How Can I Tell If I Have an Unlocked Phone?

by Eddie Lloyd

How Can I Tell If I Have an Unlocked Phone?

An unlocked phone is a phone that will work with the sim card from another cellular network.  You want your phone unlocked because it allows you to choose the best cellular network with lowest cost when you travel from one country to another, or when you move from one state to another.

In the USA, service providers lock the phone so as to contractually bind the customer to the carrier like AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint or any of the other networks. If you are still under contract and paying monthly for your phone, the service provider “locks” the phone into its network so that it won’t work on any other carrier.   Verizon is the only US carrier that unlocks 4G and later phones automatically.  You must request unlock from the others.

If you paid full price for your smartphone or if you have paid off the monthly installments, it might be unlocked or eligible to be unlocked.

Here is the best way you can tell if your phone is unlocked:

Switch SIM Cards

Insert a sim card from another carrier and see if you can make a call. If your call successfully connects, then your phone is unlocked and should work with other SIM cards.  If the phone is locked, you will se a message "Sim not supported" or "Invalid Sim" or "Enter Network Unlock Code".  These are the clues that will tell you your phone is network locket.  

Make certain you insert a foreign sim or a USA sim from a carrier that is not a partner of your home carrier. For example: H2O Wireless is a USA prepaid carrier that runs on the AT&T Network. If you put an H2O sim into an AT&T phone it will work. You should try a Verizon or T-Mobile or Lycamobile or Simple Mobile sim. These carriers are not AT&T partners..

If the phone is locked; follow the instructions below to get sorted.  Do it before you travel.  Do it now.

Here are the simple steps you can follow to unlock your phone.  Military personnel can call the carrier to request unlock (easy cheesy).  They will need a copy of your Military orders emailed into the SIM Unlock Team showing Military deployment.

Before you request that your phone be unlocked, you may need to have some basic information handy, including:

Your phone’s IMEI number. (Dial *#06# - It appears onscreen)
Your phone number
Other account information (name, password, etc.)
Once you have your account information handy, here’s how to unlock your phone on AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon and Sprint:

How to Unlock Your AT&T Phone

AT&T allows you to submit an unlock request for your phone, tablet or other smart devices. But note that the company says on its website, “We can only unlock devices that work on the AT&T network. Some unlocked phones may not be compatible with other providers.” 

Some of the key requirements for AT&T to unlock your phone include:

You can’t have a past-due balance.
You need to have your company’s permission if it’s a business phone.
The phone can’t be active on another AT&T account.

Check out AT&T’s full eligibility requirements here.

If your phone meets the requirements and you send your unlock request, once it’s approved you’ll get an email with steps to unlock your device and insert the new carrier’s SIM card.

How to Unlock Your T-Mobile Phone

T-Mobile has made it easier to unlock your mobile phone. However, the carrier says it will only unlock T-Mobile devices.

T-Mobile allows you to request an unlock code by logging into your account and contacting them online or via phone (1-800-937-8997 or 611 from a T-Mobile phone) for the steps. 

The requirements for T-Mobile to unlock your phone include:

Your account is in good standing.
You can’t have requested more than two unlock codes per line in the last year.
Your phone meets the unlocking rules pertaining to prepaid or postpaid devices.
Check out T-Mobile’s full eligibility requirements here.

How to Unlock Your Verizon Phone

When it comes to unlocking your Verizon phone, the carrier doesn’t list requirements like the other companies. However, Verizon’s phone unlocking policy does list different rules for pre-paid and post-paid devices.

Unlocking Rules for Postpaid Verizon Phones:

Verizon says on its website that if you buy the phone from them, the device will be locked for 60 days after purchase. If bought from one of their partners, the device will be locked for 60 days after activation. After that, Verizon will automatically remove the lock.

Unlocking Rules for Pre-Paid Verizon Phones:

If you buy a pre-paid phone from Verizon — and certain devices from its retail partners — it will be locked for 60 days after activation. Then the lock is automatically removed.
If you purchased a 4G Phone-in-a-Box from one of Verizon’s authorized retailers, the carrier says “you should review the back of the box to determine the lock period applicable to that device.”

How to Unlock Your Sprint Phone

In most cases, Sprint will automatically unlock postpaid phones launched after February 2015 when they become eligible.

Some key requirements for unlocking a Sprint phone include the following:

You’ve used Sprint as your network for at least 50 days.
You’ve completed your contract.
Your phone is SIM unlock capable (this involves enabling the device’s SIM slot)
Check out the full Sprint eligibility requirements here.

The company says if you can’t use SIM unlock, you may be able to get an associated MSL (Master Subsidy Lock) Code, if the phone was manufactured before February 2015. All you have to do is call Sprint Customer Care at the number listed below.

Contact Your Carrier

Call the customer service number of your carrier to ask whether your phone is unlocked. Here are the phone numbers to the major wireless carriers:

AT&T: 1-800-331-0500
Verizon: 1-800-922-0204
T-Mobile: 1-877-453-1304
Sprint: 1-866-275-1411

Please note that if the phone you want to unlock has been reported lost, stolen or involved in fraudulent activity, none of the major carriers will unlock it.


**Most Important:
- Do "NOT" wait until you get there to confirm whether or not your phone is unlocked.  Do it now.  Ask a thousand questions and make certain you have tested your phone with a foreign / alternate carrier sim.   

- The carriers send (sometimes detailed) procedures you must follow to complete the process successfully.  Remember that they would be happiest if you do not unlock the phone.  Follow the process carefully and test it with a sim from another carrier before you travel.  The foolproof test is to insert the sim of another carrier.

Thank you