More and more Britons are getting their phones unlocked. And it isn’t hard to see why. Not only does an unlocked phone make it easier for you to access cheap SIM only deals, it also makes it easier to sell or pass on old phones to other people.
However, the process of unlocking your phone remains shrouded in mystery. Is it legal? Should you pay to get it done? And if so, how much?
This guide will answer all your questions and dispel any myths revolving around getting your phone unlocked.
A locked handset means it will only work with the mobile network who you bought it from. Even when your contract expires with your network, your phone will still remain locked to them. You have to ask your carrier to unlock your phone.
It’s very easy to find out if your phone is locked. Simply put in a SIM card from another carrier and see if the name of the network appears. If it does and you don’t get an error message, your phone is unlocked.
You can usually get free SIM cards from other mobile networks from most phone shops or online. Alternatively you can borrow someone else’s just to check.
If you want to unlock your phone but you don’t know what to do, you have a few options.
You can take it to a local, independent phone shop who you can pay to unlock your phone. This will normally cost around £15.
You can do it yourself by getting hold of a code or using a special data cable and software. This is risky as you need a fair amount of technical know-how to do this successfully on modern smartphones.
It isn’t illegal to unlock your phone through these methods, but it can void your warranty. So always check your policy first.
The safest and smartest way of unlocking mobile phones, is to call your network. They may charge you, and how quickly it happens depends on the network.
When you contact your network, they'll ask you for your IMEI number. This is an identifier that’s unique to your phone and enables your network to discern make and model, as well as its serial number.
If you’ve got an iPhone you can find it via your Settings app. First open up settings, then press ‘General’, followed by ‘About’. You’ll find it towards the bottom of the screen.
Got an Android phone? You can also get your IMEI through the Settings part of your phone. Once you’ve opened Settings, go to ‘About Device’ and then look at ‘Status’. You should see it there.
Once you’ve given your IMEI the network can start the unlocking process.
Your network’s policy will decide how much (if anything) you’ll pay, and how long the process will take. This can also be affected by whether you’re a pay monthly or pay as you go customer and what phone you actually have.
With an unlocked phone, you're not limited to offers from the network you bought your phone from. You can take your pick from any carrier and get the cheapest mobile phone deals on the market.
The best SIM only deals are generally only available for a limited time. Having a SIM only deal lets you switch to the mobile phone deal that suits you best whenever you want. An unlocked phone is the only way to catch those deals before they’re gone.
If you want to sell your phone, unlocking it is a very good idea. Generally, unlocked phones command higher prices and sell faster than those that are still tied to a network.
If you travel frequently, then an unlocked phone can save you money. You can do this by saving on roaming charges by using SIMs from overseas networks, something that will only work on an unlocked phone.
This is a question which confuses a lot of people - how long can you expect the process to last? Most people are shocked to learn that unlocking a phone isn’t instantaneous.
In reality, how long it takes to get your phone unlocked depends on your mobile network. But you should be mindful that you could be waiting for anything between a few days to up to 30 days for the process to be complete. If this is something that worries you, check with the networks when you compare mobile phone deals.