When you buy a phone from a carrier, you might be tempted by a good contract deal, but chances are, there is a fine print in the deal that attaches your phone to the network provider you bought it from.
This means that if you try to switch to a different network provider, your phone simply won’t be able to make calls or use data services. The good news is that you can usually unlock these phones simply by using the phone unlock code. We will talk about these unlock codes, how to get them for free and how to unlock your phone. But first, there are a few important things you need to know.
Is unlocking a phone legal?
As always, when it comes to legal matters, it’s up to you to decide if something is legal in the place where you live. Each country has its own consumer protection laws that govern things like unlocking your phone.
In the United States, you are eligible for unlocking as long as your phone is paid in full or you have paid the termination fee. In other words, if you have a phone, you can legally unlock it.
This is where the unlock codes appear in the picture. Well, maybe not right away.
You may not need a symbol
Instead of trying to get the code yourself and unlocking your phone yourself, it’s a good idea to contact your carrier first and ask them to unlock the phone for you or walk you through the process. This is a good method because they can confirm if you are legally entitled to unlock.
If you are eligible, at least in the US, carriers are required to unlock your phone for free. So call them.
To make it a little easier for you, here are the direct links to verify eligibility for the four major US carriers:
This should be your first stop on the road to phone freedom.
Unlocking codes usually costs money, but free icons are here!
If for any reason it is not possible to get help directly from your carrier, you will need an unlock code. This could be because you bought a used phone, or perhaps moved to another country.
Regardless of why you need to unlock your phone, most online code providers want a little money from you for this privilege. Again, carriers in the US are required to unlock the phones of eligible phones, so talk to them first.
One popular site is FreeUnlocks, which offers the first free code through a partnership with TrialPay. Unfortunately, all the other options we looked at, offering only paid services or so-called free options, turned out to be scams or spam. So, for now, FreeUnlocks and your carrier request seem to be the only good free options.
There is some confusion among some users when it comes to terms like â€œunlocking,â€ â€œrooting,â€ â€œhacking,â€ and other terms that refer to modifying a phone so it can do what it can’t do out of the box.
“Unlocking” your phone means it can now work with any carrier on a compatible network. This does not mean that it will work with any carrier on any network. If your phone does not have the hardware to communicate with a specific network, no software settings and settings will be able to change this.
Rooting your phone means getting root access to that phone so you can do almost anything you want with it. For example, upload your own version of Android to it and get rid of malware. The term “rooting” is used only for Android phones. You can read more about rooting in our article on this topic.
Hacking is a term used for Apple devices that is somewhat different from rooting. When you root Android, you open up all the native capabilities of the device. When you jailbreak an iOS device, you are removing restrictions that should never have been lifted. This allows users to run software or modify how iOS works in ways that Apple definitely doesn’t approve of.
In other words, when you unlock your phone, you will not get any benefit from rooting or jailbreaking. These are separate processes with serious security risks or even your device if something goes wrong.
How to unlock a phone with a code
There is no universal way to enter an unlock code if you have one. The exact process will differ depending on the make and model of your phone. This means that if you do not receive instructions with the code, you should google your phone model and the unlock code procedure.
Consider Apple and Samsung devices as examples. Apple devices are unlocked remotely by your carrier, no code. Therefore, all you have to do is wait for an email or other message confirming that your phone is unlocked. Then, after installing your new SIM, you’ll follow the normal Apple setup process for iCloud and your Apple ID.
On a Samsung device, you only need the code itself. When you insert a SIM card from a carrier other than the one to which your phone is linked, you will be prompted to enter an unlock code. Just enter and you’re done.
Consider purchasing unlocked devices
While most people who buy locked phones are highly motivated (or simply don’t know any better), you should seriously consider buying an unlocked phone the next time you buy a new phone. This means you have to pay the full cost of the phone in advance, but it gives you the freedom to change carrier right away or have parallel plans with different carriers.
If you also buy a dual SIM phone, you might have one SIM dedicated to an operator with great voice rates, and another with cheap data, for example. This also means it will be easier for you to adapt to different coverage levels if you travel frequently. If you’re traveling abroad, you can even temporarily use a compatible network provider’s SIM card in the country you’re visiting without paying astronomical roaming charges to your local carrier.
This might seem like the worst deal compared to a contract, or it might! However, compare the total cost of your carrier contract with the total cost of buying the phone directly and then using a prepaid plan for voice and data. In many cases, you may find that over the course of your contract, you can save money by taking an unlocked route.