I found myself with a T-Mobile iPhone 5S and since I use an AT&T SIM card a lot nowadays (and didn’t want to buy another iPhone), I figured it was time to unlock it (we can talk about how ridiculous it is that we lock phones to carriers some other time). For anyone else curious about how to do this for themselves for whatever reason, here’s how.
iPhones are unlocked in a slightly different way than most devices. For any other GSM device, you just give an unlock code supplier your IMEI, wait for the unlock code to be sent to you via email, and put it into your device. For an iPhone, you give your IMEI, they send you an email when the unlocking is complete (usually a few days to a week later), you plug it into iTunes and wait for iTunes to tell you it’s unlocked.
Now, it is important to note that these unlocks cost money and that the amount they cost fluctuates depending on a lot of factors in the industry (I can remember a time when AT&T iPhone Unlocks cost $0.99, sigh). Right now, unfortunately, they aren’t cheap, in fact, they’re pretty expensive. Most companies I’ve found charge close to $100 for an unlock code (prices vary depending on the original carrier it is locked to though). If this is still worth it to you, here’s how to buy an unlock and how to unlock the iPhone once it’s complete.
*Important Note: Not all devices can be used on all carriers (i.e. an AT&T or T-Mobile iPhone, even when unlocked, will not work on Verizon or Sprint). Read this for more info.
I. Find your IMEI
1. On the phone, go to Settings > General > About.
2. Look for your IMEI there and write down that number (without any spaces).
II. Purchase your iPhone Unlock
There are plenty of places to buy unlocking services from. You can google for unlocking service, but the one I use regularly and like is cellunlocker.net (and no, I’m not getting paid to link to them).
1. Head to your unlocking site of choice and follow their steps to purchase an unlock (make sure you choose an unlocking service that offers a refund and has some good reviews). I used cellunlocker.net in the video, but feel free to shop around for others if you want.
2. Once you give them your IMEI and make payment, the waiting begins. Allow however many days they say it takes for them to unlock the device.
II. Use iTunes to Unlock the iPhone
1. Once you get the email saying that the iPhone is unlocked, on the phone, go to Settings > iCloud.
2. Sign in with your Apple ID an password if prompted.
3. Turn off Find my iPhone.
4. Take out the SIM card.
5. Put in an unauthorized SIM card (any SIM card that isn’t the one the iPhone came with).
6. Turn it on.
7. It should tell you that you need to activate it.
8. Connect to Wifi and let it activate.
9. Your new carrier’s name should be in the status bar. If so, you’re all set.
If that didn’t happen, plug it into the computer, open iTunes and wait for it to confirm your device is unlocked (or require you to restore and then it’ll unlock).