM lock status is often overlooked by buyers when they are trying to get a good deal on eBay so you are likely to end up being stuck on a cellular network that may be too expensive or have a poor signal in your location.
This is the easiest and most reliable method. This technique is suitable for iPhone 13, 12, 11, SE, XS, XR, X devices.
- On your iPhone tap Settings.
- Scroll down and tap General.
- Tap About.
- Scroll down to Carrier Lock (in North America) or Network Provider Lock (in other English-speaking countries) and it will say No SIM restrictions if it is unlocked.
- If you don’t see this message your iPhone is locked.
This method only works if you have a spare SIM card from another network handy. Again, this option works on iPhone 13, 12, 11, SE, XS, XR, X devices.
- Get a SIM card from a different network.
- Turn off your iPhone.
- Use the SIM removal tool to pop the SIM tray out.
- Replace the SIM with one from a different carrier.
- Turn on your iPhone.
- Try to make a call and if it works your device is unlocked.
- If the call fails then it is locked. You may also get a message on the screen telling you the SIM is locked.
How to unlock your device
The quickest way to unlock your iPhone is by using an unlocking service. This quick service is provided by your carrier or third-party companies.
If you are still under contract with your carrier or have any outstanding payments they will not network unlock your iPhone. This is why I recommend using a reliable third-party service instead.
This unlocking process is endorsed by Apple and is the official way to do it.
It is all done online making it really easy and quick service to have done.
Before you begin you need to know:
- The specific model of phone you have
- The country you are in
- The carrier/network it currently uses
- The phone IMEI number (dial *#06# on your phone to obtain your IMEI number)
Once you have the preceding information to hand, click the applicable link and fill out the onscreen form to begin the unlocking process:
- Unlock iPhone 13, 13 mini, 13 Pro, or 13 Pro Max
- Unlock iPhone 12, 12 mini, 12 Pro, or 12 Pro Max
- Unlock iPhone 11, 11 Pro, or 11 Pro Max
- Unlock iPhone SE 2nd generation
- Unlock iPhone XS or XS Max
- Unlock iPhone XR
- Unlock iPhone X
- Contact your Carrier or Third Party Unlock Company
Firstly, contact your carrier and find out what their terms and conditions are for your iPhone 13, 12, 11, SE, XS, XR, X to be unlocked from your account. If you are allowed by your carrier to unlock the device then you can ask to do so.There is normally a fee for this service. After all, you are probably going to leave them, and they know it, so they need to extort every last penny from you before you go.
Your own carrier isn’t always the best choice because they may not let you leave, or charge a fortune. That’s right – they can refuse to unlock your device. And even if you can go they can charge huge fees to perform a simple unlock.Why give them the satisfaction (and the cash) when you can use one of our preferred third-party companies instead?I have reviewed a vast number of SIM unlock websites, tools, and services so you can use my recommended supplier knowing they do what they say. They provide iPhone SIM unlocks quickly and efficiently regardless of your location.Regardless of who you use they will ask for the IMEI number of your device as it identifies your specific handset. Without the IMEI number, they won’t know which phone to unlock.
- Wait for the unlock
After you ask for the unlock you will be provided with an estimate of how long the process will take. There can be wild differences in times from country to country. You need to wait until your carrier informs you that your iPhone 13, 12, 11, SE, XS, XR, X has been unlocked. However, it is normally a quick service.
- Finalize the unlock on your device if required
You may receive some instructions that explain the process to finalize the unlock.This normally involves backing up your iPhone, doing a factory reset, and restoring it from the backup. Again, this varies depending on your phone and location.
- Check the unlock worked
Once it has been confirmed that your unlock has been done and you have carried out any procedure provided you should replace your SIM card with one from another network provider.It should allow you to make a call without showing an error message if the unlock has been done properly.
Other unlocking methods
In this article, I only talk about the official ways to unlock an iPhone.
There are loads of unofficial methods to unlock an iPhone or iPad such as “jail-breaking”, “Gevey Sims”, RSIM, SAM, and Ultrasn0w but I can’t recommend them.
Some of them unlock your device using software or codes and involved complex settings.
However, there is no guarantee this method will work. Indeed many of the websites offering this type of service are simply scams. Others only do a temporary job.
If you decide that this is a method you want to pursue do some research to make sure you fully understand what you are committing to and what the implications might be.
The only way to ensure that the device is unlocked, and stays that way is to inform Apple that the phone is unlocked so they update their systems.
The way in which you do this is through your carrier/network operator or by using an official unlocking service. This process normally has a small fee, but it is worth it to get your device permanently unlocked legitimately without invalidating its warranty.
As well as unlocking the SIM, Apple uses the term unlocking to describe the removal of the lock screen passcode when you forget it. You can also unlock the Activation Lock on Apple devices.
If the passcode lock is the issue, see iPhone passcode unlocking guide and How to unlock iPhone 11 without knowing the screen passcode.
If you want to get rid of the Activation Lock instead of the carrier lock, then see Activation Lock removal. If you want to get rid of the iCloud Lock on an iPhone X, see the iPhone X Activation Lock removal guide. For getting around Activation Lock on an iPhone XR, see How to bypass iCloud on iPhone XR.
Which networks or carriers can be unlocked?
You can unlock your iPhone 13, 12, 11, SE, XS, XR, X from almost any carrier, in any country.
USA mobile cellphone networks
You can unlock from the following American carriers:
- AT&T iPhone USA
- T-Mobile iPhone USA
- Sprint iPhone USA
- Verizon iPhone USA
- Cellcom USA iPhone
- Cricket USA iPhone
- iPhone GCI Wireless USA
- NTelos iPhone USA
- Tracfone USA
- Metro PCS iPhone
UK mobile phone networks
You can unlock the following British carriers:
- Vodafone UK
- Orange UK
- T-Mobile UK
- EE UK
- Tesco UK
- Three Hutchison UK
Canadian mobile cellphone networks
You can unlock the following Canadian carriers:
- Bell iPhone Canada
- Fido Canada iPhone
- Rogers Canada iPhone
- Telus Canada iPhone
- Sasktel iPhone Canada
- MTS Allstream iPhone Canada
Australian mobile phone networks
You can unlock the following Australian mobile phone networks:
- Optus iPhone Australia
- Vodafone Australia
- Telstra iPhone Australia
Worldwide mobile phone networks
You can also unlock your iPhone 13, 12, 11, SE, XS, XR, X from almost any carrier, worldwide.
Which models can be unlocked?
All models of iPhone can be unlocked but this article specifically deals with the iPhone 13, 12, 11, SE, XS, XR, X range of Apple devices. I describe the official unlocking methods so they will work regardless of your location.
Is an unlocked Apple device really cheaper?
If you have bought a used device that is out of contract then you can save hundreds per year by swapping to a cheaper network. Make sure you shop around for the best deal in your area. Don’t forget to check the network coverage provided so that you can use your iPhone 11, 11 Pro, 11 Pro Max, XR, SE, X, XS, XS Max reliably where you live.
Is it legal to unlock your device?
Regardless of local rules, it is almost universally legal to unlock your iPhone.
Normally you are allowed to SIM unlock your iPhone 13, 12, 11, SE, XS, XR, X after owning it for a while – in the UK this can be as little as 30 days but it varies from carrier to carrier and country to country.
If you request your device to be unlocked after this waiting period then you can normally ask your network carrier and they will usually unlock it for a fee.
In some places, such as China, Israel, and Singapore, iPhone locking is actually illegal. In others, carriers do not provide unlocking codes at all. In some countries, customers are forced to pay a fee to have the lock removed.
Why are Apple phones locked?
iPhones and iPads are expensive Apple devices so carriers reduce the initial up-front cost by signing customers up to a contract that divides the handset cost down into monthly ‘chunks’ over a period of time with a lower up-front fee.
This means the customer pays for their iPhone or iPad over a period of time rather than in a lump sum. This allows the carrier to recoup the cost of the handset over the lifetime of the contract – usually between 1 and 3 years.
In this scenario, if the iPhone wasn’t locked to the carriers network the customer could sign a contract with one supplier to get a cheap iPhone or iPad, then stop paying and swap to a cheaper or more convenient network. They could even sell the phone on for a profit.
The carrier lock discourages such practices.
How are smartphones locked?
A SIM lock, simlock, network lock, carrier lock, or (master) subsidy lock is a restriction built into iPhone models by Apple and enforced by the carrier to restrict use to their network.
This ties your Apple device to a single carrier so that you are forced to use that carrier no matter what.
SIM locks come as part and parcel of your phone contract when you buy an iPhone.
Even if you don’t buy a phone directly from a carrier, such as Sprint or EE, and get it from a retailer like Amazon you are likely to find it is SIM locked to a particular network.
This is regardless of whether you buy the device on a 2-year contract or if you buy the device at full price.
The only iPhones or iPads that do not have a SIM lock will specifically say the device is SIM-free, contract-free or unlocked – such as the unlocked version of the iPhone, which is sold at the Apple store.
If you want an unlocked device, you should check in advance whether the iPhone you are considering purchasing is an unlocked device.
Remember that paying full price alone doesn’t guarantee that a smartphone is unlocked out of the box. This is even more important to check when buying a used phone.
How is the lock enforced?
The difference between a locked and an unlocked phone is that a locked device has a software code on it that prevents you from taking it and using it on another carrier’s network.
This may within the same state, or country and also restricts the use of your handset abroad.
An unlocked device is an iPhone or iPad which does not impose any carrier restrictions. This means you are free to choose the network carrier with the cheapest prices or the best coverage for your area.
So you can remove the SIM card and replace it with one from another carrier and it still works. Many people with unlocked Apple devices take their handset overseas and buy a SIM when they arrive and pop it in to keep their call costs down.
What about shops that offer to unlock phones?
When you want to unlock a cellular phone you might take it to a local phone store and ask them to do it for you.
This won’t work with an iPhone 13, 12, 11, SE, XS, XR, X because the unlock code is stored on Apple’s computers.
If a local shop manages to perform an unlock it will be most likely because they have “jailbroken” your iPhone.
This is only a temporary solution and as soon as you connect your device to iTunes, or download a new version of iOS it will be locked to the original network again.
It also invalidates the warranty so be careful when choosing this option.
Can I unlock my device for free?
More and more mobile phone networks are offering iPhone 13, 12, 11, SE, XS, XR, X unlocks for free. Each has its own terms & conditions, for example, some will only unlock the iPhone for free if it is the original owner who is applying. You should contact your network provider for more information.
There are a few options when it comes to unlocking iPhone 13, 12, 11, SE, XS, XR, X models permanently. As you can see above you can unlock your device regardless of where in the world you bought and use it.
Once you have completed the unlock process you will be able to use a SIM from any carrier of your choice guaranteeing the best coverage and pricing. The fact your iPhone is unlocked becomes part of the device details.
Remember that carrier unlocking is not the same as unlocking a device after you forgot the passcode, or Touch ID, or Face ID stopped working.
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