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A Definative Guide On How To Unlock An iPhone 3G

The Perfect Guide On How To Unlock iPhone's

So, you've finally completed the contract on your iPhone and that bad boy is eventually all yours. Meaning you’re able to use it while traveling in another country with a local SIM card and are free to move networks when you want, right? Don’t start booking your flight to Fiji or running to Sprint quite yet since, unfortunately, it’s not quite that clear-cut.

So as to prevent users from swapping to a rival’s network before they’ve paid off their iPhone or completed their contract, a lot of carriers put a SIM lock (commonly known as as a carrier lock) on their cell phones. This inevitably means that you, or the individual you sell your second-hand iPhone to, are stuck with them for the long haul. If you’re thinking this sounds like a rather dysfunctional relationship, we’d have a tendency to agree with you. Happily, along with a little legwork plus an account in good standing, you are on the right track to a SIM-unlocked iPhone before you know it!

Before we continue, just a quick note about the type of unlocks that are available, and the one's you should stay clear of! There is software out there that provide the ability to unlock a smartphone yourself, but you need to jailbreak your iPhone, and this is a dumb move, for numerous reasons. You can do your own research into jail-breaking, but it's not a sensible choice, and to be avoided. The simplest way to unlock your iPhone is by talking directly with your cellular provider. Your journey to a carrier-unlocked iPhone hinges largely on your network, with the procedure being either relatively quick and easy or painfully difficult. To get you a step closer to a life free from carrier-locked tyranny, we accumulated all the steps in order to obtain an iPhone unlock with this comprehensive guide. Please be aware that even though this was written with iPhone owners in mind, the majority of the advice could be carried over to other smartphones.

What Is Network Unlocking?

As noted before, when you buy an iPhone or some other smartphone through your cellular provider, that cellphone will only function on that network unless you either request to have your network unlock it or maybe your carrier automatically unlocks it for you (read more about that later). Commonly known as a SIM unlock, factory unlock, or network unlock, carrier unlocking means removing a network’s restrictions on a device, so that you can use it with a different cellular provider.

Luckily for us, not all iPhones require unlocking. For example, if you buy your iPhone from Apple and pay for it in full, it should be unlocked and able to use on a variety of networks.

Take note, however, not all phones purchased outright from third-party retailers are automatically unlocked. In particular, although sold as “unlocked”, cell phones purchased at Best Buy are in fact considered universal. So, when you insert a Sim initially, the device will effectively lock itself to the provider associated with the SIM card. Then, seeing that certain service providers like T-Mobile will only unlock your iPhone if you bought it directly from them, you could end up getting an eternally carrier-locked device. Basically, you find yourself paying factory-unlocked prices for a network-locked cellphone.

Why Should I Unlock My iPhone?

Having a officially-unlocked iPhone comes with a good number of advantages including the flexibility to utilize (almost) any network in the Unites States and in another country as well as increased second-hand values.

  1. Carrier-unlocking offers you the choice to use your cell phone with the cellular provider of your choice, almost whenever and wherever you want (with some exceptions, as you’ll find out later). Such as, if you are currently using T-Mobile but are moving to a new part of the country with weak T-Mobile coverage, you can shift to AT&T on a dime

  2. A IMEI-unlocked iPhone makes international travel a breeze. Unlocking also provides the ability to use your cellphone overseas. Worldwide roaming fees, expensive international plans, and mad dashes for WiFi become a distant memory with an unlocked iPhone. Merely put in a SIM card from a local network and you're golden.

  3. Carrier-unlocked iPhones have higher resale values.

In the event you don’t intend on changing service providers or traveling internationally in the near future, unlocking your iPhone remains a good idea. Should you ever intend on trading in your old iPhone if you upgrade, you’ll more often than not get more cash for it if the iPhone is already carrier unlocked due to greater demand for them in the resale marketplace.

Is it against the law to SIM Unlock your phone?

Absolutely not! Due to Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act, signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2014, all US-based cellular providers must allow customers to unlock their phones. However, the circumstances under which a provider will unlock a mobile phone vary widely from carrier to carrier. On the whole, virtually all networks require you to complete your contract, pay for your financial obligations fully, or at least have an account in good standing before they’ll let you unlock your iPhone.

How you can determine if your iPhone is Unlocked

Before you start the carrier-unlocking process, you’ll first want to determine whether your iPhone has already been unlocked (no sense in enduring the hassle if you don’t absolutely need to). All you need to do is ensure that you’re connected to WiFi and insert a brand-new SIM card from a different service provider and your handset will do the rest automatically. This verification check generally takes under a minute to finish once a new SIM has been inserted.

Throughout the verification procedure, you’ll notice that your iPhone will boot onto a white screen and try to verify that it has been unlocked with your carrier. Should Apple confirm that your iPhone is IMEI-unlocked, it will return to the home screen and signal bars will appear from the new service provider. However, if a white screen appears that says SIM Not Supported, your smartphone has not been unlocked.

How to Unlock iPhones from a Service provider

Once you determine that your phone is definitely locked to your current cellular provider, next you'll need to look at your service provider’s unlocking eligibility prerequisites. Should your iPhone meet their criteria, you can then request that the device can be unlocked from their network. As suggested previously, both the eligibility requirements and the unlocking process vary from network to network. They all have been outlined below for the major carriers including Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile.

Please note that, as long as you have met the unlock conditions and so are completing the network-unlocking directly with your network, requesting that your iPhone be unlocked is likely to be completely free. If you wish to use a 3rd party unlocking service provider, you'll be charged, but utilizing a 3rd party company will be your only option if you are not the original owner of the phone. Before you spend money unnecessarily, try using the directions outlined below as a first step.

Find Your iPhone’s IMEI Number

When permanently-unlocking your iPhone, you'll need to supply your provider the handsets IMEI number. This unique, 15-digit identifier is fundamentally your phone’s VIN or social security number. To locate your IMEI, on your phone, go to Settings > General > About and search to the bottom of the list where you'll see it listed next to IMEI.

Additionally you can search for the IMEI number on the mobile phone housing itself. For earlier iPhone models (1st-generation SE, 5s, 5c, 5, 6, 6 Plus), the number may also be written on the back or the SIM tray.

When you’ve located the IMEI number, we strongly recommend that you store it someplace for safekeeping.

Unlock an iPhone on AT&T

Unlocking your iPhone from the AT&T network is about as easy as one-two-three. Just run on across to the AT&T website, answer a couple of questions, and you’re well on your way to SIM-unlocked freedom.

When you submit your request, use your IMEI and request reference numbers to review your AT&T unlock status. After you get your verification text or email, simply open it up then click on the confirmation link. That's all there is to it! AT&T will unlock your iPhone within 2 business days.

For an iPhone to be unlocked from AT&T, it has to adhere to the following requirements:

  • Must not be active on a different AT&T account
  • If it is a work phone, you must have your employer’s permission to unlock it
  • If it is an AT&T PREPAID phone, it must be active for at least six months
  • Must not be reported as lost, stolen, or blocked
  • Must not have a past-due balance

When the iPhone is included in term agreement or installment plan, it's got to also meet these requirements:

  • The device must be active on the AT&T network for at least 60 days
  • The installment plan must be paid off
  • The term agreement must be complete

For in depth eligibility prerequisites, click here.

Unlock an iPhone on Sprint

Based on when you purchased your phone and if it has SIM-unlock capabilities, you've got a few different unlock options. In the event you bought a new iPhone from Sprint after February 2015 (it will be SIM-unlock capable) and it's actively being used on their network, Sprint should unlock it automatically after it meets their qualifications requirements. So, you actually don’t need to do anything at all apart from keep your account in good standing. However, if your iPhone hasn't been activated or was purchased before February 2015, you’ll have to speak to Sprint Customer Service directly to request an unlock (either dial *2 on your Sprint phone or call 888-211-4727).

We have seen reports from some Sprint clients that the auto-unlock program does not always operate as it should, so it’s definitely a good idea to verify that your iPhone has been unlocked before trying to switch to another network or advertising your iPhone as unlocked, if you wish to sell it to a buyback company or on auction web sites.

For an iPhone to get unlocked from the Sprint network, it's got to meet the following requirements:

  • Must be active on the Sprint network for at least 40 days
  • Must be on an account in good standing
  • Must not be reported as lost, stolen, or associated with fraud
  • Must have SIM-unlock capabilities (if it doesn’t, it is MSL (Master Subsidy Lock) locked and you will need to call Sprint for the MSL code)

If your iPhone is part of a service agreement, lease agreement, or installment plan, it must also satisfy these requirements:

  • Any early-termination fees must be fully paid
  • Any lease or installment payments must be fully paid
  • If leased, the end-of-lease purchase option must be fully paid

For in depth eligibility prerequisites, click here.

Unlock an iPhone on T-Mobile

If you’re an Android phone owner reading this and your device matches the eligibility conditions, consider yourself fortunate: You are able to unlock it straight from the device itself. For all you iPhone owners out there, you’ll need to contact T-Mobile’s Group of Experts directly (either dial 611 from your T-Mobile iPhone, call 877-746-0909.

To have an iPhone unlocked from the T-Mobile network, it has got to fulfill the following requirements:

  • For prepaid accounts, it must have been active on the account for at least 12 months
  • Must have been purchased directly from T-Mobile
  • Must be paid for in full
  • Must not have been reported as lost, stolen, or blocked

If your iPhone is on a postpaid plan, it must also adhere to the following prerequisites:

  • The account must be in good standing
  • Must have been active on the account for at least 40 days

For in depth eligibility prerequisites, click here.

Unlock an iPhone on Verizon

Verizon is, without a doubt, the leading service provider to work with for unlocking an iPhone. Why? Because Verizon will automatically unlock your phone Sixty days following the purchase of the handset. If you obtained your iPhone from a retail partner, it can be unlocked automatically Sixty days after device activation.

There are no catches. You don’t have to pay off your phone, fulfill any unique prerequisites, or even get in touch with them to ask to unlock your phone from their network. Provided that your iPhone hasn’t been reported lost or stolen, simply wait 8 weeks following purchase or activation and your phone will be all set.

Hard to believe? Just click here.

Now I've Unlocked my iPhone — what now?

In the past, you’d have to connect your iPhone up to iTunes and conduct a software restore to carry out the unlock procedure. Thankfully, it’s much simpler these days. All you need to do is stick to the same steps you used earlier to verify whether your phone was already unlocked to start with.

In the event you don’t have access to a SIM card from another carrier, you can still confirm that your iPhone has been unlocked using an iTunes software restore. Just connect your iPhone to a computer running iTunes and hit the “restore” option. When the restoration process has finished, you should see a message stating “Congratulations, your iPhone has been unlocked.”

Great job! You successfully SIM-unlocked your iPhone! Meaning your able to use whichever service provider you would like to now, yes? We hate to tell you this, but sadly not. As a result of two different kinds of technologies deployed in the US, CDMA and GSM, your choice of mobile phone providers will depend on the type of your iPhone as well as the original network it was locked to. Specifically, Verizon and Sprint are CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) networks, while AT&T, T-Mobile, and most providers in other countries are GSM (Global System for Mobiles) networks.

As you may have guessed, these two different network types do not talk to each other (because that would be too easy). Thankfully, as we move closer to worldwide 5G access and as older networks are retired, it will hopefully no longer be an issue.

To discover which carriers you have access to depending on these two factors, keep on reading.


GSM networks only (AT&T, T-Mobile, international GSM carriers): Original iPhone, iPhone 4, iPhone 4s, iPhone 5, iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c, iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone X

Any carrier worldwide: iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone XR, iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone 11 Pro Max, iPhone SE, iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 12 Pro Max


International networks only: iPhone 4s and iPhone 5

Any carrier worldwide: iPhone 5, iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone X, iPhone XR, iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone 11 Pro Max, iPhone SE, iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 12 Pro Max


GSM networks only (AT&T, T-Mobile, international GSM carriers): Original iPhone, iPhone 4, iPhone 4s, iPhone 5, iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c, iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone X

Any carrier worldwide: iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone XR, iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone 11 Pro Max, iPhone SE, iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 12 Pro Max


Compatible with any carrier in the world, but with limitations when using GSM networks: iPhone 4s, iPhone 5

Any carrier worldwide: iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone X, iPhone XR, iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone 11 Pro Max, iPhone SE, iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 12 Pro Max

Will the Unlock last forever?

Yes! Once your phone has been officially-unlocked, it will remain like that for the lifetime of the device. You'll be able to restore your iPhone or update apps without worrying about your unlock disappearing afterwards.

About This Author

Abel SlaterAbel Slater
Joined: March 4th, 2021
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