In 2014, President Barack Obama made it legal to unlock your phone from any carrier. But what does that mean, exactly? If your phone is locked, that means it can only be used by one network carrier. If you bought a locked phone while using Verizon but then switched to AT&T, you wouldn’t be able to use that phone, even if you changed the SIM card.
Unlocking your phone from your carrier gives you more freedom. You can go ahead and buy that new phone even though you’re not sure if you want to renew your contract with your current carrier.
The process of unlocking your phone can be a little tricky and take several hours, so make sure you double check that your phone is actually locked before you begin. We’ve broken down the process by wireless carrier for you below:
How to Unlock a Verizon Phone
If you bought a phone with Verizon before spring 2018, there’s a good chance your phone is already unlocked. Before then, most Verizon phones were already unlocked. However, a new anti-theft policy means that Verizon is planning to lock future phones.
Verizon is the easiest carrier to unlock your phone. You only need an unlock code. You should try “000000” or “123456.” If those codes don’t work, you can call Verizon and request one. If you need help, call its support line at (800) 922-0204.
Verizon is a CDMA carrier, meaning it uses different technology than most other carriers. If you’re unlocking your Verizon phone to move to a different carrier, double check with your new network to see that your phone will actually work with them. Some phones support both CDMA and GSM while others only support one of the two.
How to Unlock an AT&T Phone
Unlocking an AT&T phone is a little more complicated than unlocking a Verizon phone. To unlock your phone, you have to meet certain requirements. The phone must not have been reported lost or stolen, and it must not have been active on another customer’s account.
The first step is submitting an unlock request form with AT&T. You can find all the eligibility rules for unlocking your phone on its website. After you send in the form, AT&T will email you an unlock request number. You have to confirm your request by clicking a link in the email. If you don’t click on that within 24 hours, your request will be canceled. You’ll get an answer to your request within 2 business days.
If your request was okayed, AT&T will send you instructions on how to unlock your phone. For most devices, you simply power off your phone, insert the new SIM card, power it back on, and input an unlock code. If your request was denied, it doesn’t mean you can never unlock your phone. You may have to wait to be able to unlock it and resubmit an unlock request.
How to Unlock a Sprint Phone
Like AT&T, Sprint requires you to meet certain criteria to unlock your phone. And like Verizon, Sprint operates using different technology than most carriers. It’s especially important with a Sprint device that you check to see if your device can be unlocked at all or if it will be compatible with a different carrier.
For most phones launched after February 2015, Sprint will automatically unlock your phone when it becomes eligible. To be eligible, your phone must be postpaid. If you use a Sprint Forward phone, you have to contact Sprint Prepaid Customer Care. The number is (855) 639-4644. You also have to reach out to Customer Care if you want to unlock an inactive phone.
If you just want to unlock your phone to use it internationally, Sprint offers short-term unlocks for this purpose. To do it, go to your account online and select the option to unlock and insert an international SIM card.
How to Unlock a T-Mobile Phone
Unlocking a T-Mobile phone is very similar to unlocking an AT&T phone. The company has specific requirements for different types of devices. Prepaid and postpaid devices have different criteria. Be sure to check these requirements before moving forward in unlocking your phone.
Once you know that your phone is eligible to be unlocked, you have a few options on how to do it. You can download the T-Mobile Mobile Unlock app or call T-Mobile Customer Service. With either option, you will receive an unlock code and instructions for your exact device.
Unlocking your phone from your carrier gives you more freedom and control over your cellular plans. Try these steps to get yours unlocked.