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How to Tell if Your Phone is Unlocked | Signalboosters.com

How to Tell if Your Phone is Unlocked | Signalboosters.com

How to Tell if Your Phone is Unlocked

Are you thinking about switching carriers or purchasing a used device? If so, you’ll need an unlocked phone. Unlocked devices give you the freedom of activating them on any carrier that supports the device, while locked devices only work with the wireless carrier they were purchased from (until they are eligible to be unlocked).

To successfully switch carriers without having to purchase a new phone, your phone must be unlocked. The same thing goes for purchasing used devices, unless you plan to use the same carrier as the seller, make sure the phone is unlocked.

There are a couple of different ways to check if your phone is unlocked. Also, if you find that your phone is locked, we will go over how you can unlock your device from any carrier. The checking and unlocking process differs between iPhones and Androids.

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What is an Unlocked Phone?

Simply put, an unlocked phone is a carrier-free device; it’s not bound to a specific cell phone carrier and can be used on any carrier that supports the device.


What’s the Difference Between a Locked and Unlocked Phone?

A locked cell phone has a software code that binds it to a specific carrier's network (such as AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, Cricket, Boost, etc.). According to the FCC, carriers lock their devices to ensure that the user keeps their device active for a certain amount of time on the network that sold the device. Most of the time carriers sell their products at a discount, subsidy, or under a payment plan to attract more customers. Locking the software is the carrier’s insurance policy to ensure the buyer doesn’t run off to a competitor and activate the discounted phone. Since locked devices are less attractive to fraudsters, carriers lock their devices to mitigate theft and fraudulent activity.

Unlocked devices, on the other hand, have had their software unlocked by someone or can be purchased without a software code. Unlocking the device allows the user to activate it under any carrier that supports it.


What are the Benefits of an Unlocked Phone?

The number one benefit of having an unlocked cell phone is the freedom of being able to easily switch cell phone carriers without having to purchase a new device. All you have to do is get an account with a cell phone provider of your choosing and inset one of their SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) cards into your device.

Also, unlocked smartphones can be beneficial for people who travel internationally. Many cell phone plans don’t support international calling and texting. Usually, you have to pay extra for an international plan and roaming packages. Depending on where you go and for how long, it can be pretty expensive. In most cases, it’s cheaper to get temporary services from a local cellular carrier while traveling. All you would do is switch out your United States SIM card with the international one.


How to Tell if your Phone is Locked or Unlocked?

Phones that have been purchased at full price from the Apple Store, Samsung Experience Store, Amazon, Best Buy, or Walmart, are most likely unlocked.

On the other hand, if the phone was purchased directly from a cellular service provider, it’s probably locked. This applies even if the phone was paid in full (unless specifically stated that the phone was unlocked). The majority of cell phone carriers require their customers to have active service for a certain amount of time before their device becomes eligible for unlocking, especially if the device was purchased under an installment plan.

Since cell phones can be pretty expensive, many people prefer to purchase them used. It can be tricky to determine if the used phone is locked or unlocked prior to purchasing as not every seller is 100% honest. Purchasing a used device from a credible retailer is much safer than purchasing a used device from a stranger. If you decide to go this route, ask the seller if the device is locked or unlocked. If they say that it's unlocked, you can either take their word for it or ask for additional proof. On the other hand, if the seller says the device is locked, ask them to unlock it before you purchase it.


Is my iPhone Unlocked?

If you have an iPhone or a cellular-enabled iPad, you can navigate through your settings to determine if the mobile device is unlocked.

Go to Settings → Cellular → Cellular Data

If you have a “Cellular Data Options or Cellular Data Networks” tab, then your phone is most likely unlocked (but, it’s not 100% guaranteed).

To double-check, insert a SIM card from a different carrier to see if it works.

  1. Turn off your iPhone or iPad
  2. Open the SIM card slot with a removal tool, paper clip, or earing
  3. Remove your current SIM card and replace it with the other carriers SIM card
  4. Turn on your iPhone or iPad

Depending on the carrier, some locked iOS devices will require you to enter the unlock code after a different carrier's SIM card has been inserted. If the device does not prompt you to enter a code, you can see the carrier's name change at the top of the screen, AND you can make a successful phone call, then the device is unlocked.

If you are still unsure, contact your cellular provider. They are legally required to tell you if your device is unlocked or if it’s eligible to be unlocked within a reasonable amount of time (usually two business days).


Is my Android Phone Unlocked?

If you have an Android phone or a cellular-enabled tablet, you can navigate through your settings to determine if the mobile device is unlocked.

Go to Settings → Connections → Mobile Networks or Cellular Networks → Network Operators

If see a network appear (like AT&T or Verizon), then the phone might be unlocked. Unfortunately, this method is not 100% foolproof.

To double-check, insert a SIM card from a different carrier to see if it works.

  1. Turn off your Android phone or tablet
  2. Open the SIM card slot with a removal tool, paper clip, or earing. If the phone has a removable back and battery, the SIM card will probably be located behind or near the battery.
  3. Remove your current SIM card and replace it with the other carriers SIM card
  4. Turn on your Android phone or tablet

Depending on the carrier, some locked Android devices will require you to enter the unlock code after a different carrier’s SIM card has been inserted. So, if the device does not prompt you to enter a code, you can see that the carrier's name changed at the top of the screen, AND you can make a successful phone call, then the device is already unlocked.

If you are still unsure, contact your cellular provider. They are legally required to tell you if your device is unlocked or if it's eligible to be unlocked within a reasonable amount of time (usually two business days).


How to Unlock Your Phone from any Carrier

It’s important to know that if your phone has been reported lost or stolen, no cellular carrier will unlock the device. In addition, if the phone was purchased under an installment plan, the remaining balance will have to be paid off before the device can be unlocked.

How to Unlock your AT&T Phone

To unlock your AT&T phone, it must meet the eligibility requirements. These include, but are not limited to:

  • The phone has not been reported lost, stolen, or involved with fraudulent activity.
  • The contract or installment plan must be completed.
  • The phone is not active on another AT&T account.
  • Your phone service must be active for at least 60 days with no past due or unpaid balances.
  • Prepaid devices must be active for at least 6 months.
  • Business-owned devices require authorization from the company.

If you meet the requirements, you would need to submit an AT&T unlock request.

  1. Visit att.com/deviceunlock/ and select the “unlock your device” option. There, you will also find an option to check your unlock status.
  2. Read and agree to the eligibility requirements, complete the request form, and submit it.
  3. You will receive a confirmation email with the unlock request number. Select the link in the email within 24 hrs of receipt to confirm the unlock request or the request will be canceled.
  4. AT&T will respond within 2 business days to inform you of the status of the unlock request. If the request has been approved, AT&T will email you instructions on how to unlock the device and insert a new SIM card.

How to Unlock your Verizon Phone

Verizon’s unlocking policy states that as of 7/23/2019 postpaid devices purchased from Verizon are automatically unlocked after 60 days of purchase. If the device was purchased from a retail partner, it will be automatically unlocked after 60 days of activation.

In addition, prepaid devices purchase from Verizon and certain devices purchased from their retail partners are automatically unlocked after 60 days of activation. If a 4G Phone-in-a-Box is purchased from a retail partner, check the back of the box to confirm that specific device’s lock period.

After 60 days, the lock is removed, and Verizon will not lock the phone again.

How to Unlock your T-Mobile Phone

To unlock your T-Mobile phone, it must meet the eligibility requirements. These include, but are not limited to:

  • The phone must have been purchased from T-Mobile.
  • The device must be paid off.
  • The phone has not been reported lost, stolen, or involved with fraudulent activity.
  • Postpaid devices must have been used for at least 40 days on the requesting line and the account must be in good standing.
  • Prepaid devices are eligible to be unlocked after 1 year of activation.

If you meet the requirements, log in to your T-Mobile account to request an unlock code or contact T-Mobile's Customer Service (1-800-937-8997).

Many Android devices can request for their device to be unlocked through the Device Unlock App or the device’s settings.

  1. First, make sure you are connected to the T-Mobile network or WiFi.
    • Samsung
      • Newer Devices: Settings → Connections → More Connection Settings → Network Unlock
      • Older Devices: Use the pre-installed Device Unlock App. If the app is unavailable, then your device is unlocked or it utilizes a 2019 or newer operating system.
    • OnePlus (6T and newer): Settings → WiFi and Internet → SIM and Network → Advanced or Network Unlock
    • T-Mobile REVVLRY: Settings → Network and Internet → Mobile Network → Advanced → Network Unlock
    • Google Pixel: Go to the T-Mobile Unlock app; it can be downloaded from the play store.
  2. Select Permanent Unlock and wait for the device to complete the unlock process. After the unlock process has been completed, restart the device.
  3. Contact T-Mobile's customer service if the apps or settings cannot be found on your device, you are 100% sure you meet the eligibility requirements but can’t unlock the phone, or you have a device that was not listed.

How to Unlock your Sprint Phone

To unlock your Sprint phone, it must meet the eligibility requirements. These include, but are not limited to:

  • The phone must be SIM Unlock capable.
  • The phone must be or has been active on the Sprint network for at least 40 days.
  • The contract or installment agreement must be completed.
  • The account is in good standing.
  • The phone has not been reported lost, stolen, or involved with fraudulent activity.

If your phone meets the requirements, Sprint automatically unlocks postpaid devices when they become eligible.

To unlock an inactive SIM-capable device, you will have to contact Sprint Customer Care (1-888-211-4727) to request an unlock code.

How to Unlock your Cricket Phone

To unlock your Cricket phone, it must meet the eligibility requirements. These include, but are not limited to:

  • The phone is locked to the Cricket network.
  • The phone has not been reported lost, stolen, or involved with fraudulent activity.
  • The phone you want to unlock has been active for at least 6 months of prepaid service.

If your phone meets the unlocking requirements and you are an active cricket customer, you can request the unlock code through your Cricket account or the myCricket app.

Cricket Account: Log into your Cricket account → Go to Account Settings → Select Get Code → Select the phone number of the device you want to unlock → Request Unlock → If successful, the code for an eligible Android phone will be displayed on the screen and eligible iPhones will receive their code via text message the following day.

Some phones can only be unlocked through the app. So, if you were unsuccessful unlocking your device through the Cricket account, try the following steps:

myCricket App: Tap Unlock Device on the app’s sign-in screen → Tap unlock at the bottom of the screen → After it's been successfully unlocked, restart the device.

Non-active or non-Cricket customers will need to call Cricket’s Customer Support (1-800-274-2538) for unlocking instructions.

How to Unlock your Metro by T-Mobile Phone

To unlock your Metro by T-Mobile phone, it must meet the eligibility requirements. These include, but are not limited to:

  • The phone must have been purchased from Metro by T-Mobile.
  • The phone must have been active for at least 3 months.
  • The phone has not been reported lost, stolen, or involved with fraudulent activity.

Many of Metro by T-Mobile’s phones are eligible to be unlocked through a pre-installed app. To unlock the device:

  1. Make sure you are connected to the Metro network or WiFi.
  2. Open the application (might be located in the Metro by T-Mobile folder) and tap Device Unlock.
  3. Select Permanent Unlock.
  4. If you are successful, restart your phone.

To unlock iPhones, devices that can’t be unlocked through the app, and warranty exchanged handsets, contact Metro’s Customer Service (1-888-863-8768) or visit a store to request an unlock code.

How to Unlock Your Boost Mobile Phone

To unlock your Boost Mobile phone, it must meet the eligibility requirements. These include, but are not limited to:

  • The phone is SIM Unlock capable.
  • The phone has not been reported lost, stolen, or flagged as ineligible to be unlocked.
  • The phone has been active for at least 1 year.
  • The account is in good standing.

If your phone meets the unlocking requirements, contact Boost Mobile Customer Care to unlock the device (1-866-402-7366).

How to Unlock your Straight Talk Phone

To unlock your Straight Talk phone, it must meet the eligibility requirements. These include, but are not limited to:

  • The phone must have been active for at least 1 year.
  • The phone has not been reported lost, stolen, or involved with fraudulent activity.
  • The account must be in good standing.

If you believe your device meets the requirements, contact Straight Talk’s Customer Service (1-877-430-2355) to request an unlocking code. They will not charge to unlock devices from current and former customers, but Straight Talk might charge a fee to unlock a device for non-former customers.

How to Unlock your U.S. Cellular Phone

U.S. Cellular's unlocking policy states that they will automatically unlock their postpaid and prepaid devices after 120-days as long as the account is in good standing. If the account is not in good standing, you can contact U.S. Cellular Customer Service (1-888-944-9400) for assistance.

How to Unlock Your TracFone Phone

To unlock your TracFone phone, it must meet the eligibility requirements. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Must be a TracFone branded phone.
  • The phone must be unlock capable. Devices that are not unlockable may be eligible for a replacement phone.
  • The phone must have been active on the TracFone network for at least 1 year.
  • The phone has not been reported lost, stolen, or involved with fraudulent activity.

If your phone meets the unlocking requirements, contact TracFone's Customer Service (1-800-867-7183) or visit www.tfwunlockpolicy.com to request your unlocking code.


Do Unlocked Phones Work with any Cell Phone Carrier?

Not every unlocked device is cross-compatible with every network.

United States carriers use two different technology standards – GSM (Global System for Mobile) and CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access). Verizon, Sprint, and a few prepaid carriers use CDMA, while AT&T, T-Mobile, some prepaid carriers, and most cellular carriers outside the U.S. use GSM. Most GSM phones will not work on the CDMA network, and vice versa. However, some, but not all 4G LTE CDMA phones are capable of operating on a GSM network.

To determine your phone's compatibility with a certain carrier (without having to go to a store), visit their website and check your phone's IMEI number to verify its compatibility. A phone's IMEI is like a fingerprint - a unique 15-digit number.

iPhone IMEI: Settings → General → About   Android IMEI: Settings → About Phone

Sprint and T-MobileAT&TVerizonCricketMetro by T-MobileBoost MobileStraight TalkU.S. CellularTracFone

If you find that your unlocked device is compatible with the carrier of your choosing, they might not be 100% compatible. Every cellular carrier owns and operates under different network bands. A locked phone is built to achieve optimal results on the network it’s locked onto. After unlocking the phone, and activating it on a different cellular network, there is a chance that the phone might experience limited functionalities.


Does Unlocking my Phone Improve Cell Phone Signal?

Not necessarily.

Unlocking a phone removes the software that binds your device to a cell phone carrier. So, if you unlock your T-Mobile phone and your device continues to be powered by T-Mobile, your cellular service will remain the same (it will not magically improve). On the other hand, having an unlocked device gives you the freedom to activate your phone under a different carrier that can provide you with better cell phone signal.

One of the best ways to permanently improve your cell signal is investing in a cell phone signal booster. They take your existing cell phone signal, amplify it, and broadcast it for better use. Plus, they work with all major carriers, so if you switch to a different cellular company, you don’t have to reconfigure or purchase a new cell phone booster.


Contact Us

Signal Boosters is a leading provider of cell phone signal boosters for homes, vehicles, and commercial buildings. We specialize in consumer-friendly kits as well as customized RF systems for cellular, public safety two-way radio, DAS, and WiFi.

We’re here to assist with any issues you might be experiencing with poor cell service. Contact us today, or call us at 1-800-470-6777.

SignalBoosters.com
19th Nov 2020

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