Unlock your phone and stick any SIM card in it!
We’ve put this guide together to give you a better understanding of what it means to get your phone ‘unlocked’ as well as the benefits and the different ways you can get it done.
When you buy a phone on PAYG or on a mobile contract it is often ‘locked’ into the mobile phone network that you have purchased it from e.g. Vodafone, O2, etc. This basically means that you can’t use a SIM card from another network in your phone. The network providers do this so that you are less likely to switch to another network and so that they can recuperate the cost of subsidising the mobile phone via the contract. However, it is now a much easier process nowadays and an essential one for us as consumers.
3 great reasons to unlock your mobile phone:
- To change to a better SIM-only contract or PAYG SIM card deal on another network
- To use your phone abroad with a local, foreign SIM card
- Unlocking your phone can also increase it’s value if you decide to sell it and gives you more freedom to switch networks and change the SIM card without any problems.
Most phones nowadays can be unlocked but if the phone has just been released then it may be sometime before networks allow for the phone to be unlocked or for hackers to find a way to do it.
The process for unlocking a mobile phone can vary depending on the make and model you have and which network it is locked to. In most cases, you will be able to get it unlocked for free but some devices may have special requirements. If you are planning to use the unlocking service of a mobile phone network then you shouldn’t expect to pay more than £25.
Before or during the unlocking process you may need to provide some information including your mobile number, it’s make and model as well as its IMEI number. The first three bits you shouldn’t have a problem finding but the IMEI number is easy to get too.
Simply dial *#60# into your phone and a pop up box with a 15 digit number will appear. It doesn’t matter if you do not have a SIM card already inserted and this will work on all phones. If you aren’t able to retrieve it via this method then the IMEI number may also be found somewhere on the inside of the phone – near the battery.
There are several methods that are used however, some are more time consuming or costly than others or are often scams that are best to stay clear of. Here are the main ones that we recommend:
- Contact your mobile phone network and get a code to unlock the phone (For a more information see below)
- Unlock via a specialist mobile phone unlocking shop on the high street or online
- Purchase computer software and unlock the phone yourself
Other methods include obtaining free or paid for unlock codes from the Internet and using a Turbo SIM device but we don’t recommend using these unless they are the only option for your phone. E.g. If it’s a very old model.
Done using the first two methods above is generally the safest way to get your phone unlocked. If you are to do it yourself via software or by using codes from potentially harmful Internet sites, you run the risk of losing your data or making your phone redundant. Due to the unknown credibility of third party software/sites we urge you to err on the side of caution if you use these methods and only proceed if you are comfortable with the processes, particularly if they are technical in nature. There are reputable companies available however, so shop around and read reviews to check their profile.
If you have bought your phone new or it is still under its warranty then you will be invalidating it if you unlock it so do be aware of this if you have an expensive device.
This is probably the best and safest route to use however, the service may differ depending on which network you are with and also whether you are on PAYG or a mobile contract. If you have bough your phone on eBay or from someone you know then you may come into some barriers when trying to unlock your mobile via a network as they have some stringent requirements with regards to ownership.
Below we have detailed the process and costs for each UK mobile phone network and provided you with the telephone numbers and online forms that you might need to help you.
Your Guide to Unlocking Your Mobile Phone – By Network
EE including Orange and T-Mobile
If you’re not an EE, Orange or T-Mobile customer then you should go into an EE store where you request the phone to be unlocked at the same price of £8.99.
Customers who have just signed up to a mobile contract must be with EE for 6 months before being allowed to unlocked their phone however, if you are a PAYG or SIM Only customer then you can do this right away.
If you are still in the middle of you contract then you will still have to see the rest of it out for the minimum term.
For PAYG customers who have had their phone for more that 12 months – O2 will unlock your phone for a fee of £15. Although a reasonable price, you may wish to seek an alternative method that is cheaper or if you have had your phone for less than 12 months. O2 also provide their unlocking service to Business customers free of charge.
There are two methods to start the process to get your phone unlocked:
- Online – Fill in the form provided by O2 online. Here you will have to provide them with your details including the type of phone you have, phone number and email.
They’ll usually respond within 7 days though it is normally quicker than this and your phone will be unlocked within 10 days. Once unlocked you will receive a text message from them to let you know that you can now put any SIM card into your device.
- Phone – The quickest way to get the process rolling is to contact O2 over your phone either by calling 202 or 08448090202 from a landline. Landline calls will cost 5p per minute.
To contact Three and get your mobile unlocked, simply call them on 333 from your Three phone or on 08433733333 from a landline.
If you are not an existing Three customer you will need a Three SIM to get your phone unlocked. This can be done by ordering a FREE PAYG SIM card online or by purchasing one from a local Three Store.
For iPhone users with iOS7 or above, unlocking your phone is free to do via iTunes.
Again, there is a £19.99 charge for pay monthly customers unless you have had your phone for more than 12 months. For PAYG customers, the service £19.99 regardless.
Not all phones bought on Vodafone pay monthly contract are locked to the network so please check by inserting another SIM beforehand.
Like with Three, Vodafone does not unlock phones unless you are an existing customer so if you have bought a phone that is locked to Vodafone from an auction site or other online store then you will need to obtain a PAYG SIM card and join for a minimum of 30 days.
To contact Vodafone on your mobile – call 191 if you are an existing customer. Alternatively dial 08700700191 or 08700776655 if you are on PAYG.
Unlocking a Vodafone iPhone or iPad
There are a number of companies that are available online that will be able to provide an unlock code for your phone. The costs of these may vary depending on the phone but they can be ridiculously more expensive or even sometimes cheaper than getting it done via the networks.
A quick search on Google and we came across several companies including Mr Unlock and Fonefunshop. We tested out how much it would cost to get an iPhone 4 that is locked on O2 unlocked and found these prices: £9.95 from Mr Unlock and £45 from Fonefunshop.