There are plenty of reasons you might want to unlock your smartphone; you might have found a better sim only deal you’d like to use, or you might be looking to sell it on, either way unlocking your phone can be beneficial in many ways.
But actually going through with it can be a fairly complex or stressful thing to do, especially if you’re not entirely sure what you’re doing or how to do it. So, to help you out we’ve decided to give you a guide to help you unlock your phone, whether it’s the latest iPhone or a trusty old Nokia from a decade ago!
Unlocking your phone is a process taken if you want to free up the network you can use your handset with, often undertaken as most contract phones are made available to just one network.
It’s often done at the end of your contract, or if you’re trying to sell your handset and is completely legal, but can void any current warranty you have if done in a certain manner.
There are several ways you can unlock your mobile phone, all of which depend on your handset, budget and network.
Before going ahead and going through the unlocking process, you’re always best off checking whether your phone is actually locked. To do this, simply insert another network’s sim into your phone, as sometimes you may find that your phone isn’t actually locked at all.
If you’ve done this and you’ve found the device to be locked you can go by three different methods. Before you start though, ensure you have your phone’s make, model and IMEI number. You can get your IMEI by typing *#06# on your phone’s dialling pad.
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Many networks offer to unlock your phone if you do business with them, but none are legally required to. Some have you fill in an online form, whilst others need you to ring them through your phone, but all of them offer slightly different processes.
The most stringent network in terms of unlocking, EE only unlocks devices after you’ve owned them for at least 6 months and will charge you £20.42 for the effort. It also takes around 20 days for your phone to get unlocked, which is the longest of any network at the moment.
Far friendlier when it comes to unlocking your phone, O2 will normally unlock a contract phone for free at any point in your contract, whilst pay as you go users will be charged £15 and can only unlock after 12 months. The process takes a maximum of 14 days to complete, but it’s worth noting that O2 exclusive devices however will not be unlocked.
Vodafone is willing to free up your contract phone without cost at any point in your deal, or if your pay as you go handset is over 12 months old. If you try and unlock your pay as you go phone before 12 months it will cost you £20, with unlock times varying from a day to two weeks.
Three is willing to unlock contract phones after just 30 days of you taking them out, whilst pay as you go handsets can be unlocked right away. Also, Three is also able to unlock your handset within minutes, claiming a maximum waiting time of a week in extreme circumstances. It will however set you back £15.32, and terms and conditions in Three deals state that if you unlock your phone with anyone else that you’ll be in breach of contract.
Tesco Mobile offer free unlocking at the end of mobile contracts but will charge £20 before then, whilst pay as you go deals are free to unlock after 12 months or £20 beforehand. If you buy an iPhone through Tesco though it’s worth noting that you can’t unlock it before 12 months.
Virgin Mobile are willing to unlock any phone at any time for £15.32, but don’t offer any kind of free service after a set period of time. Unlocking times vary, but generally take a few days or up to a week to go through.
Sim free are unlocked and can be purchased brand new with most manufacturers and models. Purhcased without a contract and will enable you to just pop in your own sim card. See sim free mobile phones and prices>>
If you don’t fancy filling out an online form, being stuck on hold or paying to unlock your handset, you could go through with it by yourself.
This is by far the most financially sound way to do it, but also risks leaving the process in your own hands as well as voiding any warranty you may have on your device.
Many websites offer ‘unlock codes’ for mobile handsets, a collection of numbers or letters which you pop into your device to unlock it. The only issue with this is that many of these codes only work on much older models which you wouldn’t class as smartphones.
Many of the codes work fine for your old Nokia 3210, but you won’t be finding any for a brand new iPhone 6. You can do a quick Google search, but it’s unlikely that any recent phones will be offering an unlock guide through this process.
Some newer handsets offer apps you can download, but normally require your phone to be rooted or jail-broken, which isn’t recommended if you have only standard technical knowledge of mobile phones
In general, unless you know what you’re doing on a technical level, or have an older device you’re often better off letting an expert handle this task!
If you don’t fancy working it out by yourself or ringing your network, you can always visit one of the numerous mobile phone shops, stalls or websites which offer to unlock your handset for a certain price.
The key to getting the best deal is shopping around and ensuring that you’ve got a reputable person doing the heavy lifting on the software front. Smartphone shops are better than market stalls as they’re more permanent for example, and can be haggled with if you know you can get a better deal.
The obvious advantage to shops and stalls is that you simply drop the phone off, and then pick it up. You don’t need to call anyone or send any emails to wait for your handset to unlock, making it one of the more convenient options.
Websites which send you an unlock code are safer and less hassle than those which have you send your handset to them, but are also worth vetting beforehand as well. These different sites and stores vary massively in terms of cost and time, so take a look to find the best deal whenever possible!
Once you’ve made your choice and sorted it all out, your smartphone will be free to run with any sim from any UK based network. Of course, if you have any more questions don’t hesitate to contact us via Facebook, Twitter or Google+.
Written by Luke Hatfield