However you use your phone, you need the best network. But to change networks, you might have to unlock the phone. Here’s how to unlock any phone if you want to change networks.
What is phone unlocking?
When you’re locked into a contract, the phone is locked to that network too. Unlocking a phone means you can use it on any network. There are better deals on locked phones, but then you’re stuck using one network.
You may have a used phone. Or maybe you received one as a gift. How can you check if your phone’s locked?
If your phone’s new with no SIM, it’s likely unlocked. If there’s a SIM, contact the provider and ask them. Or borrow a SIM from someone on a different network. If friends or family can’t loan you one, a phone shop can help. Once you have another SIM:
- Turn the phone off.
- Change the SIM.
- Restart the phone.
- Try making a call.
If you can’t get signal or the phone asks for an unlock code, it’s probably locked.
When can I unlock my phone?
Networks can sell locked phones until December 2021, after which the UK’s phone regulator Ofcom won’t allow it.
You can unlock your phone easily when your contract has ended, or when you use a pay-as-you-go (PAYG) arrangement.
Is it legal to unlock my phone?
According to Ofcom, unlocking is perfectly legal. If a phone was reported lost or stolen, however, it can’t be unlocked.
Jailbreaking is a way of getting around a phone’s software so unapproved apps can be used or the network changed. This isn’t illegal, but voids the warranty and may make the phone unusable.
How to unlock an iPhone
You need its unique 15-digit IMEI number. There are four ways to locate this.
- Using your Phone, dial *#06# and the IMEI will be displayed.
- In Settings, look in General > About.
- You might find it on the back of the handset, or in its SIM tray.
- It may also be on the phone’s packaging.
Once you have the IMEI, follow the instructions for all phones outlined below.
Any iPhones bought through EE on a Pay Monthly contract unlock automatically and for free eighteen months after sale or dispatch. Text UNLOCK to 150 to check the status.
With O2, iPhone unlocking takes up to 72 hours. iPhones bought from O2 from 1 August 2018 onwards are unlocked.
How to unlock an Android
For Samsung Galaxy or other Android phones, you’ll also need your IMEI. You can text *#06#, or go to Settings > More… > About device > Status, and scroll down. If the IMEI seems too long, use the first fifteen digits.
Unlocking is the same for Android as for iPhones, varying by provider and contract. You’ll pay more and wait longer for monthly contracts than for getting a PAYG phone unlocked.
How to unlock a Vodafone phone
Apply online and it should take only 72 hours, though it can take up to a week. Their form asks questions to determine eligibility and cost, including:
- Have you checked your phone’s locked?
- Have you paid at least three bills and cleared all balances?
- Have you asked for more than three unlock codes in the past twelve months?
The website makes it easy, but the requirements can get complicated.
How to unlock a phone with other providers
Contact the network and ask for an unlock code. The ease and cost depend on the provider. They’ll ask for the IMEI, account name, number and password. If you don’t have these, check out the third-party help mentioned below.
|EE PAYG and Flex plan||My EE||Free if bought directly from EE. Otherwise £8.99||Immediately, unless complications|
|EE Pay monthly||My EE||
||Immediate, unless complications|
|Orange||Contact EE||As EE||As EE|
||Free if bought from O2 directly, and not in contract.||Immediately, unless complications.|
|Three||Three.co.uk||Free. Three SIM needed.||72 hours. All phones unlocked from 1 January 2014.|
Where to get a phone unlocked
If you have network difficulties, there are third-party services online to unlock any phone. These can be quick, but you’ll pay more and there’s some risk involved. Mobile specialists near you may be more reliable.
The cost to unlock a phone should never be more than £25. Don’t try free unlock codes, as you risk malware.
No matter which network you desire, knowing how to unlock any phone has never been easier. Soon, no locked phones will be sold at all and freedom of choice will be guaranteed.