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How to unlock any phone

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Last update: March 27, 2024
Roams UK
Author: Roams UK

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:

  1. Turn the phone off.
  2. Change the SIM.
  3. Restart the phone.
  4. 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.


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.

Provider Method Cost Time
EE PAYG and Flex plan My EE Free if bought directly from EE. Otherwise £8.99 Immediately, unless complications
EE Pay monthly My EE
  • £8.99 in contract
  • Free out of contract
Immediate, unless complications
Orange Contact EE As EE As EE
O2
  • Log into My O2
  • Live Chat
  • Call 202 Pay Monthly
  • 4445 from PAYG
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.

Our methodology
Roams offers a free information and comparison service, which tries to help anyone find the product that best suits their needs. To ensure that the data presented is correct, extensive market research and product analysis is carried out. Our database of mobile phone and internet rates is updated every day. The content is frequently reviewed by a team of writers with previous experience and/or specific training in telephony.

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Roams UKRoams
Actualizado por Roams UK

Roams offers its advice on recurring-use services to enhance consumer savings. Its expertise is already valued by thousands of users, who trust Roams comparisons in different sectors to hire the best option.

Laura Burón
Edited and revised por Laura Burón