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How To Unlock iPhone (From Any Cell Phone Network)

how to unlock iPhone

I am sure you will agree with me when I say:

The iPhone SIM lock is designed to tie us into over-the-top call fees from a single network carrier.

An excuse to rip us off.

Again.

What if I was to tell you that you can break free from your carrier and use any network you want.

Sound good?

Read on and this article will tell you how you can use any SIM card from any carrier on any network in your iPhone or iPad by performing an unlock.

Brilliant!

This means you are in control of the:

  • Call charges.
  • Network coverage.
  • Download speeds.

Much better than being stuck in a long-term contract with a single carrier for months, or even years.

It also gives you the option of having SIM only deals for your device.

These tend to be far cheaper and give you the power back, rather than being dictated to by your carrier.

Why pay more than you have to?

Break free from you restrictive contract and take back control of your smartphone!

iPhone Unlocking instructions

iPhone 4, 5, 6, 7 Carrier / Network / SIM Unlock

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 or an iPad because the lock is stored on Apple’s computers.

If a local store manages to perform an unlock it will be most likely because they have “jailbroken” your iPhone or iPad.

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.

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.

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.

Step 1: Contact your Carrier or Third Party Unlock Company

Firstly, contact your carrier and find out what their terms and conditions are for your iPhone or iPad to be unlocked.

If you are allowed by your carrier to unlock the device then you can make a request 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 one of our recommendations knowing they do what they say. All of them do iPhone SIM unlocks quickly and efficiently regardless of what your carrier you use.

Step 2: Wait for the unlock

After you request 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 has been unlocked.

Step 3: Finalise 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.

Step 4: 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 work if the unlock has been done properly.

iPhone SIM carrier network unlock review

The best third party website for iPhone SIM unlocks

I decided to review as many third-party network unlock providers as possible to see who provided the best service.

In a hurry:

If you don’t want to read the complete review of the iPhone unlock companies the winner was iPhoneIMEI (this link doesn’t work on iPhone/iPad so scroll down to see results).

They managed to unlock all the iPhones I supplied in 2 days.

Costs started at just £25 ($30) which is amazing for this service – although it can be higher depending on your location.

TrustedReviews shows they are trustworthy with an outstanding rating of 9.5/10.

I was delighted with their support, speed, and service.

Read more about why I thought they were the best option here (this link doesn’t work on iPhone/iPad so scroll down ).

How I did my research

Firstly, I did a Google search to find as many network removal companies as possible. I reviewed each of their websites carefully and got in touch with them to verify there was someone actually in control. This reduced my list down to 10 prospects.

Next, I checked feedback left in TrustmarkReviews, RipoffReport, and TrustPilot to see what real clients thought of their service. I got rid of the lowest scoring companies to give me a final list of 3 whose services I intended to check thoroughly.

I asked members of my community here at iChimp to find people who wanted to network unlock their iPhone. I picked a wide range of iPhone models located right around the world to test each service and get ‘real’ feedback from real people.

I ended up with 22 community members with the following types of iPhone:

  • iPad Air Wi-Fi + Cellular
  • iPhone 4s
  • iPhone 5
  • iPhone 5c
  • iPhone 5s
  • iPhone 6
  • iPhone 6 Plus
  • iPhone 6s
  • iPhone 6s Plus
  • iPhone SE
  • iPhone 7

Each individual emailed me their iPhone model and IMEI code so I could place orders with each of the top 3 suppliers.

I judged each supplier based on the following:

  • Did it work?
  • Price
  • Speed
  • Customer Service

Did it work?

Did they actually manage to do a network unlock, yes or no. Simple.

Price

The prices ranged from $20 right up to $40, although the price is dependant on the iPhone model.

Speed

I wanted each of the iPhones unlocked as quickly as possible. Waiting 14 days isn’t good enough, I wanted it done in 2-3 days.

Customer service

I wanted to be content that I would know what was going on at each stage of the unlock process after I had paid the fee. I was also keen that each service would have customer support so that I could contact them with any questions if I wished.

 

1st place: iPhoneIMEI.net

DoctorUnlock logo

DoctorUnlock.net are excellent – they managed to unlock every iPhone I sent them.

They also unlocked them faster than anyone else with each one taking on average 2 days to do. I did note that it can take longer for some countries than others but this is mentioned on the purchase page so you know where you stand.

Their customer support was great with replies coming back from my queries in under an hour.

They are also good value for money with prices dependant on your country and network but ranging from only £25 (approx $30 USD) per unlock up to £105 (approx $130 USD). You get the exact price when you select your device and network on the website so you know the exact price before you place your order. All prices are listed is in GBP (£’s) as it is a UK based business. They can unlock devices from anywhere in the world so if you are not in the UK this is not a problem.

You can pay with Visa, Dalpay, and BitCoin. I felt very comfortable spending money with them.

If you want your iPhone unlocked, you should use DoctorUnlock.net.

How to use DoctorUnlock.net to SIM unlock your iPhone

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 tutorial on what you need to do.

1. Firstly you need to find out the IMEI code for your iPhone or iPad. 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: If you have an iPhone 5 or newer, your IMEI is printed on the back of the device
  • Option 4: On your iPhone or iPad tap Settings > General > About and scroll down and you should see the IMEI listed
2. If you are unlocking an iPhone you need to know which model -3GS, 4, 4S, 5, 5C, SE, 6 / 6+, 6S / 6S+, 7 / 7+. This article explains how to find out the model you have: https://support.apple.com/en-gb/HT201296.
 
If you are having an iPad network unlocked then you don’t need to know the specific model.
 
3. Go to DoctorUnlock.net and select the iPhone model and network (see image below).
 
doctorunlock home page
 
4. Click the Unlock button and you will be taken to a new screen which shows the price of the unlock over on the right.
 
5. If you are happy with the cost quoted add your IMEI number and click “Unlock Now!”
 
6. You will be sent to the secure checkout where you pay the fee using either Visa, Mastercard or even bitcoin. Enter your email address so that you can be kept up-to-date with the unlock process.
 
doctorunlock payment page
 
7. Click the large blue ‘Buy now!’ button and provide your payment details and you’re done!

8. You should hear back in 1-3 working days.

 

2nd place: Direct unlocks

direct unlocks logo

Direct unlocks are the new boys on the block but they have already built a great reputation for a quick and reliable service. They managed to unlock all of the iPhones and iPads without a hitch.

They are a true international organisation and have US, and UK based sites with pricing in local currency (my links go to the US website but you can go to the UK website here).

All of my devices were unlocked in a couple of days so it was a speedy service.

Customer services were good, although not as warm and friendly as our winners (above).

Pricing is competitive although their charging model is not as straightforward as iPhoneIMEI. 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.

Direct unlocks is a very good company and almost sneaked the top spot. They just failed to make it due to their odd payment model.

 

3rd place: Official iPhone Unlock

OiU logo

 

Official iPhone Unlock was good – they managed to unlock every device I sent them. They also do iPad network unlocks too. However like our 2nd place business their charging method is a little odd too- but more on that later.

They also unlocked them pretty fast taking around 2-3 days, which is pretty good.

Their customer support was quite good, although not up to the standard of the best with responses taking up to a day. When they did reply they were direct and to the point and not quite as warm and friendly as they could be.

On to the costs. They were pretty much in line with iPhoneIMEI with unlocks between £25 (approx $30 USD) and £105 (approx $130 USD) per unlock depending on country, model, and network. However, the payments are structured differently making them appear cheaper than they really are.

It isn’t clear on the website but you pay a £19.99 pre-order fee (approx $16) with the balance due before the unlock is completed. The balance due is dependant on the network you are on, the model of device you want to unlock, and the country you are based in. So you don’t see the final cost when you order – just the pre-order fee. The pre-order fee is deducted from the final cost so it is no big deal but it has lead to some reports of clients feeling ‘blackmailed’ having to make the second payment before they get the unlock completed. They could make the payment structure clearer on their website to prevent this as only the headline price of £19.99 is prominently advertised. This is another reason why they are 2nd place.

Official iPhone unlock accept a wider variety of payment methods including American Express so it is easier to finance your unlock. Prices are listed in GBP (£) but they can unlock phones regardless of where you are located. It works worldwide so this is another positive.

Overall this is a good supplier but not quite up to the standard of the best. The fact that they don’t have transparent pricing and were a little less friendly puts Official iPhone Unlock in 3rd place.

What Official iPhone Unlock customers say

Don’t just take my word for it based on my personal experience, here is what is said by customers:


How to use Official iPhone Unlock to unlock your iPhone

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 or iPad. 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: If you have an iPhone 5 or newer, your IMEI is printed on the back of the device
  • Option 4: On your iPhone or iPad tap Settings > General > About and scroll down and you should see the IMEI listed
2. If you are unlocking an iPhone you need to know which model. This article explains how to find out the model you have: https://support.apple.com/en-gb/HT201296. If you are having an iPad network unlocked then you don’t need to know the specific model.
 
3. Go to Official iPhone Unlock and pick the iPhone model and choose your iPhone or iPad model at the top. Underneath type in the IMEI number and select the carrier or network that it is locked to from the drop-down (see the red arrows pointing where you need to fill in the details in the image below).
 officialiphoneunlock.co.uk - iphone network unlock 01
 
4. The price should ‘pop up’ underneath together with a trust score and some reviews. Click the ‘Buy Now’ button.
 
5. You will go to the cart page. Please make sure you put in your correct email address so that you can be kept up-to-date with the unlock process. If you get it wrong they won’t be able to tell you the unlock has been finished. You can also add details of more devices if you have more than 1 to unlock.
 
officialiphoneunlock.co.uk - iphone network unlock 02
 
 
6. Click the large blue ‘Continue’ button once you have added all of the details for the phones you want to unlock.
 
officialiphoneunlock.co.uk - iphone network unlock 02
7. You will be sent to the payment page where you provide your payment details and you’re done!

8. You should hear back in 2 or 3 days.

 

4th place: doctorSIM

doctorSIM

doctorSIM was also good with a quick service, decent support, and a money back guarantee on their iPhone unlocking service.

They managed to unlock everything I sent to them. They can also unlock other models of cellphone too, not just iPhones.

Their payment process was transparent and fair. Prices start from a reasonable £13 GBP ($17 USD) although prices vary depending on which country you are in and the carrier you are tied to. They also have a brilliant refund policy so if they can’t do the unlock you get your money back.

They unlocked them less quickly than the other suppliers – although some were done in under 12 hours!

Customer support was good. Questions were logged efficiently via email with friendly answers coming back to me the same day.

The overall customer satisfaction was 9.1 / 10, which is a little lower than the other suppliers which has resulted in them being bumped into 3rd place.

doctorSIM accepts loads of different payment methods too such as credit cards including Amex, PayPal, and even BitCoin.

Prices are listed in $ USD but they can unlock almost any phone, (not just iPhones) from any network, in any country. So no matter your location they have you covered.

doctorSIM is a good choice and I wouldn’t hesitate to use or recommend them too.

 

FAQ

What is a SIM lock?

A SIM lock, simlock, network lock, carrier lock, or (master) subsidy lock is a restriction built into the iPhone and iPad by Apple and enforced by the carrier to restrict use to their network.

micro SIM card

This ties your Apple device to a single network 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 or iPad.

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 or iPad 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 a SIM 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 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 devices take their handset overseas and buy a SIM when they arrive and pop it in to keep their call costs down.

Why are iPhones locked to a single mobile cell network?

iPhones and iPads are expensive 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.

micro SIM on a table

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 network lock discourages such practices.

Is it legal to unlock your iPhone?

In some places, such as China, Israel, and Singapore, network 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 network lock removed.

However, regardless of local rules, it is almost universally legal to unlock your iPhone or iPad.

Normally you are allowed to SIM unlock your iPhone 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.

If you want to have it unlocked sooner you need to request the service from an unlocking company:

but which one?

I have put together a list of the best companies around which you will find earlier in this article.

unlocking a device

Why bother unlocking?

There are many reasons why you may decide to unlock your iPhone:

Perhaps you have been gifted an old iPhone by friends or family after they upgraded to the latest iPhone.

Or maybe you have bought a used iPhone from eBay or Craigslist and want to keep your existing phone number on your current network.

However one of the biggest reasons is because you want to swap to a cheaper ‘SIM only’ tariff with a different carrier which has been known to save hundreds of dollars a month.

Which models can be unlocked?

You can SIM carrier network unlock the:

iPhone X

  • iPhone 2G
  • iPhone 3G
  • iPhone 3GS
  • iPhone 4
  • iPhone 4S
  • iPhone 5
  • iPhone 5S
  • iPhone 5C
  • iPhone 6
  • iPhone 6S
  • iPhone 6+
  • iPhone 6S+
  • iPhone 7
  • iPhone 7+
  • iPhone SE
  • iPhone 8
  • iPhone 8+
  • iPhone X

You can also network unlock all iPads including iPad Air and iPad mini (Wi-Fi + Cellular version).

Since the unlocking methods described in this article are official then they will work regardless of the iOS version installed.

Please note: the iPad SIM or network lock mentioned in this article applies to the iPad Wi-Fi + Cellular version rather than the Wi-Fi only version. The iPad Wi-Fi doesn’t have a SIM.

Which networks or carriers can be unlocked?

You can SIM carrier network unlock from almost any network, in any country.

USA mobile cellphone networks

You can unlock from the following American carriers:

American flag

  • Unlock AT&T iPhone USA
  • Unlock T-Mobile iPhone USA
  • Unlock Sprint iPhone USA
  • Unlock Verizon iPhone USA
  • Unlock Cellcom USA iPhone
  • Unlock Cricket USA iPhone
  • Unlock iPhone GCI Wireless USA
  • Factory unlock NTelos iPhone USA
  • Unlock iPhone Tracfone USA
  • Unlock Metro PCS iPhone

UK mobile phone networks

You can unlock the following British carriers:

UK flag

  • Unlock Vodafone UK iPhone
  • Unlock O2 iPhone
  • Unlock Orange UK iPhone
  • Unlock T-Mobile UK iPhone
  • Unlock EE UK iPhone
  • Unlock Tesco UK iPhone
  • Unlock Three Hutchison UK

Canadian mobile cellphone networks

You can unlock the following Canadian carriers:

Canadian flag

  • Unlock Bell iPhone Canada
  • Unlock Fido Canada iPhone
  • Unlock Rogers Canada iPhone
  • Unlock Telus Canada iPhone
  • Unlock Sasktel iPhone Canada
  • Unlock MTS Allstream iPhone Canada

Australian mobile phone networks

You can unlock the following Australian mobile phone networks:

Australian flag

  • Unlock Optus iPhone Australia
  • Unlock Vodafone Australia iPhone
  • Unlock Telstra iPhone Australia

Worldwide mobile phone networks

You can also unlock your iPhone from almost any network, worldwide. For example:

  • Unlock iPhone from Mexico
  • Unlock iPhone from Brazil
  • Unlock iPhone from Japan
  • iPhone unlocking services for France carriers
  • Unlock iPhone from Portugal
  • Unlock iPhone from Spain
  • Unlock iPhone from Austria
  • Unlock iPhone from Sweden
  • Unlock iPhone from Egypt
  • And many, many more…

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