How to unlock your mobile phone from your network
Whether you want to save money by switching to a cheap SIM-only deal that caught your eye, or you want to pass your phone on to a friend so you can buy a new one, unlocking your phone is the first step.
In this helpful guide, we’ll give you three methods for unlocking your phone – plus some guidance on whether your phone needs to be unlocked in the first place!
You don’t need to worry. Unlocking your phone is being made easier by networks every year. In most cases, all you need to do is ask.
What does it mean to unlock your phone?
A locked mobile phone will only work when the SIM inside it is with a specific network. A mobile that’s locked with the O2 network will only be usable with an O2 SIM card. So, unlocking your phone will make it usable with any network you like.
Many networks choose to lock phones when they are sold as a deal with a SIM. Your mobile phone might be locked because you got a 10% off deal on the first year of your contract. This is the network’s way of ensuring you stay with them and don’t switch to another network.
Unfortunately, unlocking your mobile phone from your network isn’t as simple as just pressing a button… but it’s not rocket science. You don’t need to be technically minded to unlock your phone either.
Three ways to unlock your phone
Before we get started, you can check if your phone really is locked! If your phone is locked, this will be written into your contract, displayed in your account information with the network, and can be confirmed by the network if you give them a call.
You can also check if a phone is locked by inserting a SIM card from a different network. Most networks will offer SIM cards for free, including Vodafone, Tesco Mobile, and giffgaff, so this doesn’t need to cost you anything.
Once you’ve confirmed that your phone is locked, you have three options.
1) Ask your network (easiest way)
Yes, it’s that simple. If you ask your network to unlock your phone, they will do it for you. Admittedly, some companies make it easier than others. With EE, you can simply fill out an online form. With Virgin Mobile, on the other hand, you need to call them up and wait for customer service.
Here’s how it works:
1. Contact your network or find the right form for unlocking your phone on their website
2. Provide them with your IMEI number, so they can identify the phone (this will be somewhere under ‘about your device’ in the settings)
3. Pay any fees applicable
4. Wait patiently.
The cost of unlocking your phone will depend on the network, your contract, and how long you have had the phone. Some networks will unlock it for free, other networks will charge you if you’re within a certain period (e.g., the first 12 months of your contract), and others will have a flat charge regardless.
The cost could be anywhere from £7 to £20. As for the time it takes to unlock, this can be anywhere from 72 hours to a month, depending on the network.
2) Take it to a phone shop (most convenient way)
With this method, all you need to do is take your phone (or mail it) to your nearest phone shop that offers an unlocking service. Unlocking your phone is completely legal and this is a legitimate way of getting the job done.
You can avoid long phone calls on hold with your network completely by trusting the phone shop to take care of it for you. The downside is, the phone shop will charge for this service (perhaps more than the network would), and depending on how busy they are, you may need to wait a few days for the job to be done.
3) Do it yourself (cheapest way)
This final method can be free, but not without a catch. To unlock your phone yourself, you’ll need some technical know-how and the software on your PC to do it. You can find many different companies online with this software for free (be careful with downloading free software from unknown companies) or for a price.
It’s safest to buy professional unlocking software that phone shops use to do the job, but of course, that may cost you more than the network’s price for unlocking your phone!
Whichever method you choose, you will soon be free to sell your phone or just switch to better SIM deals. Furthermore, by December 2021 all mobile phone networks will be unable to sell locked mobile phones completely.