Unlocking an iPhone can be a necessary step when switching to a new network provider or when purchasing a second-hand device. In the past, unlocking an iPhone could be a complicated and time-consuming process, but fortunately, it has become much easier in recent years. In this article, we will guide you through the steps to unlock any iPhone model, either through your network provider or by using a third-party service. By following these instructions, you'll be able to unlock your iPhone and enjoy the freedom to use it with any carrier you choose.
Table of Contents
- Is iPhone unlocking legal?
- How to determine if your iPhone is locked
- Unlocking your iPhone through your network provider
- Unlocking an iPhone on EE
- Unlocking an iPhone on Vodafone
- Unlocking an iPhone on Three
- Unlocking an iPhone on O2
- Unlocking an iPhone on Virgin Mobile
- Unlocking an iPhone on Tesco Mobile
- Unlocking an iPhone on Giffgaff
- Using a third-party unlocking service
- How much should you pay for unlocking?
- Verifying if the unlock was successful
- Updating an unlocked phone without a SIM card
1. Is iPhone unlocking legal?
Before we dive into the process of unlocking an iPhone, it's important to address the legality of this action. Unlocking your iPhone is completely legal if you have finished paying for your contract or if you purchased the device outright, without any subsidies. However, if you are still in the process of paying for your contract, it's best to check with your carrier before attempting to unlock your iPhone.
2. How to determine if your iPhone is locked
To determine if your iPhone is locked to a specific carrier, you may encounter a message such as "SIM Not Supported" when setting up the device. This message indicates that the iPhone is locked and can only be used with the original carrier's SIM card. If you are unsure whether your iPhone is locked, you can follow the steps outlined in our guide on how to tell if your iPhone is locked.
3. Unlocking your iPhone through your network provider
The easiest and most common way to unlock an iPhone is by contacting your network provider and requesting an unlock. Most network providers offer unlocking services, often for free or for a small fee. Here's a breakdown of the unlocking process for some of the popular network providers in the UK:
Unlocking an iPhone on EE
If you are an EE customer and have had your account for at least six months, you can request an unlock for your iPhone. If you have completed your contract, EE will unlock your iPhone for free. However, if you are still within your contract, there is an £8.99 fee for unlocking, and it may take up to 72 hours. Pay As You Go customers can also unlock their iPhones by paying the £8.99 admin fee. If you have purchased a second-hand iPhone, EE can unlock it for you as long as the device is more than six months old and has not been reported lost or stolen. To initiate the unlocking process, call 0800 956 6000 and select the appropriate options. You will be required to undergo a security test before receiving the unlocking instructions.
Unlocking an iPhone on Vodafone
Vodafone states that all Apple products issued by the company are already unlocked. However, if you find that your iPhone is locked to Vodafone, you can request a Network Unlock Code from the company. It's important to note that if you purchased your iPhone from a different provider or retailer, such as Carphone Warehouse, Vodafone may not be able to unlock it for you. In such cases, you will need to contact the original provider or retailer. To unlock your iPhone from Vodafone, you can use their online unlocking form. Vodafone aims to unlock devices within 72 hours, but it may take up to 10 days in certain circumstances.
Unlocking an iPhone on Three
Three makes the unlocking process simple for its customers. If you purchased an iPhone from Three after January 1, 2014, it is automatically unlocked as soon as you connect it to Wi-Fi or iTunes/the Finder. For iPhones purchased before that date, you can unlock the device by connecting it to iTunes/the Finder and performing a restore. It's important to back up your data before restoring, as the process will erase all the data on your iPhone. Alternatively, you can fill out Three's online form to request an unlock.
Unlocking an iPhone on O2
If you purchased your iPhone from O2 after August 1, 2018, it is likely already unlocked. However, if you find that your iPhone is still locked, you can unlock it through O2. Existing O2 customers can log in to My O2 on their browser, select "More" in the menu bar, followed by "Unlock your device," and follow the instructions provided. You can also use O2's Live Chat feature, but make sure to have your IMEI ready. O2 will send a text message to notify you when your iPhone is unlocked. Simply insert the new SIM card and check if the iPhone can connect to the new network. If not, connect the device to iTunes/the Finder with the non-O2 SIM, and iTunes will confirm the unlocking.
Unlocking an iPhone on Virgin Mobile
Virgin Mobile states that any iPhone purchased from the company will already be unlocked. However, some older iPhone models, such as the iPhone 4 and earlier, may still be locked. If you have an iPhone 4 and want to unlock it, you can perform a full restore of the device. Remember to back up your data before restoring to avoid losing any important information. For instructions on how to perform a restore, you can refer to our guide on how to factory reset an iPhone and iPad.
Unlocking an iPhone on Tesco Mobile
Tesco Mobile offers free unlocking for customers who have been with the network for 12 months or more, or for those who have completed their contract. To request an unlock code from Tesco, you can use their online form and provide the necessary details.
Unlocking an iPhone on Giffgaff
Giffgaff provides a helpful tool called Unlockapedia, which assists in determining how to unlock an iPhone from various networks, including Giffgaff itself. You can explore Unlockapedia to find the specific instructions for unlocking your iPhone.
4. Using a third-party unlocking service
If you are unable to unlock your iPhone through your network provider or prefer an alternative method, you can consider using a third-party unlocking service. These services typically charge a small fee, usually around £25, to provide an unlock code for your iPhone. It's important to note that not all third-party unlocking services are reputable, so it's essential to do thorough research before choosing one. One recommended service is Doctor SIM, which offers a refund if the unlock is unsuccessful. However, it's always wise to read the terms and conditions before making a purchase.
5. How much should you pay for unlocking?
Ideally, you should not have to pay anything to unlock your iPhone, as network providers should offer this service for free. However, some carriers may still charge administrative fees for unlocking. If you decide to use a third-party unlocking service, prices typically range from £10 to £25. It's advisable to shop around and compare prices before making a decision.
6. Verifying if the unlock was successful
Once your iPhone has been unlocked, you will receive confirmation from your carrier. To verify if the unlock was successful, follow these steps:
- Power down your iPhone by holding down the power button (or the power button and volume down button for Face ID-equipped iPhones) and swiping your finger across as directed.
- Use the SIM card tool (or a straightened paper clip) to eject the SIM card holder from the side of the phone.
- Remove the old SIM card from the card holder and replace it with a SIM card from a different network.
- Reinsert the SIM card holder into the iPhone.
- Make a phone call and check if the iPhone can connect over the new network. If it does, your iPhone is successfully unlocked and ready to use with any compatible SIM card.
7. Updating an unlocked phone without a SIM card
If you have requested an unlock from your carrier but do not have the original SIM card, or if you have acquired a locked iPhone from someone else, you may need to reset the phone before it can be unlocked. Follow these steps to reset your iPhone:
- Back up your iPhone to iCloud or via iTunes/the Finder.
- Erase your iPhone by going to Settings > General > Transfer or Reset iPhone > Erase All Content and Settings.
- Complete the setup assistant and restore your iPhone from the backup you created.
After resetting your iPhone, it should be unlocked and ready to use with any compatible SIM card. Remember to insert the new SIM card and complete the setup assistant before restoring from your backup.
And there you have it! A comprehensive guide on how to unlock an iPhone. By following these steps, you can easily unlock your iPhone and enjoy the freedom to use it with any network provider. Whether you choose to unlock your iPhone through your network provider or use a third-party unlocking service, the process is now much simpler and more accessible. Unlocking your iPhone allows you to take full advantage of its capabilities and ensures that you can use it with the carrier of your choice.